The main objective of the airport is
to become in 2004 the main sub-hub of the region.
Obviously, the central location of Rwanda within
the Great Lakes region is an advantage to the country,
but what will be the factors that will enable the
airport to reach its objectives?
That is a vision that we have established for the
airport as we feel the potential is there. First
because of our geographical location. Second we
have to have to face the problem of being a landlocked
country and the fact that ground connections are
not very efficient. So, we feel we have to develop
air transportation as an alternative. But, in order
to achieve this objective, we need to upgrade our
services in order to become as competitive as our
neighbors. So, the drive is there, the support from
the government is there and the challenge is now
to provide services that will attract operators.
Of course, we are starting from a disadvantaging
position because of the heavy destructions of facilities
and equipment we faced during the war. But we are
strongly determined to bring our services up to
international standards. So, we want airlines operating
this region to use Kigali International Airport
as their main getaway to the region. In that end,
we have secure a loan from the European Investment
Bank also supported by a grant from the European
Development Fund. Both amount to a total of 19 million
Euros and the Airport Authorities will invest 2
million Euros. Those funds will be directed towards
improving infrastructure, re-surface the runaway,
update the lighting, build a new tax way and navigation
What is your time frame for the completion for
We have already started with the replacement of
some of the navigation and communication equipment.
We have mandated a French Engineering consulting
company to prepare a tender document and by January
2003, works will actually start for a two-year period
during which we will continue our operations of
course. So, once we are through with the project,
we will definitely offer competitive services and
hope it will attract more operators, especially
from the cargo sector for example. If you look at
our location, we are closer to eastern Congo, southern
Uganda, western Zaire than those regions are from
their respective international airports. So, with
the border control relaxed within the framework
of the East African Community we feel we can provide
better services than our competitors in the region,
even with Bujumbura.
Can you describe with a few figures the importance
of the airport activity in terms of traffic, number
of passengers per annum, aircraft movements?
We have 285 employees, a number of passengers of
approximately 130,000. In terms of aircraft movements,
we have around 11,000 per annum. Cargos are close
to 5,000 tons.
Sabena, which used to operate direct flights from
Brussels to Kigali went bankrupt last year and stopped
their activities for a few month. But this had a
very small impact on our business as Kenya Airways
and Ethiopian Airlines increased their flight frequency.
Of course, it was not convenient for passengers
coming from Europe who had to stop in Nairobi or
Addis Ababa, but today Sabena has been replaced
by Brussels Airlines and has restarted operating
direct flights, and we are very happy about it.
However, our revenues remain relatively small: around
USD 5 million. But we are financially self sufficient,
we do not get any subsidies from the government.
As we mention Brussels
Airline reopening its route to Kigali, do you have
projects to open new routes in future with other
There are two freight cargos interested in operating
flights to Kigali. Also, Alliance Express Rwanda
is studying the possibility to operate with British
Airways direct flights to Kigali. Otherwise, we
have a few other operators such as South African
Airways, Air Burundi.
When we established the Rwanda Airport Authority
it was more like a parastatal organisation as we
had to answer to the Minister. But the government
has decided to set up a Civil Aviation Authority.
International civil aviation experts have just completed
the study and they recommend having this new authority
managed by a CEO who will have to answer to a board
of directors. So, it would operate autonomously.
Those experts propose that the airport's operations
come under the CAA.
In the medium run, do you plan to extend your
infrastructure through the creation of an export-processing
We are currently looking into this project in order
to improve our cargo services. We unfortunately
don't have the funds available now but this at the
top of our priority list and we are in discussion
with the African Development Bank. It is important
for us to increase our cargo services as the cargo
companies operating are increasing their flights.
We have Martin Air, KenCargo, MK Airlines. We know
the potential and those operators would not be increasing
their frequencies if there were no business.
Peronally, how would you envision the image and
activity of your airport within five years time?
I would like to see more operators, more aircrafts
movements. Once our facilities get upgraded, we
should be able to increase our aircraft movements
by 30%. Also, the government is focusing on developing
ICT in the country as well as providing highly skilled
people to the various sectors of the economy, and
we should obviously benefit from this progress.
Also, can you tell more about your main professional
achievements and personal challenges over the next
My whole career has been related to aviation. I
started in aircraft technology. Then I worked in
Egypt, in Canada and then I moved to various positions
as an engineer, technical representative supporting
global fleets. This gave me the opportunity to travel
a lot, especially in Europe. In fact, my family
fled from Rwanda when I was eleven years old. But,
after the war in '94, I felt I had to come back
to my country and participate in its reconstruction.
So, I got appointed here in '99 in order to raise
the airport up to international standards and create
a civil aviation authority. Those are my two main
goals and once we manage to achieve them, I would
feel that I brought a tangible contribution to improving
civil aviation in Rwanda and to the reconstruction
of my country.
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