One of the most anticipated transactions of early 2020 has been completed.In comments to the press at the CAPA Qatar Aviation Summit in Doha, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker confirmed on Wednesday, 5 February that his company had acquired a 49% stake in RwandAir.
On 9 December 2019, Qatar Airways and the Rwandan government signed an investment partnership whereby the Middle Eastern carrier agreed to take a 60% stake in the new Bugesera airport (east of Kigali), a project worth nearly $1.3bn and initially scheduled for completion in 2020.“It will be a very efficient hub in a very stable country in the heart of Africa. We see Africa as another region that has huge growth potential,” al-Baker said.
The partnership will give RwandAir, which has reported close to $50m in losses each year since its creation, a solid technical and financial partner able to support its development and hub strategy.
Qatar Airways also stands to benefit from the deal since a future rapprochement will allow the carrier to bypass an embargo that forces all its flights to Africa to avoid Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.
The new Kigali airport could thus attract everyday air traffic from African countries to Doha, where Qatar Airways’ aircraft could fly under RwandAir flight numbers.
Inversely, those of RwandAir could be code-shared with Qatar Airways. All this without fear of flying over Saudi Arabia. This will allow RwandAir to increase its range and Qatar Airways to reduce flight times to West and Central Africa… and possibly catch up with Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines on the continent.
However, the rapprochement between Rwanda and Qatar Airways has wider aims.
In particular, it will help Doha gain access to Rwanda’s arable land, diversify its sources of supply, and buy Rwandan agricultural products and transport them by air.
Qatar currently depends heavily on Turkey and Iran, two capricious partners.
By: Rémy Darras