Rwanda is taking a new approach to attracting and boosting tourism to their ever-growing economy. A deal that many said would not work has now proven to be a valuable investment, shutting the door in the face of the nay-sayers. A strategy not tried before on the African continent and one of epic entrepreneurial proportions; an African country has partnered with one of the world’s largest and most legendary football clubs with the goal of growing one of Africa’s most promising economies.
Rwanda signed a three-year deal with Arsenal Football Club in 2019. The deal requires Arsenal to sport the phrase, “Visit Rwanda” on the team’s kit. Many critics took to social media to voice their opinions as to the reckless investment Rwanda has made with funds they can barely afford to just “give away” to an already extremely wealthy football team.
However, I tend to disagree with the critics. In 2019, Rwanda recorded a 5% growth in the number of tourists from England alone, according to the Rwanda Development Board.
Soccer is one of the most watched sports today. There could be no better exposure than having your country’s name on one of the most watched teams of all time.
An interesting example of how effective this investment has been for Rwanda is evident in this comment from Belise Kariza, head of RDB’s tourism department: “Before the partnership was signed, 71% of the millions of Arsenal fans worldwide did not consider Rwanda a tourist destination, at the end of the first year of the partnership, half of them considered Rwanda a destination to visit.”
The exposure Rwanda is receiving from this deal is proving to be valuable, and as of December 2019, Rwanda has signed yet another deal with a different team – French football club Paris St Germain (PSG). People fail to realise that, yes the country is spending money with teams that are already enormously wealthy, but there is a reason these clubs are so wealthy, and what better way to promote one’s beautiful country and grab the world’s attention by placing your nation’s brand at the heart of the kit that millions, if not billions, of people will see over the next three years.
Rwanda has forecast earnings of $800 million in tourism by 2024 as opposed to $380 million in 2018, according to the Central Bank, which would be a staggering increase of %110 in just six years. Rwanda is aiming to become a Middle Income Country (MIC) by 2030 and a High Income Country (HIC)by 2050. And with a lucrative football shirt branding deal, their successes are in sight.
Foreign Direct Investment into Rwanda will see a natural increase as investors become more attracted to the good news of a booming tourism sector. As tourism grows, so will local businesses and as local businesses grow, so will the middle income economy. As the cycle of economic growth begins to form and become more evident, we can be assured that investment into Rwanda is a good bet.
Rwanda has come from an unstable past of Genocide, tribal divisions and poverty. Many people around the world are aware of Rwanda’s horrific past. However, this has not stopped Rwanda from changing the image the world had of them. As a nation, they have come a long way to be where they are today. Rwanda has transformed into a peaceful democratic country with a growing and advancing economy . Between 2008 to 2018 the country saw a steady average growth rate of 7.5% over the decade.
Let us cheer Rwanda on to continue to explore these means of investment. No country has tried this innovative tourism strategy before and according to the numbers, it’s working. Rwanda is a beautiful country with amazing people, seizing the digital transformation, ready for investment and ready to welcome the world. Keep an eye out for Rwanda the next time you watch football. You never know where they may end up with the eyes of the world’s football fans firmly on them.
Greg Nott is the Head of the African Practice at Norton Rose Fulllbright, a board member of the NEPAD Business Foundation and the Chairperson of the Southern-Africa – Canada Chamber of Business (SACANCHAM)