Modern Tourism, Aid and Economic Empowerment
In the wake of the Rwandan Development Boards’ (RDB) controversial sponsorship deal with Arsenal Football club, light has been well and truly shone upon the western politicians ‘save Africa narrative.’ Many critique Rwandan officials and the deal because of the assumed usage of foreign aid as a means of financing this touristic agreement. Whilst the official amount has not been disclosed, the RDB have counterattacked these predisposed assumptions stating that the funds came “directly” from money that was “generated by tourism.”
Many argue against the sponsorship, due to the countries extreme poverty levels, and instead insist that money be spent elsewhere where a visible impact can be seen in the ordinary lives of Rwandan citizens. This is a valid point. Yet, the long term goals of such a touristic deal, such as this between Rwanda and Arsenal, need to be understood through the concept of modern tourism, how it is linked to development and how it works to aid economic prosperity through sustainable revenues. Maybe then critics voices, although in its own right justifiable, might appear less harsh.
The RDB have denied using foreign aid as a means of funding this particular agreement. Yet, even if this is accurate, isn’t the primary purpose of aid, as Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza states, ‘to do itself out of the job?’ In theory, aid is given so that the beneficiaries eventually innovate ways to generate their own revenue so that the country can become self-sufficient and independent to that of the foreign aid. Moreover, it is in the beneficiaries prerogative to decide and innovate the best ways to invest the additional funds. Alongside this, the RDB have even disclosed their long term goals as one being to reduce its reliance on foreign aid and believes that the ‘booming tourism sector’ is the key.
As Sara Niner (Lecturer and Researcher at the School of Social Sciences at Monash University) suggests, aid, ‘microfinance’ or simply throwing money directly to those in need is not enough to alleviate or even eradicate poverty. What is needed, is the stimulation of innovation among Rwandan citizens and the trust to allow control. If choice is taken out of the equation, empowerment of Rwandan citizens is made impossible and poverty will remain.
At Beauty of Rwanda, we understand the need to allow Rwandan women to have control over their business and own income as this is the only way to ensure its sustainability. We are merely their connection to the world, their spokesperson to highlight their strength, beauty and brilliance and to convince that whilst foreign aid has its place, the Rwandan people are capable of creating their own sustainable future.