Arsenal caught in sponsorship row over Rwanda deal

A row has blown up over a sponsorship deal between one of the entire world’s richest soccer clubs as well as the landlocked African country of Rwanda.

Last week, the Rwanda Development Board unveiled a three-year partnership with the U.K.’s Arsenal Football Club. The team’s kit for the 2018/19 season will bear the “Visit Rwanda” logo on its left sleeve.

The deal was reported to have cost £30 million ($40 million), as well as drew criticism via lawmakers from the Netherlands, according to local press reports.

De Telegraaf, the biggest newspaper from the Netherlands, published a story in which Joel Voordewind, a member of parliament for the Christian Union party, questioned the Dutch development minister’s commitment to supplying aid to Rwanda in light of the deal. Isabelle Diks of the GroenLinks party also described the deal as “disheartening,” according to media reports.

although, Rwandan officials have vigorously defended the move. Speaking on the BBC’s “Today” program Tuesday, Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, said which the amount paid was less than had been reported.

“Our goal is actually to not remain a poor country,” she said, adding which Rwanda’s per capita income a year had tripled over the past 15 years, via $0 to over $700. “Rwanda has made choices to strive for self-reliance … as well as not perpetually look at itself as an aid recipient,” she added. “How is actually which going to happen if we are not proactive from the way we market ourselves to the entire world?”

Last week, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Olivier Nduhungirehe tweeted a response to De Telegraaf’s story, saying to Dutch lawmakers which the deal was “none of your business.”

The U.K. donated upwards of £64 million in aid to Rwanda in 2017/18. The country, which witnessed a brutal genocide in 1994 which killed hundreds of thousands of people, is actually also one of 15 countries to receive aid via the Netherlands.

although, Akamanzi said which Rwanda’s reliance on aid had shrunk via 80 percent of its budget 15 years ago to 17 percent currently.

In a statement released last week, Arsenal’s Chief Commercial Officer Vinai Venkatesham said which Rwanda “has been transformed in recent years,” as well as which the “exciting partnership” would likely help support the country’s tourism industry.

According to the Rwandan Development Board, tourism is actually the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner as well as has generated over 0,000 jobs. “Our national goal is actually to double tourism receipts via $404 million to $800 million by 2024,” which added in a statement Sunday.

Rwanda’s economy is actually anticipated to grow 7.2 percent which year, well above the emerging market average of 4.9 percent according to the International Monetary Fund. The country is actually ranked as the second easiest place to do business in Africa by the entire world Bank, while the capital city of Kigali is actually known as a burgeoning technology hub. President Paul Kagame is actually a proponent of pan-African free trade.

although, Human Rights Watch accuses the Rwandan government of torture as well as restricting freedom of speech.

A spokesperson for Arsenal was not immediately available when contacted by CNBC.

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