Rwanda and Qatar sign aviation, tourism deals

Sunday April 28 2019

Qatar Rwanda

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (2L) speaks with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame during his three-day tour to Kigali on April 21, 2019. PHOTO | URUGWIRO 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Qatar is expected to become a major investor in Rwanda’s Bugesera Airport after both countries signed an agreement to bolster aviation investments and co-operation.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was in Kigali this past week on a three-day tour where he held talks with President Paul Kagame. This came at a time when Qatari investments in the region are increasing.

The two countries signed agreements in aviation travel and logistics, culture, sports and tourism and business events.

The Emir’s visit was a follow-up to President Kagame’s visit to Doha in November 2018, where they sealed deals on economic, commercial, and technical co-operation.

The agreements involve strategic co-operation with Rwanda’s Aviation Travel and Logistics (ATL)—the company managing RwandAir—and Qatar Airways.

ATL is also the government’s aviation investment arm with a 25 per cent stake in the Bugesera Airport, while 75 per cent is owned by Portuguese firm Mota-Engil.

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The government said it wants to attract more investors in the Bugesera project, which is expected to become the country’s largest airport.

Mandatory redesign

Mota-Engil began construction of Bugesera Airport in August 2017, but construction stalled after disagreements over the airport’s design.

Talking on the sidelines of the African CEO Summit in Kigali last month, Manuel Mota, the CEO of Mota-Engil Africa, told The EastAfrican that the project had stalled due to a mandatory redesign.

"We are redesigning the project to cater for the change in traffic projections for RwandAir,” said Mr Mota.

So far, more than $130 million has been injected in the project and the first phase of construction is estimated to cost $418 million.

The 2020 deadline for completion of the first phase of the airport is likely to be extended.

Since assuming power in 2013, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al has embarked on a series of tours and investments in Africa, and pledged to spend at least $800 million in development projects across the continent.

Before his Kigali visit, the Emir visited Kenya in 2017 and signed agreements for scientific research and assistance in higher education.

Whereas diplomatic relations between Qatar and Rwanda began as recently as 2017, the Gulf country has had ties with Kenya — East Africa’s biggest economy—since 2003, when Kenya opened an embassy in Doha.

Qatar runs three embassies in the region—Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan—and 20 in other countries on the continent.

Uganda visit

In November last year, a Qatari delegation visited Uganda that was headed by Sheikh Faisal bin Thani Al-Thani, the director of regional investment funds and investments in the mining sector were high on the agenda.

Uganda guaranteed tax and regulatory incentives to Qatari investors during that visit.

In March, Tanzanian President John Magufuli hosted the Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and signed agreements in air transport.

In January, Qatar pulled out of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, ending its 52-year membership.

Doha’s main interest in Africa for the past decade has been food imports. In March 2018, Qatar and Sudan signed a $4 billion deal to jointly manage a Red Sea port. Qatar Airways flies to 48 destinations in Africa.

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