Qatar Airways Cargo has commenced new twice-weekly freighter service to Lagos in Nigeria and Accra in Ghana, flying to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and onward to Accra’s Kotoka International Airport, with a stop in Europe before returning to Doha.

Ulrich Ogiermann, Qatar Airways chief cargo officer said: “There is clearly huge potential in the West African states of Nigeria and Ghana as well as China. Our focus is to improve connectivity and provide a growing network of destinations and operations to our customers.

“With the introduction of scheduled freighter services to Lagos and Accra, Qatar Airways Cargo will be able to provide air transportation services to even more industries worldwide.”

The introduction follows that of several new Qatar Airways destinations in the Horn of Africa during the last quarter of 2014, which saw the airline commence flights to both the Eritrean capital of Asmara, and the first flights by a major Gulf carrier to Djibouti.

In both instances, Marwan Koleilat, chief commercial officer, Qatar Airways, expressed strong optimism towards the new markets, commenting that the service to Eritrea, “opens doors to even stronger business ties and supports greater commercial development.”

In the case of Djibouti, he noted that the country was, “still underserved by international airlines despite the huge potential of its untapped natural resources and tourist opportunities.”

Qatar Airways launches flights to Eritrea, first Gulf airline flights to Djibouti

In September, Qatar Airways also moved to strengthen its presence in South Africa, taking steps to increase the frequency and variety of flights to the country and offering a non-stop route to Cape Town for the first time, adding to a thrice-weekly service via Johannesburg.

“Cape Town has long been one of the most popular destinations with passengers, and we are now able to provide our customers with quicker and more convenient connections to one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” noted Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways.

Kilimanjaro International Airport meanwhile attributed a portion of its recent 24% increase in passenger traffic this year to around 1,055,000 passengers in 2014, compared with 850,000 passengers in 2013, to the 2012 introduction of routes from Qatar.

Kilimanjaro Airport rivals Dar es Salaam with Qatar, Turkish routes

The UAE’s Empire Aviation Group, a private charter company, also recently announced plans to open a permanent base somewhere in West Africa, but quite possibly Nigeria with executive director Steve Hartley noting, “We already have eight aeroplanes operating in Africa and the fleet continue to grow.”

Nigeria has become the region’s largest private jet market in line with the country’s recent economic boom, ahead of South Africa and Angola.

UAE’s Empire Aviation Group eyes West Africa hub

More generally, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama has announced plans to open an embassy in Qatar following a state visit to Doha — the first by a sitting Ghanaian president.

A presidential statement read: “Qatar’s development path and experiences offer valuable lessons for Ghana’s economic transformation, in view of the commonality between the two nations, especially in the oil and gas sector, petro-chemicals, hospitality, education and agribusiness.”