Qatar Airways boosting cargo business in Africa through Rwanda

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Cargo flights between Doha and Kigali are not very frequent. There was only one Istanbul-Doha-Kigali rotation per week in an A310 until May, when trips increased to two in a Boeing 777. 

But Qatar Airways Cargo, which has been operating three weekly intra-African cargo flights between Kigali and Lagos in A310s since March, intends to strengthen its activity in Rwanda.

On 3 May, the airline inaugurated its first cargo hub outside Qatar in Kigali, while promising to announce new destinations from Rwanda in the near future. 

The hub will rely on the cargo handling services of Qatar Airways’ business partner RwandAir. The Gulf company agreed to buy a 49% stake in the Rwandan carrier in 2020, although the deal has not yet been finalised.

In the meantime, “QAS Cargo, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, has provided advice to RwandAir Cargo to help it improve its cargo handling performance”, reads a statement issued by the Qatari airliner after the ceremony.

Eye on Kigali

Qatar Airways wants to make Kigali “the hub of Central Africa”, according to its cargo director Guillaume Halleux, a former Air France and Bolloré employee who currently serves 28 African cities with a combination of cargo and hold flights carrying up to 2,800tn to and from Africa each year.

To achieve this objective, the company is also counting on Africa Global Logistics (formerly Bolloré Africa Logistics, renamed after the takeover by MSC in December 2022). 

The company, thanks to its strong presence on the continent, should provide around 30% of the volumes transported by Qatar Airways Cargo, estimates Guillaume Halleux.

For its part, RwandAir, headed by Yvonne Manzi Makolo, is currently working with QAS Cargo teams to draw up a roadmap including a plan to improve the cargo storage infrastructure. 

The company acquired its first dedicated cargo plane, a Boeing 737-800 freighter, last November.

RwandAir, which almost had no freight in 2017, carried 3,744tn of cargo in 2022 (down 3.68% compared to 2021), mostly between Kigali and Dubai, the UK, and Belgium, according to the latest Rwanda Development Board figures.

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