Africa Leaders Magazine

Yvonne Manzi Makolo – CEO Rwandan airline, Rwandair

Since 2018, Yvonne Manzi Makolo, an IT specialist, has been at the head of the Rwandan airline, Rwandair. The young business leader is one of the few women to hold such a position in the world.

In Rwanda, Yvonne Manzi Makolo runs the airline, one of the most strategic companies in the country’s economy, given its potential in terms of tourism. How did this young executive manage to become the head of one of the fastest growing airlines in Africa, which serves several destinations in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia?

Yvonne Manzi Makolo - CEO Rwandan airline, Rwandair - African Leaders Magazine

Leaving Rwanda in 1993, she moved to Canada with her sister where she continued her studies. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental sciences from McGill University in Canada and subsequently a diploma in information technology from the Institute of Information Technology. In 2003, after working as a software developer in Canada, she decided to return to Rwanda. She worked, notably on a World Bank project, with an NGO called World links, to computerize Rwandan schools and train teachers in the use of computers.

In 2006, she joined the South African telecommunications company, MTN, in Rwanda where she spent 10 years. During these years, she rose through the ranks and held the position of Marketing Manager as well as Acting Managing Director.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo - CEO Rwandan airline, Rwandair - African Leaders Magazine

In 2017, the Rwandan government decided to make changes in the management of Rwandair. She was then appointed Deputy Managing Director, responsible for corporate affairs. In 2018, as part of a new restructuring of the company, she was appointed General Manager of Rwandair, with the mission of driving a new dynamic within the airline. In a few years, she has launched several services, notably to India, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Benin…

Now considered one of Rwanda’s top female business leaders, Yvonne Manzi Makolo had to overcome several challenges, including negative preconceptions about women’s leadership, to establish herself as a leader.

“Traditionally, people underestimate women in leadership and management roles. I experienced this a lot when I first started.  I would walk into a meeting and be the only woman there. I find it necessary that, from the beginning, you make it clear that you are not there to play; there is a reason why you are there and that you know what you are doing,” she said in an interview with the New York Times.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo - CEO Rwandan airline, Rwandair - African Leaders Magazine

For the Rwandan leader, she owes her success and determination to the environment in which she was raised. “I grew up in a family of very strong women and my mother, my aunts, my older sister have always been role models of women who can do what men can do and sometimes even better. I think I’ve always been drawn to that, because my mother raised us to be very independent and strong women,” she told the New York Times.

Because of her background, Yvonne Manzi Makolo was named by MIPAD (Most Influential People of African Descent) as one of the 100 most influential people of 2018 in the Business and Entrepreneurship category.

She wasn’t recently named as the Chairperson of the IATA Board of Governors.  RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo will become the first woman to serve as chairman of the IATA Board of Governors when she takes over next year. Makolo will assume the role at the next AGM which will take place in Istanbul on on 4-6 June 2023, at the event hosted by Pegasus Airlines.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo - CEO Rwandan airline, Rwandair - African Leaders Magazine

The announcement was made at the 2022 AGM which took place in Doha, Qatar

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