Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, will unveil three new destinations in West Africa from its new hub in Cotonou, Benin, starting Sept. 30.

This follows signing of an agreement between Rwanda and Benin early this month that saw the former’s carrier granted seventh freedom rights.

Seventh freedom rights in aviation means that a carrier is allowed to base its operations outside its home base and operate between its seventh freedom base and a third country without returning to its country.

The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint carrier to be owned by both countries but based in Cotonou.

RwandAir said in a statement issued on Aug. 21 that it will operate three weekly flights from its new hub in Cotonou to Conakry in Guinea, Bamako in Mali and Dakar in Senegal.

This is in addition to the three destinations, Libreville in Gabon, Brazzaville in Congo, and Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire that are set to be served from Cotonou effective Aug. 30.

The new Cotonou hub will be synchronized with the existing operations from Kigali allowing seamless connections to the rest of the RwandAir destinations, which are growing fast on the African continent and beyond.

Dakar, Bamako, and Conakry are some of the largest cities in West Africa, and are home to a vast multicultural heritage and rich history with museums and ancient mosques dating back from the time of the great African empires.

For instance, some of the attractions include the house of slaves on the island of Gorée in Dakar, the National Museum of Mali, and the Conakry Grand Mosque, which is the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“These latest additions are further proof of our commitment to improve connections on the African continent, and the will to create new opportunities for economic exchange, trade and tourism between countries with the aim of fostering economic development,” said Chance Ndagano, the acting Chief Executive Officer of RwandAir.

While RwandAir anticipates cashing in on the West African routes, it is bad news to other regional carriers like Kenya Airways and Ethiopian airlines that have dominated the routes for years.

With a fleet of 12 aircrafts including two wide-body Airbus A330 acquired last year, the RwandAir currently reaches out to 23 destinations across East, Central, West and Southern Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

Last May, RwandAir started its second long haul route with flights to London Gatwick, operated by its newly acquired Airbus A330 fleet. Since then it has also commenced non-stop flights from Kigali to Brussels, with return flights via London.

Last year, RwandAir carried more than 650,000 passengers, a number it plans to grow to more than three million in the next five years.

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