Meet the women changing Africa’s aviation sector

Two weeks ago, the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, told CNN in an interview centered on the future of the African aviation sector, that the continent will be ready to tap into the huge potential of the sector when it  succeeds in tackling its infrastructural challenges. “The continent is a huge land mass with more than a billion young people and these days it is attracting a huge flow of foreign direct investment. Putting all things together and Africa is going to be the next and last frontier in globalization, growing very fast in the 21st century”, he said.

However, it appears several women in Africa’s aviation sector are already making a huge difference.

Siza Mzimela, CEO, Fly Blue Crane

After leaving her job with South African Airways where she was the chief executive officer, Siza Mzimela, went ahead to launch her own airline company, Fly Blue Crane, an independent South African airline. The airline took its first flight in September 2015, flying the Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Kimberley and Nelspruit routes.  “Fly Blue Crane is positioned to deliver what customers want – the enhanced convenience of frequent flights through high on-time performance, commitment to consistent service excellence, advanced online technologies that will make the booking and travel process fuss-free, and of course highly competitive fares”, she said at the launch of the carrier.

Dr. Ola Orekunrin, Medical Director, Flying Doctors Nigeria

This Hull-York Medical School graduate is a British-Nigerian and a specialist in aviation medicine. She was one of the youngest medical doctors to earn a degree from her department where she graduated at the age of 21. In 2007, she set up West Africa’s first and only full air ambulance service, Flying Doctors. The company takes pride in being able to reach their patients at any time regardless of the location, with a response time of 20 to 30 minutes and a team of doctors who are accessible 24 hours a day, everyday.

Sibongile Sambo, CEO, SRS Aviation

Often credited with being South Africa’s female aviation pioneer, Sambo is the founder and CEO of SRS Aviation which is the first 100 percent black, female-owned aviation services company in South Africa. SRS Aviation was launched in 2004, long before other aviation pioneers began making an appearance on the continent. The services SRS Aviation provides include: offering South African and international clients professional and personalized flight options including VIP Charter, tourist charter and helicopter services, to destinations around the world as well as maintenance, sales and fleet management services to private jet owners.

Refilwe Ledwaba, Founder, Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace Industry (SAWIA)

Refilwe Ledwaba always had the desire to raise generations of female aviation entrepreneurs and experts, who find it easier to access their dreams and aspirations. This is due to the fact that before she became an aviation pioneer, she had issues with finances. “One of my biggest challenges was finances, I simply did not have the money to pay for my training and I did not know where to go for scholarships or bursaries”, she says. This led to her establishment of SAWIA, which has various programmes to aid young ladies pursue and actualize their dreams in the aviation sector in South Africa.

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