(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pure chance? Probably not. In April, Qatar Airways announced the launch of three weekly flights between Doha and Abidjan by Boeing 787, thus inaugurating its fourth route since the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. The Qatari carrier also took the opportunity to sign an interline agreement with the local airline Air Côte d’Ivoire.

The latter is a relatively young player in air transport. Created in 2012, Air Côte d’Ivoire only serves regional destinations – 17 in total. It also used to serve New York in code share with Ethiopian Airlines. But the route has been suspended since the Covid pandemic. Its fleet consists of 11 aircraft including 4 Airbus A319s and 3 Airbus A320s. Two Airbus A319Neo are also on order.

Also, the rumour of Qatar Airways taking a stake in the capital of the Ivorian national airline would be beneficial. Because the main shareholder – the State – is singularly lacking in means for the development of the national carrier. In 2020, Air Côte d’Ivoire’s traffic was divided by two, i.e. less than 350,000 passengers. And its deficit has increased. The company has not yet made a single profit since its inception in 2012

Qatari manna

Qatar Airways could help develop the fleet of Air Côte d’Ivoire and densify the network. The Ivorian carrier generates more than 50% of the traffic at Abidjan airport for which there is an expansion plan.

Qatar Airways for its part has made no secret of its desire to establish itself in West Africa. The carrier is already a shareholder of the company Rwandair and the airport of Kigali since 2019. But West Africa would allow it to launch routes from Qatar to the United States with a stopover in Abidjan. Or even in Lome, another candidate city in the running to seduce the Qatari company

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Qatar has made for several years a strategic rapprochement with Côte d’Ivoire – especially in tourism and transport. Last January, the investment fund Kasada Capital Management, an autonomous subsidiary of Katara Hospitality, the hotel investment branch of Qatar, acquired eight hotels of the Accor group in Côte d’Ivoire but also in Senegal and Cameroon. Qatar has also helped finance part of a motorway between Yamoussoukro, the administrative capital, and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.

A presence that would therefore give an undeniable advantage to a cooperation between Qatar Airways and Air Côte d’Ivoire. And should also benefit passengers…