Rwanda: Qatar Airways acquires 60% of the new Kigali airport

Less than a week after Rwanda signed a partnership with Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG), Qatar Airways has become the owner of the new Bugesera airport, still under construction. An investment in RwandAir is also under discussion.

Qatar’s African investment strategy is accelerating.

The Rwandan government and Qatar Airways signed an investment partnership on 9 December, whereby the airline will take 60% of the new Bugesera airport (east of Kigali), a project worth nearly $1.3bn, initially scheduled for completion in 2020.

The announcement comes just five days after that of the partnership between PSG, owned by Qatar, and the Rwandan government. PSG fans will be exhorted to “Visit Rwanda” via PSG’s training kit and billboards at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
The airport partnership has three components: construction, ownership and operation of the infrastructure. Qatari officials went to Kigali to discuss the project in March. Last year, the government suspended the work begun in 2016 by the Portuguese company Mota-Engil to resize the project, which was initially valued at $818m.

While Kigali welcomed 977,631 passengers in 2018, the new terminal has greater ambitions. It will be designed to accommodate up to 7 million passengers per year (well above the 4.5 million planned with the previous Portuguese partner) and 14 million by 2032.

“We hope that our future airport hub will boost tourism, allowing us to increase our revenues from $150m to $800m in seven years. Bugesera will be a key employer, the aviation sector will need to employ many people to serve the maintenance, cargo, and our company RwandAir” said Clare Akamanzi, executive director of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

Bugesera airport is likely to be only a part of the air alliance that is being formed between Kigali and Doha. An investment in RwandAir is also under discussion. When asked about the project in November, RwandAir executive director Yvonne Makolo refused to comment.

The alliance looks good on paper. With losses of nearly $50m each year since its creation in 2003, RwandAir would see a solid technical and financial partner able to support its development and hub strategy.

Read the full article of The Africa Report