Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO RwandAir

CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo

There has to be a deliberate attempt to help solve gender inequality

What is your priority at the airline?

Managing growth is the main issue. We are a small airline but growing fast. We received two Airbus A330s in 2016 and fly to London and Brussels. We serve 26 destinations in total, 22 of which are in Africa. And we hope to open Guangzhou and New York routes next year.

There are good reasons for these long-haul flights. London, for example, is our second biggest market for tourists. There is also a lot of cargo on this route.

RwandAir is a key pillar of the country’s economy. Rwanda is landlocked and so we must build aviation capacity. There is a direct link between the growth of the airline and the growth of the economy. So, Rwanda is growing fast too. Kigali, for example, is third in Africa in the number of international conferences hosted.

What more can be done to improve intra-African connectivity?

One of the reasons that Kigali is so successful in hosting international conferences is that it’s very easy to get a visa for Rwanda. They are available on arrival.

More progressive visa regimes are essential for intra-African connectivity. We also need airspace reform and more liberal air service agreements. Even when you get rights to fly somewhere in Africa, they can be very limited. More countries on the continent need to realize the benefits of aviation. A continental free trade agreement may help move matters forward.

In brief… Makolo

  • As the flag carrier of Rwanda, RwandAir currently serves 26 destinations in 23 countries, across three continents 
  • Operating out of Kigali, RwandAir's motto is ‘fly the dream of Africa’ and it has one of the youngest and modern fleets on the continent  
  • RwandAir was founded in 2002 under the name Rwandair Express, before registering its current trademark in 2009

What can be done to get more women into aviation?

Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in Parliament in the world: 64%. And the heads of many of the big institutions in the country are women. So, seeing how few women there are currently in aviation senior management globally was a shock for me.

This is a fundamental issue. We need to understand what it is that is blocking women from entering or progressing in the industry. Raising awareness alone is not enough. There has be a deliberate attempt to find a solution to gender inequality. We need concrete action.

How do you pass the time on a long-haul flight?

I like to relax. I have a tough time sleeping and I find I don’t work too well either. A long-haul flight for me means a chance to catch up on some reading, watch some movies, and listen to some music.

Window or aisle?

Window every time. I like to see where I am going.