Rwanda defends Bayern Munich deal

Thursday August 31 2023
rwanda bayern

L-R: Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi, FC Bayern Chief Executive Officer Jan-Christian Dreesen and Rwanda’s Minister of Sports Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju pose for picture during the unveiling of Visit Rwanda partnership deal in Kigali, Rwanda on August 27, 2023. PHOTO | TWITTER via RWANDA MINISTRY OF SPORTS


Rwanda has staunchly defended its tourism promotion agreement with Bayern Munich, countering criticism from human rights groups and sceptics who accuse Rwanda of extravagance. 

The controversy arose as Bayern chose not to renew its sponsorship contract with Qatar Airways following heavy backlash from its fans and human rights groups.

The latest deal means Rwanda under its “Visit Rwanda” Campaign now has tourism promotion deals with three major European clubs - London (United Kingdom)-based Arsenal Football Club, Paris (France) -based Paris Saint-Germain Football Club or PSG and Munich (Germany) Bayern Munich. 

Read: Rwanda renews Arsenal deal, bets on Messi for numbers

Rwanda's deals with the European clubs have sharply divided opinion with some endorsing the country’s plan as strategic while others say Rwanda’s status as a low-income country does not merit the sponsorships.

There is also concern over transparency as little information about the deals has been made available publicly available.


All parties - Rwanda, Arsenal, PSG and now Bayern Munich - have not disclosed how much Rwanda paid for the partnerships.

On its part, Rwanda defended its decisions, noting that funds for partnerships were generated through the sale of tourism products, and insisted that "anyone who criticises our deal (now deals) with Arsenal on account of Rwanda being poor or an aid recipient, either wishes for Rwanda to be perpetually so."

The deals are also helping the country to rebrand itself as a tourism destination. 

But its critics led by Human Rights activists are equally resolute arguing that European football clubs should not be signing partnerships with a country facing allegations of human rights abuses and silencing critics. 

Read: Mixed bag of fortune for Rwandan sports

Wenzel Michalski, the Director of Human Rights Watch Germany, said Bayern’s new alliance with Rwanda " is a very, very bad choice".

“Anyone who thought that FC Bayern would change sponsors for human rights reasons has now been severely disappointed. The partnership with Rwanda is also a very, very bad choice. This is a country where human rights are trampled on,” he said in his address to journalists on Tuesday.

Another group, the Human Rights Foundation, released a statement condemning the deal as “an instance of the club lending credibility to another oppressive regime striving to cleanse its violent transgressions through sports.”

"While FC Bayern's professed objectives of advancing youth sports and tourism in Rwanda hold merit, the club is now associated with a corrupt regime responsible for severe human rights violations, invasive wars, and mass atrocities in the neighbouring DRC," the body said.

"The Bayern Munich/Visit Rwanda deal represents a disheartening and retrogressive step for the club, following its decision to terminate its heavily criticized business affiliations with Qatar in June."

In response, Yolande Makolo, Rwanda's Government Spokesperson, likened these views to mere “tantrums”, arguing that the deal will generate wealth for Rwandans.

“This HRF tantrum proves Rwanda is absolutely on the right track with our Visit Rwanda partnerships to promote tourism and young football talent - ultimately generate wealth and well-being for Rwandans. We’re doing business with the world. A hall monitor is upset. Too bad,” she said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board, defended the expenditure on this deal, saying that Rwanda generates enough money to pay for these partnerships.

"We can afford it. It is not excessive”, she said, but refrained from mentioning how much Rwanda has paid Bayern Munich citing contractual confidentiality.

“The money we get just from gorilla permits is enough to pay for these partnerships and also do other activities to promote tourism. We are not funding these deals from anywhere else but from the money we get from tourism,” she said.

Read: British actor Idris Elba to name a baby gorilla in Rwanda

“Gorilla tourism is the fastest growing. While the rest of the country grew at 56 per cent, gorilla tourism grew at over 76 per cent. This is why we can afford this deal.”

The Minister of Sports Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju doubled down.

“To answer questions related to the price we paid (for this deal), I do not think there is a price on a country’s visibility. This is a long-term plan; you may not get benefits immediately but in the next few years, you can start to see the benefits,” she said.

A survey conducted by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) demonstrated that the probability of tourists choosing Rwanda due to its partnership with Arsenal escalated from 35 per cent in 2019 to 41 per cent in 2020.

However, no survey has been released since the lifting of Covid-19 lockdown measures three years ago.

FC Bayern Chief Executive Officer Jan-Christian Dreesen said the partnership was agreed upon until the summer of 2028. 

"FC Bayern can become active on the African continent and gather important experiences. The new platinum partnership is aligned with long-term goals. We will promote 'Visit Rwanda' and help Rwanda grow in sports with projects for youth football. These are challenging and responsible tasks. Africa is a continent of opportunities. For FC Bayern, this is the next important step in internationalisation."

Figures by the National Bank of Rwanda show the Composite Index of Economic Activities increased by 6.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year partly supported by robust recovery of tourism reflected in downstream services such as hotels and transport.

Separate figures by RDB show tourism is on a rebound, with the country earning $247 million in the first half of 2023, a 56 per cent increase compared to $158 million in the same period in 2022.