Rwanda’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community Olivier Nduhungirehe has blasted criticism by Dutch MPs over the country’s recent sponsorship deal with Arsenal football club.
On May 23, 2018, Rwanda Development Board announced a three-year sponsorship deal with Arsenal FC – one of the giant British Football Clubs to promote the country’s tourism.
De Telegraaf – the biggest Dutch newspaper published a story quoting Dutch members of Parliament and politicians calling for their country to revisit its aid to Rwanda as a punishment for the country that signed a deal with Arsenal.
The Dutch newspaper quoted members of the Christian Union – a Christian democratic political party in the Netherlands, criticizing Rwanda as ‘poor’ to be able to sign the deal with Arsenal.
MP Joël Voordewind was quoted as saying he is outraged “that a country where we provide solid financial assistance has now spent as much as 34 million euro shirt sponsorship.”
State Minister Nduhungirehe, responded to the story in a tweet; “Dear MPs from The Netherlands. This is NONE of your business. Rwanda uses revenues from National Parks to promote investment and tourism, aiming self-reliance. The day @AFCAjax or @Feyenoord int get a similar popularity worldwide like @Arsenal, then we will talk business!”
According to ‘Visit Rwanda’ a subsidiary agency of Rwanda Development Board, last year, tourism proceeds worth $1.28 million were distributed to communities around Rwanda’s three national parks to build schools, clinics and housing for vulnerable members of the community.
Over the last nine years, according to RDB, revenues from mountain gorilla conservation and the resulting tourism has brought $107 million to the national coffers.
Last year, $619,341 was distributed by RDB to more than 158 community-based projects through the revenue sharing program. This is expected to increase this year following the Government’s decision in 2017, to increase the revenue sharing program from 5% to 10% of all tourism revenues.
In 2016 alone, Rwanda earned $404 million from tourism which increased to $444 million in 2017.
Commenting on the criticism, Rwanda Development Boad Chief Executive Officer Clare Akamanzi said: “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,” she said in a tweet.
“The Rwanda Development Board generates revenues from sale of tourism products, from which it uses a portion to market its products for further growth. The arsenal deal falls within this arrangement, just like our tourism exhibitions, sales consultancies etc,” she added.
Meanwhile, the deal has received widespread admiration from across the region – with social media enthusiasts presenting new Arsenal Jerseys bearing their home country names.