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Rwanda: Yvonne Makolo, CEO of RwandAir, the first woman to chair IATA

The 79th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), held in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 5, 2023, has appointed Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of RwandAir, as the new president of the association.

Makolo is the 81st president of IATA and the first woman to assume this role. She has been a member of the Board of Governors (BoG) since November 2020 and succeeds Mehmet Tevfik Nane, the CEO of Pegasus Airlines, who will continue to be part of the BoG.

According to the IATA press release, Makolo’s first statement reflects her satisfaction and determination:

“I am honored and delighted to assume this important role. IATA plays a crucial role for all airlines, big and small, with various business models in every corner of the world. Leading a medium-sized airline in Africa offers me a unique perspective on the issues that airlines have in common. Decarbonization, safety improvement, transforming airlines into modern retailers, and ensuring cost-efficient infrastructure are at the top of the agenda.”

Makolo’s appointment is particularly relevant at this moment because IATA itself has recently launched the “Focus Africa” initiative, aiming to unite various regions and airlines on the continent so that they can collectively strengthen aviation’s contribution to Africa’s social and economic development.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo began her aviation career in 2017 when she was appointed Deputy CEO of RwandAir, and later became the CEO on April 6, 2018. Previously, she had worked for over a decade in senior positions at the telecommunications company MTN Rwanda. Under her leadership, RwandAir has become one of the fastest-growing airlines in Africa with a fleet of 13 modern aircraft. She has spearheaded the cultural transformation of the airline, with a strong focus on inclusion and diversity and increasing the number of women in underrepresented roles.

In June 2022, Makolo was recognized by the International Hospitality Institute in the Global 100 in Hospitality, a list featuring the 100 most influential people in global hospitality.

The initial reactions in Rwanda are of great satisfaction, as expressed by the government, whose spokesperson is Yolande Makolo, Yvonne’s sister.

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