The Chief Executive of the national carrier RwandAir, Yvonne Manzi Makolo, has emphasised the need for a single unified air transport market in Africa, saying it will need more commitment from governments across the continent. Makolo made the call in an interview with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), earlier this week, when questioned on what it will take for aviation to recover in Africa. She said that there has to be more support for aviation from governments. But this doesn’t necessarily mean financial support. “Now, more than ever we need a single African aviation market,” she highlighted, “We have talked about it endlessly but the time for talking is over and we must get on with the implementation.” Makolo suggests that Africa must open and that African airlines must have open skies and be able to fly where they want to meet travel demand. “This would help with the biggest challenge we face in Africa outside of the pandemic, which is cost.” Whether it is the cost of visas, airport charges or taxes on aviation fuel, she said, travel within Africa can be extremely expensive. “If the market opens up, competition will increase, and this would drive down prices and improve standards.” The African market is vastly under-tapped and opening up would be a significant boost for aviation, she reiterated. The call comes at a time IATA recorded a moderate rebound in passenger demand mainly driven by recovery in domestic markets. “The performance is a positive development but recovery in international traffic remains stalled amid continuing border closures and quarantine mandates,” noted Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, in the agency’s latest report. What RwandAir has in pipeline Makolo conceded that the national carrier was affected by the pandemic, which led to shrinking of the airline’s services. But doing so, she said, has allowed to begin growing again. “We suspended thinner routes, but we have opened new routes as well, including Lubumbashi and Goma in Democratic Republic of Congo.” Makolo asserted that RwandAir’s growth will be organic, when asked about future plans, but highlighted that the carrier expects to double fleet over the next five years. “Diversifying our revenue streams will also be important. Cargo will be a big part of that as we have had the African Continental Free Trade Area operating since the start of 2021.” She said that it is estimated that this will grow intra-African trade more than 50 percent in the first year alone, and that if numbers are anything to go by, it removes tariffs on 90 percent of goods. “We must be ready to build on this opportunity.” The need for a diverse industry While it remains true that the industry recognizes diversity, there is more to be done. Makolo welcomed IATA’s 25by2025 initiative and several airlines that have been progressive, describing it is a step forward. 25by2025 is a voluntary campaign for IATA member airlines to improve female representation in the industry by 25 percent or up to a minimum of 25 percent by 2025. “Even so, we are not moving fast enough. There is so much more that can be done, especially in getting women into senior positions. I am always surprised when I attend industry events to see how male-dominated aviation is.” She added, “It’s very different at RwandAir and in Rwanda too. Our Parliament is 61 percent women, and our cabinet is more than 50% women. It is a shock to me to see anything skewed heavily in the other direction.” It was a deliberate decision to give women more opportunities and to give them support when they took those opportunities, she said. “We must do something similar in aviation. We have to give women a chance but then be proactive in providing the right framework for them to succeed.” Makolo said that at the moment, too many women feel they have to do more than male counterparts to be offered the same opportunities or the same pay. “There is no good reason for aviation to stand out as a male-dominated industry. Business is business. Women have a lot to offer,” she asserted. RwandAir currently flies to a total of 26 routes on the continent and beyond. The airline has also laid out plans to operate additional flights to Doha, Qatar next month.