Rwanda defends $39 million sponsorship deal with Arsenal

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Rwanda’s government is defending its $39 million sponsorship deal with the Arsenal football club as some aid donors and rights activists raise an outcry.

“Visit Rwanda” will be emblazoned on the left sleeve of players in Arsenal’s first, under-23 and women’s teams.

President Paul Kagame is an Arsenal supporter. The deal was not approved by Rwandan lawmakers.

Deputy Foreign Minister Olivier Nduhungirehe tells The Associated Press that the money for the sponsorship deal came from tourism, which is the small East African country’s top foreign exchange earner.

The Rwanda Development Board says in a statement the country’s goal is to double tourism receipts from $404 million by 2024.

The board’s CEO says anyone who criticizes the Arsenal deal because Rwanda is an aid recipient wishes the country to remain poor.