Since May 2023, construction has begun on creating an airport in Rwanda, set to cause a boost in the aviation industry and overall travel economy. Near the country’s capital of Kigali, the new airport is set to be completed by 2026, with phase 1 finishing soon.
With a proposed 130,000-square-meter terminal building with its very own specific terminal for cargo, this is a huge leap for Rwanda’s tourism. Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president stated that the new Kigali Bugesera International Airport will be “around 70% complete” by the end of 2023, with the final stage and full operations beginning in 2026.
This new airport is designed and crafted with a partnership funding with Qatar, who have agreed to take a 60% stake in this project, in a bid to grow their relationship. This partnership lends a hand to the state-run carrier, RwandAir, who are looking to expand their operations and build on the aviation sector for the country. RwandAir currently covers 28 destinations, but the new airport means that America, Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique are new destinations for Rwandans.
Over the last 30 years, Rwanda has evolved from a country that was suffering with severe genocide and poverty, to one of the biggest-growing economies in the whole of Africa. Though they are making steps to improve their economy, they are still different to the western world, where cities that celebrate July 4th differ from the July 4th known in Rwanda – called Kwibohora, also known as Rwanda Liberation Day, for the end of the devastating genocide.
Aptly named the “Singapore of Africa”, Rwanda is growing a culture towards forgetting their past and adopting technological innovations and great leaps into international trade. Though their economy is growing at a rapid rate, they are still worlds away from surrounding African countries, and Rwanda itself only has Africa’s 34th largest economy. With this in mind, the new build towards a growing airport is looking to improve the future of the economy tenfold.
The jewel in the crown for the new aviation industry
Close to the capital in the Bugesera District, lies the all new jewel in the crown for aviation, which is the name given to this newbuild project. The new airport will boast an excessive 130,000 square meters and will be able to accommodate a huge 8 million passengers each year. After a couple of years, this amount is expected to almost double to 14 million passengers, once the final phase of development is complete.
A huge step from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport with upward of 75 million passengers, this new step for Rwanda will improve not just their aviation and current routes, but their appearance for tourists too. The all-new cargo terminal that Kigali international airport will have will also accommodate 150,000 tons of cargo per year, making their economy health skyrocket, and their financial position rise.
This is all miles away from the current Kigali airport, which pre-covid had almost 1 million passengers pass through the doors each year. It has no plans for closing full time, instead, it will remain fully operational for VIP arrivals, some private flights, and even a training school for pilots.
The reason expansion of a new airport was required is due to the area in which the current airport sits. The geographic limitations meant that a new piece of land had to be sourced for the airport, as housing and hillsides were surrounding its current place.
Jules Ndenga, CEO of Aviation Travel and Logistics Holding, the Rwandan government-backed company that is overseeing all construction, said “I’m amazed, it’s like a dream come true to see the impact and magnitude of this project to the population,” Meaning that the government is very much looking forward to a boost in the economy and a positive step towards building the country’s infrastructure.
African hub across the continent
Backed by Qatar, this new airport arrival will be addressing the current fragment of a network that is routing around Africa. At present, passengers are expected to travel via European countries or the middle east in order to fly between African countries. This connection issue has put tension on the aviation industry’s potential for Africa, as the continent holds around 16% of the world population, yet only 4% of the worldwide air marketplace.
The new steps that are being created for Rwanda and initiatives like the Single African Air Transport Markets (SAATM) drive towards allowing the movement of people, goods and services freely and easily, are forging the way for the economy and people of Africa.
The connectivity challenges are being constantly monitored to ensure that the African Hub launches without a hitch in 2026. The prominent airport will unlock the continent’s newfound potential, consolidate airlines of different magnitudes, and create connectivity through the SAATM and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This initiative ensured that in 2021 tariffs were limited, and there are no barriers in promoting African trade and the movement of people.