Rwanda dismisses critics of Arsenal sponsorship deal

27May 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Rwanda dismisses critics of Arsenal sponsorship deal

RWANDA has defended its decision to sponsor English football club Arsenal, following criticism from some of its Western allies.

Rwanda signed a sponsorship and tourism promotion deal with Arsenal, establishing a commercial bond with President Paul Kagame’s favourite team.

The deal, estimated to be worth around $40 million will have the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo feature on the left shirt sleeve of all Arsenal’s teams next season.

While most Rwandans and Africans hailed Rwanda for its bold marketing strategy, the Dutch Parliament criticised the deal and tasked its aid minister Sigrid Kaag to look into the sponsorship deal.

The MPs reportedly wanted to know how a country which receives so much aid can afford such an investment.

One of the legislators said it was disheartening to see such payemnts being made, while the international community is trying to tackle poverty in the same country. Rwanda is one of 15 countries where the Netherlands focuses its aid efforts.

The chief executive office of Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi, however called critics of the deal "either ill-intentioned on ill-informed."

"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," Akamanzi said.

She added that Rwanda intends to double its tourism revenues to $800m by 2024, from $404m currently.

"Our national goal is to double tourism revenues to $800m by 2024, from $404m currently. This won’t happen by sitting and waiting, but by being proactive, and marketing Rwanda as a tourist destination in innovative ways."

Rwanda is still highly dependent on foreign aid. 17% of its 2017/2018 budget was financed through foreign grants, with another 17% sourced from internally and externally secured loans. Domestic resources raised through tax and non-tax revenues financed the remaining 66%.

The World Bank has advised Rwanda to cut this dependency on foreign aid by mobilising more domestic resources and promoting domestic savings.

In another development, Rwandan traders have reacted to a move by the government to ban imports of used clothing which they believe will lead to loss of jobs and will have a negative impact on the country’s economy.

The government increased tariffs on imported used clothes with the intention of eventually phasing out importation. Tariffs were hiked from 20 cents to $2.50 per kilogram.

Domestic demand for locally produced clothes has been stifled, east African governments say, by the ubiquity of cheap, second-hand garments imported from Europe and the United States.

However, Neighboring Kenya which in 2017 exported nearly $340 million of apparel duty-free to the United States, backed down. Uganda and Tanzania followed Kenya’s example and capitulated, agreeing to roll tariffs back to pre-2016 levels, leaving Rwanda the only East African Community member country to hold out.

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