Qatar Airways has agreed to take a 60% stake in the $1.3bn international airport planned for Rwanda, the state-run Rwanda Development Board said on Twitter on 9 December.
The board said the partnership with Qatar included three agreements to build, own and operate the airport, which is under construction near the town of Bugesera, about 25km south of the capital Kigali.
This agreement supersedes an earlier deal with contractor Mota Engil, under which the Portuguese firm held a 75% stake in the project, and would operate the airport for 25 years after completion. Construction began in 2017.
Work on the airport was slowed at the end of 2018 after the government announced that it wanted to "make improvements to the design and quality and even expand it".
Claver Gatete, Rwanda’s infrastructure minister, told Rwanda’s New Times newspaper that the government had "broadened its ambitions" and wanted to build a bigger airport with "multiple sustainability elements" and the capacity to act as a regional hub.
The first phase of construction, which is expected to last five years, will now provide an airport with a 7 million passenger capacity, rather than the 4.5 million originally planned at a cost of about $820m. A second phase, scheduled for completion by 2032, would double this to 14 million.
The Rwandan government earlier this year bought out Mota Engil’s shareholding. The decision followed a visit to Kigali in March by Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar, during which the Bugesera project was discussed. Â
According to the Gatete, Mota Engil remains the contractor. He added that work on the scheme never halted completely, discussions with the contractor were under way to fully resume construction.
When complete, the Bugesera airport will be Rwanda eighth, and its third international facility.
Image: The Bugesera airport will ease the strain on Kigali International (Dreamstime)