Qatar Airways Plans To Buy 49 Percent Of Rwanda’s State-Owned Airline

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Qatar Airways
The RwandAir deal could help Qatar Airways to bypass restrictions imposed on it by some neighboring Arab countries which force it to fly longer routes. RwandAir receives a new Boeing plane. Image supplied by RwandAir

Qatar Airways is set to own 60 percent of Rwanda’s new international airport when it is fully built and is now in negotiations to buy 49 percent of Rwanda’s state-owned carrier, RwandAir.

A stake in RwandaAir would increase Qatar Airways’ reach in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation regions, according to the Financial Times.

Africa is set to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions globally in the next 20 years with an annual expansion of nearly 5 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The African aviation industry generates $80 billion in economic activity, supporting around 6.9 million jobs.

The RwandAir deal could help Qatar Airways to bypass restrictions imposed on it by some Arab states which force it to fly longer routes to avoid the forbidden airspace of some of its neighbors in the Gulf, Businesslive reports.

Due to a regional dispute, Qatar Airways has been banned from flying to 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt since June 2017. Those countries cut ties with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The ban does not apply to foreign airlines flying to Qatar, according to Reuters.

This means that RwandAir could potentially carry passengers from Africa through the blocked airspace to Doha without any airspace restrictions. 

Qatar Airways already owns a stake in International Airlines Group, a London-based company that owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling, and European low-cost airline Level — as well as a stake in China Southern, Cathay Pacific, and Latam Airlines Group. 

In December 2019, Qatar Airways agreed to buy a 60 percent stake in a new $1.3 billion airport that is under construction in Rwanda, AlJazeera reported.

The Bugesera International Airport in Kigali is expected to have the capacity for around 7 million passengers per year before expansion to 14 million passengers by 2032

The Rwandan government hopes that the new airport will position the country as a regional hub.

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Rwanda will have serious competition from nearby Ethiopia which has announced plans to build a new $5 billion airport at Bishoftu that is expected to have a capacity of 100 million passengers per year, according to Bloomberg

Ethiopia already has the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and its capacity of 22 million passengers a year.

The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest carrier. It has an operating fleet of 111 planes, flying to more than 119 international passenger and cargo destinations, with more than 61 of those in Africa alone, according to BusinessInsider.