The Inspirer staff
Rwanda’s three-year-sponsorship deal with the London-based Premier League Club, Arsenal, which will see the country spend an estimated €30million, has attracted criticism from The Netherlands’ Members of Parliament arguing that the country they give guarantee to fight poverty should not be putting such ‘whooping’ amount of money in sponsoring giant football club.
However, Rwanda Development Board Chief Executive officer (CEO), Clare Akamanzi said, through her twitter account on Thursday, May 26, 2018, that “Anyone who criticizes our deal with @Arsenal on account of Rwanda being poor or an aid recipient, either wishes for Rwanda to be perpetually so, or doesn’t understand that in any business, marketing costs are a key component of a company’s expenditures.”
“For those asking if tourism promotion funds should have been used for water or electricity let me break it down for you: Infrastructure is imported. Tourism is our #1 forex earner. The more Rwanda earns from tourism, the more we can invest in our people. That’s the connection,” she explained.
The Rwanda Development Board generates revenues from sale of tourism products, from which it uses a portion to market its products for further growth, Akamanzi said, observing that “the arsenal deal falls within this arrangement, just like our tourism exhibitions, sales consultancies.”
According to Irish Mirror, a newspaper based in the Republic of Ireland Arsenal’s new home kit that it unveiled on Tuesday, could be their last year with Puma, with the current £30million-a-year deal expiring at the end of the season.
The tourist board reportedly paid a similar figure, Irish Mirror reports, to ensure their logo would feature prominently on Arsenal’s shirts; and it is precisely this that has irked some Dutch politicians.
Rwanda currently receives aid from Holland – although this does not go to the government of Rwanda – and political figures from the country are angry that the tourist board has parted with such a large amount of cash.
Dutch news outlet VI, politician Joel Voordewind said: “I am indignant that a country where we provide solid financial assistance has now become a whopping €30million shirt sponsor of a major English football club.”
Isabelle Diks of political party GroenLinks observed “Of course our development aid does not go to the government of Rwanda and it is good that Rwanda tries to give the economy a boost.
“But it is disheartening that this kind of spending is being made, while the international community is trying to do something about the terrible poverty in the country.”
A strategic means for tourism, development advancement
For RDB’s Akamanzi, the deal with Arsenal is a strategic tool to exponentially increase tourism revenues, hence boost the country’s economy and improve welfare of Rwandans.
“Our national goal is to double tourism revenues to $800 million by 2024, from $404 million currently. This won’t happen by sitting and waiting, but by being proactive, and marketing Rwanda as a tourist destination in innovative ways. Now- Relax and let the world,” she pointed out.
Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community, posted on his twitter account “Dear MPs from The Netherlands. This is NONE of your business. Rwanda uses revenues from National Parks to promote investment & tourism, aiming self-reliance.”
In a public statement it released on Sunday, May 27, 2018, RDB stated that Arsenal Football Club partnership is part of Rwanda’s long-term tourism development and conservation strategy that is grounded in Vision 2050 and EDPRS II. As part of this strategy Rwanda has upgraded its conference and hospitality infrastructure, transport networks, tourist attractions and conservation policies.
Rwanda is today ranked third most popular destination in Africa for hosting international meetings and events by the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association). RwandAir, the national carrier, now flies to 26 destinations globally.
In addition, the Akagera National Park has been restocked with lions and Black Rhinos in order to make it a Big 5 park and the Volcanoes National Park has been expanded in order to create additional habitat for the endangered mountain gorilla. Today, tourism is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner and has generated over 90,000 jobs so far, adds the statement.
The Arsenal Football Club partnership is one of the many ways that Rwanda has chosen to position the destination into the hearts and minds of prospective visitors and as such part of our tourism receipts are ploughed back to support such marketing efforts.
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