How Qatar Airways Is Gearing Up To Challenge Ethiopian In Africa

With a number of recent developments, Qatar Airways is demonstrating that it’s ready to take on competition from Ethiopian Airlines in Africa. The Middle Eastern carrier hopes that a new airport venture and a stake in numerous airlines will boost its presence and profitability in the region.

Qatar Airways flying over Doha
How will Qatar Airways compete in Africa? Photo: Getty Images

How will Qatar Airways challenge Ethiopian Airlines?

Qatar Airways is lining itself up with a number of African ventures in the coming months and years. The airline recently signed an agreement to take a majority stake in a new airport in Rwanda. What’s more, it’s also expressed an interest in two African carriers: RwandAir and Royal Air Maroc.

If it goes ahead with these airline ventures in addition to the airport stake, Qatar Airways will be putting itself in direct competition with airlines that already operate on the continent. Namely, this will be Ethiopian Airlines.

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Ethiopian Airlines already occupies many routes throughout Africa. In fact, with 61 cities served, it offers more destinations in Africa than any other airline in the world. That’s some tough competition for Qatar Airways to match up to. So why does it want to invest in Africa?

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Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines proves quite a match for Qatar Airways in Africa. Photo: Thomas Boon / Simple Flying

Well, on 5th February 2020 at the CAPA Qatar Aviation conference, Qatar Airways spoke of the opportunity it would gain from investment in Africa. According to Bloomberg, the CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, said:

“…we see that Africa is another region that has huge growth potential.”

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Africa is a good investment for Qatar Airways

Needless to say that Africa is a great place for Qatar Airways to be. However, alone it would find it very difficult to operate. The airline is hampered by an airspace ban which makes flying to Africa problematic.

In June 2017, a blockade was placed by four Middle Eastern countries preventing Qatar Airways from operating within their airspace. The Qatari air carrier is prohibited from flying over Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt in the interest of national security in those countries. At the time, this sent a shockwave through the country who had previously believed the neighboring countries to be friends. Despite this, the CEO of Qatar Airways believes that the exclusion has helped the airline develop resistance and strength. That said, for future routes, a RwandAir or Royal Air Maroc stake will make navigating the blockade a little bit easier.

Operating within Africa would then become a lot easier for Qatar Airways. As a result, it allows the airline to effectively compete against Ethiopian Airlines. What’s more, with the investment in Rwanda’s Bugesara International Airport, Qatar Airways will have more jurisdiction about how its operations work in Africa.

That said, Ethiopian Airlines is not without a gameplan. It too holds a vested interest in African routes. However, unlike Qatar Airways or RwandAir, it already has a robust African offering and does not have any of the airspace restrictions that Qatar Airways does.

In addition, it’s funding a mega airport in Addis Ababa which will facilitate its expansion plans. This could present a threat for Qatar Airways who might be a few steps behind the mark when it comes to African expansion.

Will Qatar manage to topple Ethiopian in Africa?

Whilst Ethiopian Airlines certainly seems to have the edge on the Qatari airline, that’s not to say that all of its hopes are in vain. In fact, it has a lot going for it. Firstly, it already owns a more extensive route network in comparison to Ethiopian with 54 additional services. That already allows it the benefit of serving passengers arriving at and transiting through Africa.

Qatar Airways route map
Qatar Airways already has an extensive network. Photo: Norvikk via Wikimedia Commons

On top of this, the geographical location might have some bearing on the success of Qatar Airways’ African venture. If it takes a stake in RwandAir, it will be in a good position to serve countries within Africa. However, since the country is located in the center of Africa, expanding to international destinations might be more problematic.

But then, if Qatar Airways took a stake in both RwandAir and Royal Air Maroc it will have covered its bases since Morrocco is on the upper west side of Africa. Whilst not quite in the middle, the two airlines would allow Qatar Airways better flexibility with its route network.

However, Ethiopian Airways in on a trajectory of rapid growth which will see it outgrow its current airport base and diversify its network. Ethiopia is also well located, similar to the Middle East, in the center of the globe. That makes it that bit easier to access all parts of the world.

Do you think Qatar Airways will be able to compete effectively with Ethiopian Airlines? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Gerry S

My first response is: Stay in your own corner, Quatar! But the airline business has grown international and this is not feasible. Would not like if Ethiopian suffered financially from this. Africa deserves an African airline like Ethiopian. Hopefully, they will fight back like cut-throat US airlines do. Bury the conpetition!

AK350

It’s QATAR.🤨😒

Henning

Looks like many of the major carriers invest like this. Just look at Delta, they have Large investments in Aeroméxico, LATAM, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and IAG in Europe. This cannot be good for the competition

AK350

That route map is old because it shows Portugal unserved, when they started service to Lisbon a while ago

Nasir Israr

Portugal (Lisbon) and Botswana (Gaborone).

Gerry S

Yes AK360, I know….QATAR. QANTAS etc. Cannot get my spellcheck to cooperate. I am on Android here and cannot deactivate. It is like MCAS. Just takes over. Sorry!

Moaz Abid

Seriously?

Gerry S

Sorry Moaz. If it is any consolation, I am a Boeing aficionado.

Mesfin

Less likely

Dereje

Healthy competition is good for both airlines, so that they both grow because the number of passengers and goods are growing in Africa.

Jason Whitaker

Please update this article now Qatar Airways is taking a stake in RwandaIr? Thank you

Mohammed Ousman

Ethiopian Airlines is truly African operating even at time of wars and other risks while overseas airlines seem geared only to rosy times and money.

Flemming Stücker

They fly to Greenland? Wauw!!

Ezra Abraham

Oil rich Qatar, Emirates and Etihad airlines received massive subsidies approaching $50 billion that fueled their growth.

In 2018 alone, Qatar Airways received half a billion dollars cash injection from the government to offset its operating loss that year.

Ethiopian Airlines will remain profitable and dominant in Africa by doing what it does best since 1946, playing the long game.

Ibrahim

Can’t they just leave them alone? They became another version of China!

Emre

The leading non-African airline in Africa is Turkish Airlines. It flies to 60 destinations in Africa.

Sergey

Growth of ET is concern of TK actually.

Benyam

Ethiopia has stronger economy it will stand any gulf state airlines. Ethiopian economy is commodity more stable than any country.