Rwandair… Emerging bride of Africa’s Aviation Industry
Ownership of a national carrier is instrumental to the development of tourism in any country. For Rwanda, popularly called “the country of a thousand hills and a million smiles,”RwandAir, the national carrier is complemented by readily available developed sites and destinations, road infrastructure and secured environment.
For Rwanda, absence of crude oil is not an impediment to its economic growth as it is seriously investing in the aviation and tourism industry. With its national carrier (RwandAir), which is fast becoming the bride of Africa, ample tourism products, good road infrastructure, warm and hospitable people as well as a synergy between government and private operators in the tourism, Rwanda is on a fast lane to becoming another tourism hub of Africa.
In fact, a country just arose from the rubbles of genocide not too long ago is fast becoming a worthy competitor for Africa’s aviation space with the already existing players.
RwandAir is about 20 years, having started in 2002, but got rebranded in 2009. So far, it covers over 26 destinations within Africa, Middle East and Europe. Speaking on how the airline is preparing to compete favourably in the continent’s aviation market, the Chief Commercial Officer, RwardAir, Jimmy Musoni, expressed delight with positive experiences shared by passengers about the airline and its crews.
Musoni noted that although many people who are yet to visit Rwanda still perceive the country from the angle of genocide, a new Rwanda with a vision has however replaced the old one that was reduced to ashes by the genocide.
He said: “Rwanda as a nation was rebuilt right from ashes. The Rwanda you see today is a new Rwanda with the vision to be an example in Africa and the world, and you have seen some of the initiatives.
“There are number of other countries coming in to check what is happening in the country and they are always taken aback by the progress that has been achieved.
“Talking about aviation, it is for us, one of the pillars of the economic growth of Rwanda. What you see today is something we see as work in progress. We feel that we are just at the beginning.
“There are lots of things or areas that we feel that we are not there yet and that we have to do more. So, as far as our ambitions are concerned, yes, we want to position ourselves as a transfer hub, connecting Africa and Africa to the world.
“And this is what we are trying to achieve. And of course, we have heard from partners like yourselves who believe that our vision and mission are on track.”
With competitors across the globe, RwandAir commercial boss is optimistic about the airline taking over the industry soon, particularly in Africa due to its unique location.
“Our unique advantage is our location. When you visit Rwanda or when you look at the map of Africa, Rwanda is just right at the center. So, it is easier for the airline to connect people or markets from different markets within Africa through Kigali and beyond. For us, that uniqueness gives us an advantage over a number of others.
“And now, we have overwhelming support of the government and with that, we have the right policies in place and have the right attitude of the people within the airline.
“All the innovations and initiatives that are being implemented are swift. For us, that is very unique. We are young, we are ambitious and we see opportunities in the market and we rightly take them up. So, that is probably a few things that we have that are impacting our airline.”
Musoni also shed light on the existing synergy between the airline and tourism agencies in the country. He noted that as a people, Rwandans know their position in the continent,
“As a country, there is demand within Rwanda; it is still growing probably small, to support the ambitions of the airline as it is. So, what we have done is to partner a number of aviation related stakeholders like Rwanda Tourism Board and others coming to play the big role of marketing the destination.
“With that comes the growth of tourism and that impacts directly on the airline; not only RwandAir but other operators into Kigali, because the overall goal of the tourism sector is to promote Rwanda as a destination and of course with that, everyone benefits from the initiative.
“So, there is a close collaboration between the government and tourism operators – from the Rwanda Tourism Board to other stakeholders that have stepped unto Rwanda government board but led and coordinated by Visit Rwanda as a brand.
With less than 2million population, the capital city of Kigali, Rwanda, boasts of hotels of distinct class and size, adorned with green leaves and flowers.
For Musoni, the country understands the imperative of hospitality infrastructure as well as security of lives and property to the development of tourism. According to him, more hotels are springing up across the capital city and other regions of the country.
“When you look at what we have today, there is a huge progress. We have old big brand names coming up every other day. You have the likes of Marriott Hotels and of course, a number of others coming on.”
While accepting that hotels are springing up, he believes that there is still some distance to go considering the level of demands occasioned by the booming tourism and aviation industry.
“We see a lot of demands. Therefore more infrastructure are required to be put in place, and I think we are on the right track.”
One of the experiences of travelling with RwandAir is the excellent take-off and landing carried out by young and smart pilots, who delightfully communicate regularly with passengers to make them comfortable.
Musoni noted that the government has invested hugely on human capital, particularly in their area of pilots.
“The country has its own vision. When you look around, getting pilots was a big issue, especially as the aviation industry is recovering the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to fly more but the issue was the pilot. So, government saw that as a big challenge and there were efforts in investing in young pilots. They were trained professionally.
“There were also young women in aviation serving as pilots and management staff. So, capacity building was a big factor. Young people are the future of the airline and that is the reason you see more efforts put in training them.” Musoni noted that the only thing that makes Rwanda more relevant to the world is aviation and they are taking advantage of that.
“Rwanda plays that role of connecting Rwanda to the world and that of course, propels more inflow into investment, tourism, medicals and a lot of things but as an airline, RwandAir is connecting Rwanda to the world.”
Before the dawn of COVID, the airline was flying to about 28 destinations but with the shutting down occasioned by COVID, it is currently flying to 26 destinations across the world.
Musoni’s projection is that in the next three years, the airline would be flying to over 36 destinations, including 10 long destinations. The airline is launching its flight to Paris. It is also flying directly to London and Brussels as well as opening other routes such as China, recovering more networks and doing more frequencies.
Musoni urged Africans to visit Rwanda, stressing that it is opened for business, tourism and more.
“This is the right time to experience something new and different in Africa and Rwanda is the place.
“Nigeria is the right market for RwandAir because we can fly everyone from this market to a number of marketa within Africa. It can take you to the South and to the East.
“It can take you to the Paris, Asia and Europe because we work around our products to ensure that Nigerian market is connected. Just two hours to change over your flight in Kigali and you are in another flight to your final destination. What we can say is, ‘try it out and you will not regret”, Musoni said.