The governments of Benin and Rwanda have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint airline based in Cotonou, where RwandAir, the national carrier, officially launched its new hub on Tuesday, August 1.
This was after Rwanda was granted seventh freedom rights by the Government of Benin which allows RwandAir to operate an international air service from Benin to a third country.
Seventh freedom is the right to carry passengers or cargo between two foreign countries without any continuing service to one's own country.
The joint airline will operate Abidjan, Brazzaville, Douala, Libreville, Bamako, Dakar and Conakry routes, according to Yvonne Manzi Makolo, the RwandAir deputy CEO for corporate affairs.
RwandAir will deploy two Boeing 737 aircraft in Cotonou and begin operations at its new hub in the near future, she added.
"The launch of this hub will improve air transport on the continent as RwandAir will be able to enter new markets in West and Central Africa with better connections and frequencies," Makolo said during the signing event at Cotonou's Cardinal Bernadin Gantin International Airport. The event was attended by the foreign ministers of the two countries, Louise Mushikiwabo (Rwanda), and Aurelien Agbenonci, and Hervé Héhomey, the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport of Benin.
Speaking at the function, Mushikiwabo said the signing was planned to coincide with Benin's 57th independence anniversary.
"We are here because, a year ago, our two Heads of State urged us to do more in strengthening our cooperation for the better of our people... We are led by men of action who are eager to see a developed Africa by working together," she said.
She said Benin has 51 per cent shareholding in the airline joint venture, while Rwanda has 49 per cent.
"We have been seeking our own home in West Africa for a while and we opted for Benin," she added.
Agbenonci commended the cooperation between the two countries, adding that RwandAir is Africa's pride.
"The airline will be operated by Benin and Rwandan staff...We are looking to upgrade facilities at the airport to ensure the hub is competitive. This will also allow the carrier to grow in this part of Africa," he said.
RwandAir will continue to operate the Kigali-Cotonou route, while providing the joint airline access to its services throughout eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East and Asia, officials said.
The national carrier operates 23 routes presently across Africa, Asia and Europe.