Lionel Messi is in the changing room of your new team. He is already wearing the blue Paris Saint Germain pants and is still preparing to go to routine medical tests prior to the signing of the contract with the French club. He puts on his socks, sneakers and a white T-shirt with the institution’s crest and a phrase on the back that caught the attention of the general public: “Visit Rwanda”.
Is it Rwanda, that little country in the center of Africa? Yes. And what does it have to do with PSG? Actually nothing, but also everything. The thing is Paul kagame, the president of that nation marked by the terrible genocide of 1994, is a close friend of Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, who acquired the Parisian club in 2011.
How close are the Qatari emir and the African president? One sentence is enough to graph it. In a public act of December 2019, attended by Gianni Infantino in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Kagame, 63 years old and 21 in power, defined Al Thani (out of 43) as his “younger brother”.
Lionel Messi wears the training shirt before routine medical studies.
“Everything is linked”, Benjamin Augé, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), assured the Spanish site El Confidencial when referring to this alliance between the African country and the Asian power. “There is a very broad relationship between Rwanda and Qatar in terms of investments and projects. Qatar wants to be the largest investor in Rwanda “, detailed the expert.
Why is Qatar so interested in Rwanda?
The specialist describes: “Rwanda is not important in terms of market size, but it is kind of a strategic point in East Africa for Qatar.”
From there it is understood that just five days after the agreement between the African country and PSG for the advertising of Les Parisiens clothing was made official, Al Thani landed in Kigali to announce the financing of 60% of the project to build and operate a new international airport near the Rwandan capital.
Lionel Messi with a shirt loaded with geopolitics. Capture PSG video.
A planned investment of $ 1.3 billion, for a mega structure that will have the capacity to seven million passengers. The shocking move seeks to make Rwanda the main logistics hub for Africa, overtaking Ethiopia and Kenya. A) Yes, Qatar will try to escape the international blockade imposed by its neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Rwanda, in the heart of Africa, would give Qatar everything that its enemies deny it, for accusing him of supporting Islamic terrorism by groups like Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. Following this goal too seeks to acquire 49% of the flag airline RwandAir, precisely the brand that promotes the “Visit Rwanda”.
In parallel, as the Spanish site describes: “Both countries have signed numerous bilateral agreements ranging from fiscal cooperation to avoid double taxation to tourism, agriculture or technological exchange “.
Rwanda, in the heart of Africa, would give Qatar everything that its enemies deny it. (EFE)
“The work at the Kigali airport will be the largest investment ever made by Qatar in Africa,” says Augé, who highlights: “The relationship between the two leaders is very important. Al Thani respects the President of Rwanda a lot, and President Kagame is not asking for money or donations, but for investments. They don’t talk politics – it’s a relationship driven by business and the trust they have in each other. “
From this friendship also comes the low money that Rwanda pays to appear in the training shirt They carry Messi, Neymar, Di María, Mbappe and all the stars of the most powerful squad in the world. It’s 10 million dollars, which are quite far from the 50 million that Accor signed, the sixth hotel group in the world, for exhibiting its brand at PSG.
Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar who bets on Rwanda as an ally. (AFP)
The contract between the club and the African country It also includes the sporadic appearance on the digital billboards of the Parque de los Príncipes stadium during the matches. And the footballers are not left out because several stars of the Paris team have been seen visiting the natural parks of Rwanda and promoted tourism there, surrounded by gorillas and zebras. In addition, the stadium only serves Rwandan coffee and tea.
A business that works
The advertising commitment (which is also seen in the English Arsenal) and the Qatari alliance have been working for Rwanda in economic matters. In 2018, eTourism contributed 15% of the country’s GDP and, until the outbreak of the pandemic, the trend continued to rise.
Matthew rugambaA designer and owner of a clothing store in Kigali, he is a soccer enthusiast who closely followed Messi’s transfer to PSG until he signed.
Secured to local site The New Times that the change of one of the most popular soccer players in the world to the French club is a great victory for Rwandaas its reputation will benefit the country’s ambitious goal of increasing its visibility around the world.
“People are already asking for Messi jerseys in PSG colors as the new season begins.” Capture PSG video.
Rugamba said that Messi wearing products with the brand Visit Rwanda increases the visibility of the country and added that it should not end there, as there are opportunities to make the most of visibility.
Hassan Nsengiyumva, owner of another sportswear store in Kigali, called Magasin Sports Class, said the public’s excitement is seen through the number of orders arriving of fans looking to own the jersey. “People are already asking for t-shirts Messi in PSG colors as the new season begins. “
“Messi is a global superstar who has a huge fan base. Many are already asking for his new jersey at PSG and the demand is already growing in my store since he signed for PSG because they are associating it with the association it has with Rwanda. “
Rwanda, between growth and tyranny
With a stability difficult to find in other countries in Africa and lower rates of corruption. Rwanda was chosen by Qatar as a fundamental strategic ally in which it can trust and bet on the future. “In 2020, it was ranked 49th in Transparency International’s corruption perception index, in which Kenya was 124th and Spain 32nd”, the Spanish site explains.
Paul Kagame, a rebel leader who became president of Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. (Gerard Julien / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images)
Although like the Asian giant Rwanda has many dark spots. Is that Kagame seems to have understood the success of the management as an important aspect to remain in power forever. And, just as it shows growth in a poor country, it also shows iron fists for those who dare to face it.
At the head of the government since 2000, he modified the Constitution to run for a new term in 2017 and he won the elections with a controversial 98.8% of the votes. His power is absolute and makes his political rivals feel, who were persecuted, arrested and expelled from the country. Furthermore, the Rwandan government is one of the clients of the questioned Israeli spyware Pegasus.
“Visit Rwanda” is just a phrase stamped on a training shirt, But if Lionel Messi is wearing it, things grow to unsuspected levels.