Qatar Airways sees tremendous growth opportunity in Africa and has responded by picking a strategic hub: Kigali, Rwanda. Now Qatar Airways wants to invest in Rwanda’s national airline.
Bugesera International Airport in Kigali is set to open in 2022, with the second phase slated for completion in 2032. When finished, it will be one of the largest and the most modern airports on the African subcontinent.
Last December, Qatar Airways agreed to purchase a 60% stake in the new airport. With the Gulf blockade more or less permanent, Qatar Airways is looking to the Global South as its next frontier of opportunity.
But an airport will only go so far. Now Qatar Airways is in talks with RwandAir, the flag carrier of Rwanda, to buy a 49% stake.
Speaking about the new investment, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker heralded the “location, the stability of the country, and the very favorable business environment that exists in that country”. He added:
“In Africa, there is a big demand for air travel which today is very poorly connected, so we always look at opportunities in our field to do investments similar to what we have done in the past.”
But it is about more than that. The blockade does not impact non-Qatari airlines flying to Qatar. This could be a way around the blockade.
Qatar Airways already holds investment stakes in:
- Air Italy
- Cathay Pacific
- China Southern
- International Airlines Group (Aer Lingus + British Airways + Iberia)
Qatar Airways is also considering investments in IndiGo and Royal Air Maroc plus increasing its stake in LATAM, even though (or perhaps because) its arch-enemy Delta also recently upped its investment in the same airline. In fact, al-Baker even offered an olive branch:
“We can transfer passengers on each other. We are the only Middle Eastern carrier going into their hub so there is huge opportunity.”
Rwanda is an interesting investment pivot for Qatar Airways, though there is definite logic in the strategy.
But don’t expect a deal to necessarily close quickly. Patting himself on the back, al-Baker added:
“We are very tough negotiators … we will take our time to negotiate.”