With sports currently a priority docket in Rwanda, under the Ministry of Sports, amid the Covid-19 pandemic's uncertainties, 2021 was quite testy for the new ministry. The EastAfrican takes a closer look at major issues and events that highlighted the year.
Inaugural BAL Games
The country made strides on the continental and global scenes for successfully hosting the first Basketball Africa League (BAL) in May at the Kigali Arena. The inaugural season, featured 12 club teams from 12 countries (Angola, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Mali, Senegal, Tunisia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Rwanda) competing through 26 games.
Egyptian side Zamalek beat Tunisia’s US Monastir 76-63 to claim the trophy.
The partnership between the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) and the US National Basketball Association (NBA), BAL, which is built on the foundation of club competitions by Fiba Regional Office Africa, marked the NBA’s first collaboration outside North America.
As part of its Covid-19 response to support Rwanda, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Kigali and met with President Paul Kagame on May 27 to sign a 1.5 million Euro (1.7 billion Rwandan Francs) grant.
Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Economy and Economic Planning, and Mr Rémy Rioux, the Director-General of Agence Française de Développement signed the grant to support the launch and implementation of a school sports policy operated by the Rwandan ministries of Education and Sports, as well as the launch of ISONGA, a National programme of excellence.
Ferwafa gets new boss
In June, the Federation of Rwanda Football Association (Ferwafa) elected Olivier Mugabo Nizeyimana as its new President.
Nizeyimana, who is Mukura Victory Sports Club’s former President in Huye District, and a businessman owning Volcano Rwanda Ltd, a local transport company, and Hyundai Rwanda won the title with 52 out of 59 votes to whitewash Louis Rurangirwa to secure a four-year term.
Ferwafa conducted this during an extraordinary General Assembly to elect a new Executive Committee following the resignation of Brig. Gen Jean Damascene Sekamana, the federation’s former boss in April.
Many football lovers have for long blamed the Ferwafa leadership for the national soccer team’s poor performance at top level championships.
Suspended from Africa Nations Volleyball Championship
The national Women’s Volleyball Team was suspended from the 2021 Africa Nations Volleyball Championship tournament after Nigeria filed a complaint challenging the nationality of four Rwandan players in September.
Consequently, Rwanda who were the tournament hosts were indefinitely suspended from the competition, their previous games stripped off, and the federation cancelled.
Following this, Jean de Dieu Bagirishya, the Second VP of the Rwanda Volley Federation in charge of Operations was arrested by the Rwanda Investigation Bureau on claims of having forged the said documents.
While the Ministry of Sports took over the tournament’s organisation, the games commenced and finals held on September 19. Cameroon emerged champions after defeating Kenya.
Arsenal FC deal renewed
In its efforts to boost tourism through the Visit Rwanda campaign, the country renewed its Arsenal Football club-Visit Rwanda deal in August, in a deal estimated at $100 million to run until 2025.
The initial three-year deal had expired in May.
Though the survey conducted by the Rwanda Development Board indicated how the likelihood of tourists to visit Rwanda as a result of its initial partnership with the European team increased from 35 percent in 2019 to 41 percent in 2020.
Alongside this is Paris Saint Germaine (PSG), a French football team that came onboard for the same cause of promoting Rwandan tourism.