There have been widespread concerns about Rwanda’s investment in European and American sports in recent years and condemnation over apparently ignoring the country’s own sports structures. The Rwandese government has invested heavily in some of the top football and basketball franchises in Europe and the USA in a clear move to boost the country’s tourism sector. A myriad of issues have come with these moves, including questions to do with the country’s human rights records and the ingenuity in investing in foreign businesses. Read more on Rwanda’s investment.
However, many of such critiques have overlooked the fact that the investment is aimed at getting returns in the tourism sector, one of the areas the country is bound to do much better than in sports. Pundits have considered it another avenue for wastage of public resources among global south countries, investing in already established businesses in the global north. The investment has on numerous occasions been dubbed “sportswashing”.
First of all, a look at what such partnerships are doing for already established clubs would be great fodder for the critics. For example, Arsenal, a beneficiary of the Visit Rwanda campaign worth about US$ 15m a year is set to return to the Champions League and among the ratings on Cheeky punt would place them as favorites to do well this season. It is through such funding that the Gunners are able to sustain budgets for key competitions. But then what’s in it for Rwanda? That would probably be the biggest question.
Well, Arsenal is just one of the beneficiaries of this sponsorship. PSG and Bayern Munich are the others. The Gunners are one of the widest followed clubs in Africa and the world, so for Rwanda, advertising their tourism through Arsenal was definitely a great idea. Football is definitely a trillion-dollar industry, and Rwanda would want a slice of this. They can’t get the same viewership from teams playing in the Rwandese league so why not try greater heights for the time being?
Visit Rwanda has also extended to the NBA, one of the most followed leagues in the world. Through such partnerships, courtesy of NBA Africa, we have had the Basketball Africa League, and to much success. Rwanda is already taking its place as a lead destination for sports events and that is how such sponsorships channel funds into the country’s sports, rather than investing directly in won structures that aren’t accessed beyond east Africa for example.
The Tour de Rwanda cycling event is an example of what the proceeds from the Visit Rwanda campaign can bring forth. Over 100 cyclists, including four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome attended the event. Rwanda also recently hosted the FIFA Congress and is set to hold another top global rally event in 2025. In terms of revenues, the Visit Rwanda partnerships with Arsenal and PSG are said to have collectively generated about US$ 160m in 2022 just from media value, injecting about US$ 445m in the tourism sector, which according to World Tourism Organization has elevated Rwanda to close to recovery after the losses due to the covid pandemic. Hopefully this article helps with information on Rwanda’s investments.