— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 23, 2018
Kigali and Arsenal signed a 3-year deal worth £30 million (€34 million) deal in May last year.
And it is working, according to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB): The number of tourists from England alone has climbed by 5% compared to the previous period.
Despite initial criticism over Rwanda’s massive investment in a football club, the deal appears to be bearing fruit.
“Before the partnership was signed, 71% of the millions of Arsenal fans worldwide did not consider Rwanda a tourist destination, at the end of the first year of the partnership, half of them considered Rwanda a destination to visit,” said Belise Kariza, head of RDB’s tourism department.
It actually shows the ignorance of these critics, thinking that “sponsoring” is like a waste only affordable for “riches”… ignoring it’s part of a structural investment. Today #Rwanda is indeed a high end #Tourism destination in need of more visibility & #Arsenal perfect vector pic.twitter.com/CthnZG9YCV
— Albert Rudatsimburwa 🇷🇼 (@albcontact) May 29, 2018
Kariza says the overall value of the partnership, based on TV viewership and social media, is estimated at €36 million euros according to statistics by Nielsen, Blinkfire Analytics and research agency Hall and Partners.
Some social media users have accused Rwanda of ploughing crucial developmental aid into the coffers of an English football club.
No one visits a country by seeing a $39m mourners armband that says “Visit Rwanda”.
Nothing in that $39m offers any value proposition to potential tourists.
— Sentletse (@Sentletse) May 28, 2018
The majority of the population of Rwanda lives in poverty, their rulers throwing away money to sponsor one of the richest sports club in the world! pic.twitter.com/RerAtqYM5g
— Congolaistelema (@Congolais87) May 30, 2018
According to a tweet from the presidency, President Paul Kagame says “Critics say that this is not how we should invest our money. In a very short time, I want to tell you that we have more or less made what we have spent more or less profitable, and that we expect much more.”
Kagame is also a self-confessed Arsenal fan, as his tweets reveal.
Happy for Arsenal going coming back to good game and winning ways!!! Congrats
— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) October 23, 2018
My take on my beloved Club Arsenal- a very good one at the game and a very good coach like a.Wenger ,this should not have been the kind of ending of an era. The coach is leaving and club trophy-less it was long coming! I am still a committed fan going forward :). Blame the owners
— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) May 3, 2018
Rwanda is banking heavily on a tourism windfall to develop its economy. In particular, the country is betting on high-end travel (thanks to the mountain gorillas of the Volcanoes National Park) and hosting conferences.
These activities generate nearly €430 million per year, amounting to nearly 5.47% of Rwanda’s GDP (€7.6 billion in 2017, according to the latest IMF figures).
This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.
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