Rwanda has recognised air transport as the key enabler of its development and a vehicle to position itself to become a regional service, tourism and conference hub.

To achieve economic and social development as part of its Vision 2020, the landlocked country has invested heavily in its national carrier, airport infrastructure and capacity building to connect the country to markets overseas, ensure access for business professionals and investors, and create employment.

A vibrant aviation sector also facilitates tourism in the country, which is its first foreign exchange earner. Rwanda received over 1.3 million tourists in 2015, earning $318 million.

Rwanda’s airports have over the years had a consistent annual passenger traffic growth rate of 13%, indicating the need to consider the expansion of airport facilities. The Strategic Transport Master Plan includes investments into the construction of a new international airport and the expansion and rehabilitation of Kigali International Airport and two regional airports. The overall investment in aviation infrastructure is estimated at $789 million for 2019-2030.

In recent years, the national carrier, RwandAir, has become one of Africa’s fastest-growing airlines. With the steady growth of its fleet and expansion of its route network, including to the Middle East, India and Europe, it is being positioned as a strategic national asset with which to serve and open Rwanda to business, tourism and conferences.

To meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce, Akagera Air School, a helicopter flying school based in Kigali, will expand to fixed wing pilot training in 2018 with the hope of increasing the number of locally born pilots from around 20% of the country’s flight crew today. Akagera Air School also plans to later open aircraft mechanical and service crew departments.

No opportunity is missed to promote the local economy through aviation. RwandAir advances the Made in Rwanda initiative by offering local beverages and snacks on its flights. It has partnered with local roastery Question Coffee to serve Rwandan specialty coffee, a partnership which supports smallholder women farmers in Rwanda and promotes the product beyond the country’s borders.