“We need to keep bad politics out of Sports”; these remarks by President Paul Kagame at the 73 FIFA Congress in Kigali could not have been a better answer for anti-Rwanda elements and groups who always jump on Rwanda’s sports tourism strategies to churn vitriol campaigns against its leaders.
The president’s speech, although addressing the “bad politics” in general, hints at the prevailing racism in major competitions in Europe, criticizing why a country like Qatar should host the World Cup, etc. His words are equally clear-cut responses to what reactionaries dubbed “sports-washing.”
The “Visit Rwanda” campaign through a partnership with big European teams like Arsenal and Paris Saint Germain, is what has been irking naysayers the most. Some went as far as saying that a country that is as poor as Rwanda cannot sponsor wealthier clubs in Europe or that they do so to cover its “bad human rights record.”
The truth of the matter is that naysayers and other anti-Rwanda reactionaries are uneasy with Rwanda’s remarkable achievements and social transformation. They can’t stomach how Rwanda can rise above all other countries and position itself as the best tourism hub, mostly through its sports tourism strategies that include hosting FIFA Congress in Kigali.
Rwanda’s reap of a fair share in a multibillion-dollar industry like Football, mostly in Europe, did not go well in some people’s minds. Bad elements in powerful countries, who are still stuck in colonial mentality, wished Rwanda was just a mere dependent nation that always begs for peanuts for its survival.
A reminder that more than 100 million Euros, which so far has been invested in sports-centered tourism, like the partnership with Arsenal and Paris Saint Germain not only has marketed Rwanda internationally, but according to Rwanda’s Head of State, the country got its investment returns and profits altogether.
In 2019, for example, less than 7 percent of Arsenal fans in Europe did not consider Rwanda as a tourism destination. However, by the closure of the first football season in the same year, research carried out by Nielsen, Blinkfire Analytics, and others showed that more than 70 percent of Arsenal fans had considered visiting Rwanda.
Just yesterday, Rwanda’s finance ministry announced an 8 percent growth of the economy in the concluded year of 2022. Many sectors that contributed to the GDP increase featured services, Agriculture, and Tourism. The service sector for example aligned very well with tourism because the two intertwine tightly and contributed a far bigger share of 47 percent of the total GDP.
As the adage says, “barking dogs seldom bite.” However much naysayers and anti-Rwanda elements bark against Rwanda’s strategies to transform itself, and nothing will ever change. Attempting to bring bad politics into jovial disciplines like sports will always backfire.