It has been three years now since Visit Rwanda inked a deal with the Basketball Africa League (BAL) to become the official founding and host partner of the competition. Through the partnership, Rwanda hosted the first-ever BAL tournament at the state-of-the-art BK Arena during the past two seasons in 2021 and 2022 while teams again travel to Kigali this week for the 2023 playoffs and finals of the third edition of the tournament slated for May 20-27. The partnership showcases Rwanda as a world-class tourism and investment destination and positions the country as a continental hub for sporting events and sports-based tourism. As the deal comes to a close, Times Sport presents to you the impact of the partnership during the past three years. Taking the visit Rwanda brand to Africa and beyond Visit Rwanda has been a driving force for Rwandan tourism through the partnership in one way or another. The brand has been showcasing the country to African countries and to the world whereby, from the competition’s qualifying rounds all the way to the finals, teams from various countries don jerseys with the words “Visit Rwanda” in addition to the fact that the brand’s advertisements are run on billboards of the arenas where action takes place. International televisions like ESPN are showing the games in different countries of the world and this helps the Visit Rwanda brand introduce the country to millions and millions of people from across the globe. In addition to this, the team that represents Africa to the FIBA intercontinental cup also wears Visit Rwanda as it competes against some of the big teams in the world. Marketing Rwanda as a sports events destination Hosting a sporting event like the BAL promotes Rwanda as a sports events destination. The first time that the country hosted the competition was during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, a time that the organisers had to find a country that would provide enough health safety to the players and delegates who turned up for the games. Organising a successful inaugural BAL for the past two editions earned Rwanda a vote of confidence for the sports world to take their competitions to the country. In the past three years, Rwanda has also hosted the Afrobasket – both in the men’s and women’s categories, as well as some qualifier competitions on the continent. But hosting sports events went beyond just basketball. The country also hosted major sports events including the 2021 2021 Men and Women's Volleyball African Nations Championship as the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), and the 2023 FIFA Congress among others. With such strides, the country may be on the trajectory of hosting bigger global events in the future. Giving exposure to Rwandan players For the past two BAL editions, Rwandan teams have been qualifying for the tournament automatically due to the fact that they represent the host nation, hence giving players a platform to shine. For example, during the 2022 BAL, Jean-Jacques Wilson Nshobozwabyosenumukiza was named on the All-Defensive team of the tournament. In addition, playing with great players at the tournament in some way has also raised the level of performance of Rwandan players. Boosting basketball fan base The BAL has played a big role in growing the basketball fan base in Rwanda and Africa at large. Thousands of fans have attended matches at the BK Arena for the past two seasons and, as time goes by, the competition has had an impact on boosting attendance for basketball matches not just at the BAL but also in the domestic league.