Rwanda Signs Sponsorship Deal With Arsenal

Rwanda has signed a sponsorship and tourism promotion deal with English football clubside Arsenal, the country’s government said on Wednesday.

With the deal, the East African country has established a commercial bond with President Paul Kagame’s favourite football club.

Tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner in Rwanda, which is trying to lay to rest memories of a genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Rwandans were slaughtered by Hutu extremists.

From August, the “Visit Rwanda’’ tourist board logo will be emblazoned on the left sleeve of all players in Arsenal’s first, under-23 and women’s teams, the government said in a statement.

Rwanda said the three-year deal would highlight its “growing numbers of wildlife, including black rhino, lions, zebra, chimpanzees and the famous mountain gorillas’’.

However, the country did not disclose how much it would pay.

The tourism deal is not the only link between Rwanda and the north London side.

Many of Kagame’s critics compare his prolonged stay in power to that of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who retired this year after 22 years in charge.

Kagame came to power after the 1994 genocide and has recently changed the constitution to allow him to stay until 2034.

He posted a plaintive message this month about Wenger’s departure from “my beloved club Arsenal’’.

Arsenal chief commercial officer Vinai Venkatesham described the deal as an exciting partnership which would allow Rwanda to fulfil the ambitions of its tourist industry.

The country hopes to bring in $440 million (330.3 million pounds) this year from foreign visitors.

Many of the tourists will be coming to visit its population of endangered gorillas in forests along the border with Democratic Republic of Congo.

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