Qatar Airways has launched direct cargo flight on its Kigali route as it seeks to tap into increasing demand.
The airline said since the launch of Kigali route six years ago, imports into Kigali have been steadily increasing, forcing it to introduce a wide body aircraft, which can handle up to 60 tonnes of cargo.
Part of the consolidated cargo includes mobile phones from Europe.
The once a week direct cargo flight connecting its Doha hub and Kigali started on August 1.
“We have been experiencing steady demand for capacity into Kigali and since capacity of our passenger flights is sold from Entebbe, we introduced this freight operation to cater for the increasing demand,” Guillaume Halleux, chief officer of cargo at Qatar Airways.
Mr Halleux said the flight to Kigali allows the carrier to bring in 60 tonnes of import into the country, while the daily flight to Kigali via Entebbe allows the airline to transport 75 tonnes of cargo into Kigali every week.
“We are exploring possibilities for export capacity and once we have reviewed the market conditions, we will consider export capacity out of Rwanda,” said Mr Halleux.
“We may look into selling capacity from Kigali in the near future, but for the time being, the capacity back to Doha is being shared between Nairobi and Entebbe,” He added.
Rwanda launched a plan to boost its exports, including made in Rwanda programme to increasing the export base from coffee, tea, minerals, flowers, vegetables, fruits and meats.
Rwanda's total exports grew by 57.6 per cent in 2017 reach to Rwf800 billion ($943.5 million) compared with Rwf500 billion ($589.7 million) in the previous year.
Airline players anticipate the growth of cargo traffic in Kigali as the Rwanda carrier — RwandAir, plans to introduce new routes connecting its Kigali hub with Guangzhou in Chine and US.
The airline management said Africa is an important and growing market, where operate belly-hold flights to 21 destinations and freighters to seven destinations on the continent.
According to Jules Ndenga, the head of Aviation Travel and Logistics Holding Ltd, the country is keen on developing RwandAir besides the ongoing preparations of stiffed up competition on the cargo services, which is also good for the sector to grow.