Qatar shows interest in funding Rwanda's new airport

Friday March 22 2019

Qatari and Rwandan delegations

Qatari and Rwandan delegations hold bilateral talks in Kigali on March 21, 2019. PHOTO | RWANDAMFA 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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A Qatari government delegation led by Foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was in Kigali this week for bilateral talks key among them the financing of the Bugesera International Airport.

Rwanda has been seeking funds for the new airport that will be its largest and whose construction began in August 2017 with a deadline set for 2020.

The government entered into a public-private partnership with Portuguese firm Mota Engil that granted the company the rights to operate the airport for 25 years to recoup its total investment, estimated at about $820 million, with an option to extend the agreement for 15 years.

However, late last year, the government suspended construction works to "make improvements in design and quality and even expand it.”

Mota Engil injected $418 million in the initial phase of the project. The second phase had been estimated to cost $382 million.

But the redesign is expected to push up costs and has forced Rwanda to hunt for more financiers.

The Rwandan delegation that held talks with the Qataris was led by Foreign minister Richard Sezibera. Ministers for Infrastructure Claver Gatete and ICT Paula Ingabire were also present as well as national carrier RwandAir chief executive Yvonne Manzi Makolo.

“We are discussing investment in Bugesera airport and there seems to be good interest in this. Hopefully the deal will be closed soon. I can’t tell you the size of the investment since negotiations are still ongoing. I can only tell you that the discussions are going on well,” Dr Sezibera told journalists at a press briefing on Thursday.

Asked whether Mota Engil will be part of the new agreement, Dr Sezibera said: “Bugesera and other potential investments we have are big enough for many actors. The only challenge is that we don’t have as many investors as we would like to.”

There are doubts that company will continue with the project with sources telling this paper that it was pulling out due contractual issues with the government.

The company’s representative declined to speak to The EastAfrican when contacted.

Mr Al Thani, who is also his country's deputy Prime Minister, declined to address the press.

The Qatari delegation also met Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente on Friday and held private talks with President Paul Kagame at his home in Muhazi.

Once complete, Bugesera is expected to handle 1.7 million passengers per year, almost double the country's current total traffic.

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