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Qatar Airways Bets on Rwanda’s Newest Airport, National Carrier
Even as the pandemic continues to shake the industry to its core, construction of Rwanda’s largest airport, Bugesera International Airport, is still on course, and the airport is expected to open for business in 2022.
The new airport’s construction of the new airport was prepared in 2010 and only got underway in 2017 before undergoing a redesign process in 2019 to accommodate the country’s expected growth plan.
The initial plan was to accommodate 1.7 million passengers that would be expandable to 4.5 million passengers once the infrastructure is complete. Now, however, the first phase of the plan is to accommodate seven million passengers per year over ten years, while the second-phase expansion will be implemented to host fourteen million passengers per year for the subsequent ten years.
The Rwandan government bailed out the facility’s construction from Portugal’s Mota-Engil, a construction company hired as the contractor for the project, which originally had an 85 percent stake, giving the Rwandan government 100% ownership in the airport.
Qatar Airways’ keen interest in the small East African nation has led to the Qatari carrier to buy a 60 percent stake in the new airport under construction, African Aerospace reports. In December 2019, an agreement was reached under a “build, own, operate” agreement between the Rwandan government and Qatar airways.
The new airport project is expected to cost around $1.3 billion. Qatar Airways’ 60% stake is effectively an investment of $780 million in the East African nation.
Earlier in the year, the Gulf Carrier had announced its intent, through CEO Akbar Al-Baker, to purchase a 49% stake in Rwandair, noting that the it was attracted to Rwanda by several factors, including its strategic location and its business-friendly environment.
“The attraction of Kigali is its location, the stability of the country and the very favorable business environment that exists in that country,” said Al-Baker in a previous press release.
Qatar Airways has shown interest in Rwanda for a while. Al-Baker, in his previous visit to Rwanda in 2019 for the Aviation Africa Summit, spoke of opportunities for the two nations to work together.
The timing of the deal, especially with the current travel coronavirus-induced travel depression, may be beneficial since airlines are returning to the skies, and the expertise brought by Qatar Airways, being a strategic and a technical partner for the Rwandair, may turn to be fruitful in registering growth for the Kigali-based airline.
“In general terms, to go into a venture with a world-class airline like Qatar Airways [brings] a lot of benefits, as you can imagine, Capacity-building and staff training were just two potential plusses from the proposed partnership,” said Rwandair CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo.
The new airport will have a single runway with an option for a second runway at a later date with increased traffic.
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