Rwanda says it is unfazed by criticism that its heavy investments in tourism sponsorship deals with rich European clubs is a tad too expensive for a poor country, noting that the deals will pay off in the long-term by making the country a regional tourism hub.
Rwanda now has contracts with two giant European football clubs — London-based Arsenal FC and current French league champions Paris Saint-Germain. But major aspects of the agreements remain undisclosed, with Rwandan officials saying the decision was made by all parties concerned.
Rwanda signed the multimillion three-year sleeve sponsorship deal with Arsenal in May last year, through which several tourism campaigns have been held.
Under this deal, the Visit Rwanda logo runs on the LED screens at the Emirates stadium during premier league games.
The country has now entered into a similar arrangement with PSG, with officials claiming it will attract millions of tourists from France and other European countries.
Although French media has said the deal cost Rwanda between $8.8 million to $11 million, Kigali says the figure remains undisclosed.
“I can neither confirm nor deny the figure reported. Both Rwanda and PSG agreed to keep it undisclosed,” said the head of tourism at Rwanda Development Board Belize Kaliza.
The same scenario unfolded during the signing of the tourism sponsorship deal with Arsenal with Rwanda denying reports that the deal cost well over $30 million.
The secrecy around the cost of these two deals has attracted a fair amount of criticism on whether Rwanda has the income to prioritise spending millions of dollars on clubs that are already rich and among the most valuable sports franchises on earth.
But officials are unfazed, noting that “trust in government decisions” is paramount.
“There will always be criticism for everything; We do not look at these agreements as costs but as strategic investments that will bring us the success we target,” said Ms Kaliza.
“About the cost of this deal, it is confidential. We are answerable to Rwandans, no one else. And to Rwandans we say trust your leadership as you have always done; the leadership has always made good decisions.”
Exporters are also upbeat about this deal and see it as an avenue to market Rwanda’s finest coffee and tea to France.
Under the deal, Rwandan tea and coffee will be served exclusively at the French stadium Parc des Princes starting next season.
“This is a win-win agreement for all players involved. We are going to have the best of Rwandan tea and coffee sold in new markets, and that will trickle down to benefit the farmer in Rwanda,” said Cynthia Uwacu, a manager at the National Agricultural Expectation Board.
The partnership will also convey Rwanda’s openness to welcome business partnerships from France and across the world, while it has also invested heavily in conference infrastructure in order to boost gains from international meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions.
The three-year deal will also see first team and retired players from PSG travel to Rwanda and share their experiences through PSG online platforms to millions of its followers.
The Visit Rwanda logo will be displayed at the Parc des Princes on the sleeves of Paris Saint-Germain women’s team, and on the back of training kits.
A “Semaine du Rwanda à Paris” (Rwanda Week in Paris) event will be organised to promote Rwandan exports.
Rwanda attracted $2 billion in investments in 2018 with hospitality, aviation and real estate the main drawers.
The tourism sector has however been threatened by deadly incursions from rebel groups in neighbouring countries.
In October, militants attacked a village in the northern mountainous region famous for gorilla trekking, killing 14 residents. Rwanda is now working with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Burundi to enhance cross-border security.
Rwanda targets to collect $407 million in tourism revenues this year, and is optimistic that the figure is achievable after registering 1.7 million arrivals in 2018.
GAINS FOR RWANDA
Under the three-year Rwanda - Paris Saint-Germain deal:
Rwandan tea and coffee will be served exclusively at the French stadium Parc des Princes.
The partnership will also convey Rwanda’s openness to welcome business partnerships.
First team and retired players from PSG will travel to Rwanda and share their experiences via PSG online platforms.
The Visit Rwanda logo will be displayed at the Parc des Princes Stadium, on the sleeves of Paris Saint-Germain women’s team, and on the back of training kits.