The maiden landing of a Turkish Airline Boeing 737-800 at Kanombe International Airport yesterday ushered in a new chapter in economic relations between Rwanda and Turkey, according to Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.
The airline will effectively make three weekly flights between Kigali and Istanbul. The minister said the country would learn from the expertise of the Turkish people in various fields including construction, Information Technology and energy.
"It's beyond airline operations. It's a milestone towards strong cooperation; Turkey and Rwanda share a lot, especially the ambition to grow the economy and its people," Mushikiwabo told The New Times yesterday.
Rwanda is the airline's 20th route in Africa, joining the giant airliner's global network that currently spans 190 destinations. Regionally, Turkish Airlines already has operations in Uganda and Kenya.
Commenting on the growing business ties between the two countries, Mushikiwabo said that a Turkish investor interested in generating electricity from peat has been in the country and negotiations are at an advanced stage.
"We want to benefit from this route as Turkish investors explore the Rwandan market. Rwandans should also see what to offer to that market," she advised. The launch of the airline was also witnessed by a visiting delegation of 30 Turkish government officials and business people.
"We are going to connect Kigali, not only to Istanbul, but also to 72 other destinations in Europe, including Russia, the Far East and many other parts of the world," said Dr. Temel Kotil, the President and CEO of Turkish Airlines.
The Deputy Coordinator of Tuskon in the Africa region, Akin Acil, expressed optimism that his union would accrue huge benefits from the new route. Tuskon is a confederation of Turkish businessmen and Industrialists. "We are in contact with Rwanda's Private Sector Federation and we hope to benefit from a vibrant economy, especially in the construction sector," he said.
A Turkish businessman, Ahmet Kunt Saganak, said he expects to explore interesting areas for investment after holding various meetings.
The direct flight by Turkish Airline will see 70 tonnes of local products exported to Turkey thrice a week, a move that would boost trade between the two countries.
"We want to start with 70 tonnes, but our goal is to have a cargo service and the capacity will put pressure on prices to be charged per kilogramme," said Dr. Kotil.
The Minister of Infrastructure, Albert Nsengiyumva, said Rwanda has seen the aviation industry triple over the last 15 years, adding that the government is committed to building a vibrant aviation sector that facilitates growth.
"The government has invested heavily in the aviation sector, especially in Information Technology to comply with international standards," he said.
Turkish Airlines operates a modern fleet to key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and America. It is the third airline to enter the country's aviation market this year following South African Airways and Qatar Airways. These joined Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Air Uganda and Rwanda's national carrier, RwandAir.