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Qatar Airways becomes first Middle East airline with cargo hub in Africa

The Qatar Airways Group, which owns Qatar Airways Cargo, already owns a 49% stake in RwandAir, Rwanda's national carrier.
Qatar Airways Cargo

Qatar Airways Cargo has launched its first cargo hub in Africa in collaboration with RwandAir, Rwanda’s flagship carrier, in a bid to tap into the high aerospace growth projected for the continent.  

Gulf News reported Thursday that a Qatar Airways Cargo Boeing 777 freighter landed at Kigali International Airport to officially open the new hub in the Rwandan capital. The aircraft will fly from Doha to Kigali twice a week, the report said.

Since March, the Middle Eastern cargo airline has been operating three times a week between Kigali and Lagos as well as running a weekly service between Istanbul to Kigali via Doha.

Qatar Airways Cargo already serves 28 African cities, providing freight services. 

Guillaume Halleux, chief officer cargo at Qatar Airways, said in a statement that while African economies are developing rapidly, they need investment in infrastructure to reach their full potential.

“Qatar and Rwanda have long enjoyed bilateral trade agreements, with both Qatar Airways and Qatar Investment Authority having previously invested in Kigali International Airport and RwandAir," he said, adding, “It was therefore a logical step that Qatar Airways Cargo supports RwandAir in its cargo ambitions. Our customers will benefit from both a reliable intra-African network through our Kigali hub as well as enhanced service levels and cost synergies. We are proud to partner with RwandAir in establishing Kigali as the Central African hub in preparation for the next generation of air cargo on this fast-growing continent.”

Why it matters: Africa is projected to be one of the fastest-growing areas for the cargo market in the world. Boeing predicted last year that Africa’s air-freight market will grow 6.1% yearly over the next two decades and provide $80 billion worth of opportunities in the supply chain industry.

Middle Eastern carriers are losing cargo business at the moment, with a 5.5% year-on-year drop in volumes in March. Looking to get back business, Qatar Airways Cargo is the first Middle Eastern airline to establish a cargo hub in Africa, helping it make inroads on the continent.

In 2019, Qatar Airways agreed to take a 60% stake in the $1.3 billion Bugesera International Airport, which is still under construction. The following year, the Gulf airline confirmed it took a 49% stake in RwandAir. 

Know more: In an interview with Al-Monitor from April 10, the International Air Transport Association’s Middle East and Africa chief said that the Middle East is set to be one of the fastest-growing airline markets in the next decade, in part due to the sweeping economic transformation plans of many Gulf countries.

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