Qatar Airways will soon announce investment in an airline in southern Africa, Group CEO Badr Mohamed al-Meer said yesterday.

"We are at the final stage of an equity investment in an airline in the southern part of Africa," al-Meer said at a panel session at the Qatar Economic Forum, saying the deal could be announced in two to three weeks. “This airline will complement the operations of Kigali and the operations of RwandAir as the airline that connects the West, East, and North of Africa. With that airline we are finalising the investment in the southern part of Africa.”

Asked which airline Qatar Airways plans to partner with, al-Meer said, “It could be one of two or three carriers in the Southern part of Africa.”

The southern part of Africa is a gap in Qatar Airways’ network coverage on the continent, he said and noted the national airline wants to expand the fleets of its partner airlines in Africa to improve connectivity.

As a major international airline with a huge global network, Qatar Airways aims to bridge the gap in connectivity between the Middle East and Southern Africa.

In 2019, Qatar Airways picked up a 60% stake in a new multi-billion dollar international airport being built in Rwanda (near Kigali) and has code share agreements with several airlines in Africa including Rwandair.

The national carrier has an extensive African network, serving over 30 destinations, including South Africa's three major gateways.

According to al-Meer, the airline's model involves covering all major parts of the continent. However, it needs to look at specific areas within Africa.

The airline’s network in the Northern, Eastern, and Western regions is growing "organically," with a strong presence in Nigeria and a long-standing partnership with North Africa's Royal Air Maroc.

The missing element to support its network is connectivity in Central and Southern Africa, al-Meer pointed out.

Regarding Central Africa, al-Meer said Kigali was the best location for the airline and its partners to develop a hub.

Last year, Qatar Airways Cargo launched a cargo hub at Kigali International Airport in partnership with RwandAir. This was the airline's first cargo hub outside Qatar.

Al-Meer praised Rwanda for its investor-friendly approach and said, "they opened the doors...they welcomed us wholeheartedly.”

Also speaking at the Qatar Economic Forum, RwandAir CEO Yvonne Makolo said that the airport will be a key regional hub, given Rwanda's geographical location at the centre of Africa.

She expects the airport to become operational by 2027 or 2028.