President Felix Tshisekedi and Jean Claude Kabongo visit Doha International Airport

The concrete achievements of Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi’s visit to Doha in March 2021 are finally starting to materialize. According to our sources, the Gulf State aviation firm, Qatar Airways, will open a direct line to Kinshasa, with three flights per week, from October 2022. If the service is successful, the rate could even reach five weekly flights in 2023 with the possibility of considering other Congolese destinations.

In the Central African region, Qatar Airways has already opened the Doha-Luanda line on December 14, 2020 and new connections should follow with the Kigali hub that RwandAir will manage with the Qatari State (via Qatar Airways), its partner in 49%. Before committing to further investment, Qatar always ensures the establishment of an airline, then rolls out a more global plan.

The river at the party

 In parallel with future commercial flights, Qatar also wanted to invest in the maritime sector. The concession for the river port of Matadi, in the province of Kongo-Central (west of Kinshasa) operated by the Société Commerciale des Transports et des Ports, was awarded at the end of April to the Swiss firm Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), in collaboration with the Maha Capital Partners fund, partly controlled by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority. MSC and Maha will also take care of rehabilitating particularly dilapidated infrastructures, and will develop container transport activities between Matadi and Kinshasa.

 This investment was also coveted by the United Arab Emirates (Qatar’s sworn enemy in the Gulf since the blockade against the gas Emirate between June 2017 and January 2021) which already operates, via DP World, the deep-water port concession of Banana, located at the mouth of the Congo River.

An embassy in Doha

In order to support the progress of Qatari projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese President has decided to open an embassy in Doha. The first holder of the post will be Valérie Lusamba Kabeya, a native of the province of Kasaï, just like President Tshisekedi. His name was proposed on April 14 to Qatar via the DRC’s permanent mission in New York. Kabeya was allegedly pushed by the president’s powerful private secretary, Taupin Kabongo, also a Kasaiian.

The visit of the Congolese head of state to Qatar in March 2021 was notably organized by his powerful adviser in charge of investments, Jean-Claude Kabongo. Since then, several Congolese ministers have visited Doha, such as Christophe Lutundula Apala, head of foreign affairs, in February 2022. The holders of the transport and communication routes portfolio, Cherubin Okende Senga and his finance colleague Nicolas Kazadi, have in particular followed the process from the beginning