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“The airline is an irreplaceable catalyst for economic growth,” Minister Uzziel Ndagijirnana. Pictured here: A330 of Rwand Air at Brussels Airport – photo hs/CFG
 

How many funds the government of the gas-rich Gulf state has offered the Kigali rulers to finance Rwand Air’s projected fleet growth, is a well-kept secret to this date. All that is known is that the Qataris are more than willing to support the expansion plans of the East African carrier, despite its persistent losses, in order to turn Rwanda into a regional African hub for passenger and cargo flights alike. This will, in turn, also benefit Qatar Airways’ business. The Gulf carrier’s long-term ambition, supported by the Kigali government, is confirmed by Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Uzziel Ndagijirnana: “We are in final negotiations (with Qatar Airways) to make our airline stronger, grow its fleet, and commit more resources to enlarge its reach.” The airline is an irreplaceable catalyst for economic growth, tourism, cultural exchange, and it connects Rwanda with other countries, the politician said. Despite the growing financial and economic influence of the Qataris, Mr. Ndagijirnana declared that the Rwandan government intends to remain majority owner, securing 51% of the national carrier’s shares. Neither he nor other governmental sources revealed how many aircraft will be added to Rwand Air’s fleet, presumably fully financed by Qatar Airways. It also remains unclear what the local government is offering the Arabian investor in return. Currently, the East African carrier operates 2 long-haul A330, 4 B737-800, 2 B737-700, 2 Bombardier Q-400, and 2 Bombardier CRJ-900, adding to 12 aircraft.

Will cargo complement passenger services?
Although much of the future fleet and expansion plans still remain vague and nebulous, since they have not been made public to this hour, some specifics are revealed on the carrier’s website. Accordingly, Brussels and Guangzhou are new destinations standing on the long-haul list, due to be served once Covid-19 fades out. These routes are complemented by new regional passenger services taking off from Kigali to Doha and Kinshasa. Finally, the carrier’s future itinerary also displays flights to 500 km distant Mwanza in Tanzania, operated by freighter aircraft – the only pure cargo route targeted so far. Unfortunately, in all three cases: network expansion, fleet plans, and cargo ambitions, the state-owned airline adheres to the principle that no communication is the best communication.

Confrontation instead of cooperation
Cooperation between Qatar and Rwanda first became obvious in 2017, when both sides announced plans to jointly build a new airport in a move aimed to replace the capital city airport of Kigali from 2022 onwards. Originally, a Portuguese construction company Mota-Engil Africa had won the airport tender. However, it was pushed out of the project as result of a campaign full of accusations and counteraccusations in which the Rwandan state participated massively and which led to the withdrawal of the Portuguese firm.  


Whether the Qatari side was already involved in this dispute, offering the Rwandan government a more attractive package than that of the Portuguese, has not been proven, although some East African media indicated that indirectly.

Fact is, once Mota-Engil Africa was out, Qatar stepped in, guaranteeing the Kigali government the completion of the construction work based on changed conditions.

First CO2 neutral complex in East Africa
Meanwhile, the silhouette of the new greenfield airport is slowly becoming visible. In FEB20, Rwanda’s national carrier and Qatar Airways signed an agreement securing the Gulf carrier 60% of Bugesera International Airport, while Rwanda’s State Holding retains the other 40%. The airport is estimated to cost US$1.3 billion, including accessibility and public infrastructure. Once operational, it is expected to be the first certified climate friendly building in East Africa, emitting zero greenhouse gases.
Rwanda is also ahead in another area. All Rwand Air’s employees have been vaccinated against C-19. This also applies to the handling agents and ground personnel. - Heiner Siegmund, Cargo Forwarder Global

 

NAIROBI, March 4 (Xinhua) -- For the last two months, a government worker George Agutu, who works in Mombasa, Kenya's coastal city, has traveled to the capital Nairobi every weekend to be with his family.

However, before this, it would take Agutu months to make a journey due to a ban on night travel by the government in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

"I now conveniently take the standard gauge railway night train to Nairobi on Friday night to be with my family or back to work on Sunday," Agutu, an auditor, said recently. Kenya Railways in conjunction with Chinese firm Afristar, which runs the train, started the night service in January.

The night train service has come as a blessing to many Kenyan families that had silently suffered due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Philip Mainga, Kenya Railways managing director, said the night train was launched to ease travel and complement the other train services. The service was expected to boost business between the two cities, including tourism.

The night train normally departs Mombasa and Nairobi at 10 pm to arrive at either of the destinations at about 4 am. At about 8 pm, tens of passengers streamed into the station to be screened in line with COVID-19 protocols before boarding the train.

With the curfew in place, no buses ply the Mombasa-Nairobi route or any other across Kenya. Thus, the SGR train is the only mover of night travelers after the government exempted it from curfew rules. "Things are now much better, I take the train to Nairobi on Friday night and to Mombasa on Sunday night," said Agutu, noting the 950 shillings (8.66 U.S. dollars) fare is much affordable.

Businesspersons ferrying goods in between the two cities are also relishing the convenience of the train. And for Kenyans going for seminars and conferences in Mombasa or Nairobi, they no longer need to travel a day earlier to spend the night at their destinations in readiness for the meetings.

"It is now easier, you take the night train and arrive way before time to freshen up and attend the meeting that morning," said journalist Justus Maundu, who attended a meeting in Mombasa in February.

The night travel is set to boost passenger numbers for SGR in 2021, with 2020 usage having been disrupted by the pandemic.

Some 720,000 passengers used the train in 2020, down from 1.59 million in 2019, according to statistics provided by the Kenya Railways. - Xinhua

Photo Anadolu Agency

 

South Sudan's president on Wednesday suspended the operation of South Supreme Airlines, the company owning the plane that crashed in the Pieri Town on Tuesday evening, an official statement said.

“As a temporary measure to deal with these avoidable air accidents before the laws governing civil aviation are strengthened via legislative means, I am hereby directing Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation Authority to suspend South Supreme Airlines’ operations in South Sudan. This measure is necessary for these institutions to ascertain airworthiness of the remaining South Supreme planes, and restore public confidence in air travel in the country,” President Salva Kiir Mayardit said in a statement read out on the state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation.

A commercial plane crashed late Tuesday in South Sudan, killing all 10 people on board, according to the Jonglei state governor, Denay Jock Chagor.

Ten people, including eight passengers and two pilots, lost their lives after South Supreme Airlines flight HK-4274 bound for the capital Juba took off from the town of Pieri in Jonglei state and crashed, said Chagor.

“We have not yet established what the cause of the crash was, whether it was technical or human error,” Transport Minister Madut Biar Yel told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday in Juba.

“Black box of the plane will be sent to the manufacturing company in Ukraine to establish the cause of the crash,” he said.

This is the second such accident involving an aircraft operated by the regional airline. The first one occurred in 2017, when a South Supreme Airlines plane caught fire and made a crash landing, but there were no fatalities.

South Supreme Airlines could not be reached for comment on the latest incident. - Benjamin Takpiny, Anadolu Agency

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