RwandAir’s CEO, John Mirenge, while talking to Panapress, gave the clearest indication yet that talks about finding suitable strategic equity partners were on in earnest. He confirmed, according to a source in Kigali, that the airline was in discussions with Ethiopian Airlines, and also threw the name of Etihad into the ring when he singled out the national airline of the UAE and of Abu Dhabi as a second discussion partner.
Etihad had sought to build its own alliance format through equity participation in such major airlines like Air Berlin, Alitalia, and Jet Airways, and also in Air Serbia, Virgin Australia, Etihad Regional (Darwin Airlines), and Air Seychelles. The high-flying Etihad, however, does not have an equity partner yet on the African mainland, where it is reportedly also in talks with Kenya Airways.
Pan Africanists will no doubt favor an African solution, and Ethiopian already has successful equity partners in ASKY and Malawian Airlines while also attempting to set up a similar venture in Kinshasa, besides, no doubt, having a strong proponent heading the RwandAir board, ET’s former CEO from 2004 to 2011, Mr. Girma Wake.
Girma was brought in by the Rwandan government in order to provide strategic guidance vis-a-vis route and fleet expansion and is, together with John Mirenge, credited to the phenomenal growth and success of RwandAir in recent years.
Other sources suggested that the Rwandan government was indeed keen to find equity partners, not just for the airline but also in the near to medium term for the national convention center and adjoining hotel in Kigali, in order to free funds which are required to build the new international airport outside Kigali at Bugesera. Much of the money raised in past Eurobond issues was used to fund the national airline’s fleet expansion and sank into the conference center venture which is now three years behind schedule.