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Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame, announced that approximately 70% of the new Kigali airport is expected to be completed by the end of this year, with the aim of having the facility fully operational by the fourth quarter of 2024.

During the opening day of the third Qatar Economic Forum in Doha, the East African leader expressed gratitude for the strategic partnership between Rwanda and Qatar, describing Qatar as one of Africa and Rwanda's strongest allies. Kagame emphasised their collaboration in the airline and airport sectors, highlighting the progress being made to ensure readiness and efficiency.

Kagame stated: "RwandAir, our airline, is already thriving and expanding rapidly. As for the airport, we anticipate achieving around 70% completion by the end of this year. By the third or fourth quarter of the following year, we expect to witness substantial growth and operational functionality."

In February 2020, Qatar Airways acquired a 49% stake in RwandAir, followed by the signing of a codeshare agreement between the two airlines in 2021. Furthermore, Qatar Airways holds a significant 60% ownership in the new airport, demonstrating their commitment to the partnership. Qatar's national carrier also recently established its first cargo hub outside Doha in Kigali.

Kagame emphasised the importance of visionary leadership, especially for small countries, in the face of global circumstances. He highlighted the need to cultivate strategic partnerships, with Qatar being a prime example. Kagame expressed appreciation for Qatar Airways' expertise in the aviation sector and expressed a desire to explore other collaborative areas.

In addition, Kagame revealed that Rwanda, in collaboration with BioNTech, plans to commence vaccine manufacturing in August of this year. This initiative aims to enhance Rwanda's self-reliance in healthcare.

The Rwandan president also addressed efforts to achieve lasting stability in the crisis between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Noting ongoing discussions led by the East African bloc and Angola, with the involvement of the African Union, Kagame expressed hope for a resolution. He did not rule out the possibility of future meetings with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi.

Just over a week ago, Rwanda launched a major new African cargo hub in partnership with Qatar Airways Cargo.

The new Kigali Cargo Hub is part of a long-term strategic plan for the cargo division of RwandAir, which has seen cargo carried rise by nearly 26% in the last five years.

The initiative will help RwandAir develop Kigali into a regional cargo powerhouse, boosting exports and imports around Africa and strengthening links with key overseas markets.

The partnership saw Qatar Aviation Services (QAS) provide consultancy support to RwandAir Cargo to help improve its already highly successful cargo handling performance.

Air cargo plays a critical role in the economic development of Africa by connecting African businesses to global markets and facilitating trade and commerce.

Last year, Rwanda’s national carrier RwandAir took delivery of a Boeing 737-800 SF, the airline’s first cargo-dedicated aircraft.

Delivered on November 24, 2022, the freighter now operates from the airline’s hub in Kigali and has expanded its cargo operation to destinations in Africa and the Middle East.

At the time of delivery, Yvonne Makolo, CEO of RwandAir, said the new freighter would go on to play a significant role in RwandAir’s operations. “The delivery of our dedicated cargo aircraft is a huge milestone in RwandAir’s fleet expansion plans,” Makolo explained. “Cargo is of ever-increasing importance for the aviation industry, and as a landlocked country, we recognise the importance and value of good cargo connections,” Makolo added.

RwandAir aims “to ensure that Africa is seamlessly connected to the world, driving economic growth and valuable trade deals,” Makolo said.

Qatar is seen as a strategic partner to Rwanda and the relations between the two countries have witnessed steady growth since establishing the diplomatic relations in 2017. Since then, the leaders of the two countries have met on a regular basis, and the exchanged high-level visits between the two sides have contributed to boosting joint co-operation in various vital fields and enhancing the partnership between the two countries. Qatar’s Amir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani visited Rwanda in April 2019 and made another visit in June 2022 to participate in the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali. Meanwhile, the Rwanda president has paid multiple visits to Doha.

The Qatar Investment Authority anchor $250mn investment into the Virunga Africa Fund is further evidence of Qatar's growing interest in Africa. In 2021, Qatar also acquired a 50% stake in 800 MWs of renewable projects in South Africa and Zambia and made a $200mn investment in fintech platform Airtel Mobile Commerce. -

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