RWANDA – Qatar Airways is set to purchase a 49% stake in Rwanda’s national carrier, Rwandair, to cater for growing demand in Africa after buying a 60% stake in the new Kigali Airport.

“It is a 49 percent stake that we are negotiating for in RwandaAir,” the CEO of Qatar Airways, Baker al-Baker, told a press conference on the sidelines of an international aviation conference in Doha.

“The attraction of Kigali is its location, the stability of the country and the very favourable business environment that exists in that country,” Baker said.

With a small fleet of 12 aircraft, including two Airbus A330 and six Boeing 737, RwandaAir flies to 27 destinations across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

“In Africa, there is big demand for air travel and today Africa is very poorly connected so we always look at opportunities in our field for investment,” Baker said.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is financing the expansion of Kigali Airport to raise its capacity to 10 million passengers a year, the Qatari official said.

One of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Qatar Airways has a fleet of 250 modern aircraft and flies to 160 destinations.

The state-owned airline has been hit by an embargo slapped on Qatar since June 2017 by neighbouring Gulf countries.

In the fiscal year to March 2019, it posted a loss of US$639 million, in addition to a loss of US$69 million the previous year.

Despite the embargo, Qatar Airways has been trying to expand its foothold internationally.

In January 2019, it acquired a five-percent stake in China Southern Airlines, one of the Asian giant’s three big carriers.

Qatar Airways also owns a 20-percent stake in International Airlines Group, which holds British Airways under its umbrella, as well as shares in LATAM Airlines Group, Italy’s Meridiana and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific.

Baker also said Qatar Airways was still interested in investing in IndiGo, India’s largest budget airline.

Qatar also plans to sign within the next six months a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement with the European Commission as part of the EU Aviation Strategy for Europe, becoming the first in the region to do so.

“The agreement will take effect once both internal procedures including translation in Arabic and 20 European languages are finalized,” said Henrik Hololei, the EU’s director for mobility and transport.

The agreement will upgrade the rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU and include provisions not normally covered by bilateral air transport agreements, such as social or environmental matters.