Burundian club Dynamo BBC have withdrawn from the continental top-tier Basketball Africa League (BAL) after refusing to display the ‘Visit Rwanda’ shirt placement amid fraught geopolitical tensions between the two East African countries.

Visit Rwanda is a founding and host partner of the BAL through a multi-year deal. Dynamo players covered up the logo of the tourism board during their opening game of the competition against Cape Town Tigers in Pretoria, however, before forfeiting their next two matches against FUS Rabat and Petro de Luanda.

The club yesterday (12 March) officially withdrew from its debut in the BAL, with players claiming that the directive to cover the Visit Rwanda branding came from Burundi’s government.

“The government told our president [Joe Dassin] that we can’t play, so they told the BAL that we have to forfeit our game because we blocked out the ‘Visit Rwanda’ thing,” Dynamo’s US guard Bryton Hobbs said in an Instagram Live post on Sunday (10 March).


Visit Rwanda’s questionable ethical credentials

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Setting Burundi’s geopolitical underpinnings aside, there has been intense scrutiny over Rwanda’s attempts to clean the country’s image through sports sponsorships.

English Premier League (EPL) title challengers Arsenal and reigning German and French champions Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are among the largest sports organizations that have accepted Visit Rwanda as a sponsor.

Controversies surrounding Rwanda have not dampened the sponsor’s image, according to Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis at GlobalData Sport.

“Rwanda has been using sport sponsorship as a driver for tourism and building their international profile for some time, with their sleeve partnership deal with Arsenal the most prominent,” Wiacek tells Sportcal.

“While Rwanda has been in the news in the UK as part of the current government’s plan to deal with the migrant situation, its sponsorship has not really been challenged in any significant way. The partnership has been seen as a success, especially with Rwanda targeting Asian tourists.”

London-based Arsenal faced strong calls to cancel their $12.5 million-per-year sleeve sponsorship deal with Visit Rwanda in November following the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that the government’s plan to deport immigrants to Rwanda is “unlawful”.

Despite Lord Robert Reed saying Rwanda “has a poor human rights record” when delivering the verdict, the UK government is going ahead with the plan, yesterday (13 March) announcing that failed asylum seekers will be offered up to £3,000 to move to Rwanda.

Amnesty International has accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group which has killed “at least 20 men” and “raped dozens of women” in the eastern Congo, it says.

Regardless, Arsenal and PSG have extended their contracts with Visit Rwanda until 2025, while Bayern Munich has penned a deal until 2028.

Visit Rwanda did not respond to request for comment.

Why are Burundi-Rwanda relations so tense?

“The political situation in East Africa has largely gone under the radar in Europe with tensions across East Africa seemingly being exacerbated by Rwanda in an attempt to gain political influence,” Wiacek adds.

“While most will associate Rwanda with the genocide that took place in the 90s, the sponsorships utilizing Visit Rwanda as a means of rehabilitating the country’s international image have arguably been successful and the lack of public scrutiny of the East African political situation is unlikely to pressure rights holders to sever ties.”

The Burundi government’s animosity for Rwanda is well-known – and mutual.

In January, Burundi closed its borders after accusing its neighbor of funding attacks by the Red Tabara rebel militia group.

20 people were killed in a Red Tabara attack in December. Last month, meanwhile, the group claimed credit for attacks on Burundian military bases that killed nine people and injured several others.

Red Tabara has been fighting Burundi’s government from bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2015.