Africa’s booming cargo market attracts international interest


As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Africa presents a world of possibility for the airfreight industry. However, to fully realise the potential of the continent, it’s crucial for key players in the sector to invest in logistics infrastructure, building trade hubs that can meet the booming demand in the market. 

Qatar Airways Cargo currently serves 28 cities in Africa with a mixture of freighter and belly-hold services, carrying up to 2,800 tonnes to and from Africa, adding to that network at the start of May with the launch of Qatar Airways Cargo’s first cargo hub outside Qatar. 

Africa is home to a diverse economy, as businesses look to build better connections, create new markets and grow inward investment across the continent. 

In collaboration with RwandAir, the new hub lays the building blocks to allow Qatar to expand a future-oriented African air cargo network, meeting the 3%-5% annual economic growth forecast for the continent over the next decade. 

READ: Qatar Airways Cargo launches Kigali Africa Hub in partnership with RwandAir

Proud to be partners 

Making its mark in Kigali, Rwanda has taken the steps needed to lay the groundwork for a long-term partnership with the country’s carriers and cargo handlers. Having established bilateral trade agreements, Qatar Airways and Qatar Investment Authority have invested in Kigali International Airport and RwandAir, opening the door to a strong partnership with the African carrier. 

“We are proud to partner with RwandAir in establishing Kigali as the Central African hub in preparation for the Next Generation of air cargo on this fast-growing continent,” Guillaume Halleux, Chief Officer Cargo at Qatar Airways Cargo said. “The natural fit comes from natural complementarity. If you look at a map of the world and you look at their stations and our stations, they complement each other.” 

“We picked Kigali for a number of reasons – one of which was the appetite of the Rwandan government to develop their infrastructure. We are confident that, as our product grows and our needs will grow, the government will support us by developing the infrastructure that is needed.” 

“Here, we not only have a plan but we are firm about it. That’s why we picked Rwanda as a base.” 

For Qatar, the Kigali-based facility will allow its customers to benefit from a reliable intra-African network, boosting service levels, improving efficiency and offering a competitively-priced solution. This new hub will also meet the growing demand across Africa to further empower the continent’s businesses, powering economies throughout the region. 

Showing its dedication to ensuring top tier service for its customers, QAS Cargo, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, worked with a team on the ground at RwandAir Cargo to improve handling performance ahead of the official launch. 

A Qatar Cargo Boeing 777 aircraft will fly from Doha to Kigali, twice a week. Since March, Qatar Airways Cargo has created an intra-Africa service between Kigali and Lagos and a weekly service from Istanbul via Doha to Kigali, all operated by an Airbus A310 aircraft. 

These are the foundation stones of an ever-growing African network. 

The move comes two years after Qatar Airways and RwandAir launched an extended codeshare. 

“We already have a relationship with Qatar Airways. Our two countries worked together very well. Qatar Airways is investing in the new airport that is being built. It makes perfect sense for RwandaAir to partner with the biggest handler and it’s worked very well,” RwandAir CEO Yvonne Makolo added.

READ: Qatar Airways Cargo relaunches its Next Generation Pharma product

More potential on the horizon 

Ensuring timely deliveries through its extensive road feeder service network, the airline’s freighter fleet, including two Boeing 747-8 freighters, two Boeing 747-400 freighters, 26 Boeing 777 freighters and one Airbus A310 freighter, delivers a range of cargo. 

“Africa as a region has pretty much no specificities in terms of cargo type when it comes to import. For export, you’re looking mostly at perishables. But, also, e-commerce – that segment of the market is rising the most,” Halleux highlighted. 

“This is really the opportune time for this kind of partnership because what we’re going to see is a lot of trade between African countries which has not been there before,” Makolo said. “There’s a lot of potential to capitalise on that.” 

Utilising freighters and belly-hold capacity on passenger flights, Qatar Airways Cargo serves a global network of more than 70 freighter destinations and more than 150 passenger destinations. As the world’s leading international air cargo carrier, Qatar Airways Cargo is always on the lookout for partners and destinations that can enhance its offering to customers. 

That’s why, while celebrations were fresh at the launch of the new hub, Qatar was clear that it is not resigning itself to having one key facility or hub across Africa, as it looks to add more destinations in the continent at a later stage. 

Looking to build air bridges between nations, Qatar is looking to focus on China to Africa, seeing it as a “poorly served” route today. 

“We are convinced that there’s a lot more potential than is visible today,” Halleux explained. “Every time we open a new country and service, it creates a connection with the rest of the world and an opportunity for exportations.” 

“With the rise of e-commerce today, with three clicks of a mouse you are able to place an order from China or the US and get it delivered within a few days. But for that you need to have connectivity.” 

“The more you connect, the more you stimulate the appetite for orders in many places and I’m convinced that we will see this with our project in Africa.”