6 Ways Africa Is Ahead For Women In Aviation

6 Ways Africa Is Ahead For Women In Aviation

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Globally, there wasn’t much progress in 2015 for women in aviation. Men still occupy the industry’s top levels, RoadWarriorVoices reports. One bright spot is Africa, where a woman just launched her own airline, and several organizations across the continent are helping women to become entrepreneurs and experts in the industry, according to Road Warrior.

Women have featured prominently in aviation history but airline cockpits and board rooms are traditionally dominated the world over by men.

Amelia Earhart.

Bessie Coleman — the first African American female pilot.

The U.S. Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAFs) of World War II — all were pioneering aviators long before drones became what could soon be the world’s favorite Christmas present.

Despite the progress, as of July, just 8 percent of South African pilots were women and “historically disadvantaged” people, according to Poppy Khoza, director of the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

Here are 6 ways Africa is ahead of the rest of the world for women in aviation.

Sources: VenturesAfrica, AFKInsider, HTXT, 

Sibongile Sambo, founder and CEO of SRS Aviation, first black female-owned aviation company. Photo: africancelebs.com
Sibongile Sambo, founder and CEO of SRS Aviation, first black female-owned aviation company. Photo: africancelebs.com

Sibongile Sambo, CEO, SRS Aviation

Often credited with being South Africa’s female aviation pioneer, Sambo is the founder and CEO of SRS Aviation, the first 100-percent black, female-owned aviation services company in South Africa.

SRS Aviation was launched in 2004 and it offers South African and international clients luxury flight options such as VIP charter, and tourist helicopter services to destinations around the world as well as maintenance, sales and fleet management services to private jet owners.

“Sibongile is a great example of an African woman entrepreneur having a dream and making it a reality,” said Melanie Hawken, LionessesofAfrica founder. “What makes it all the more inspirational is that she is doing it in an industry sector that is one of the toughest to break into, as a result breaking down barriers to entry for determined women going forward.”

Sources: LionessesofAfrica, VenturesAfrica

South Africa's -- and Africa's -- first known licensed female drone pilot, Nicole Swart. Photo: CP-Africa.com
South Africa’s — and Africa’s — first known licensed female drone pilot, Nicole Swart.

South African woman gets first drone pilot license in Africa

Nicole Swart, 23, made history by being the first African to receive a drone pilot license from a new civil aviation airspace school in South Africa.

Swart, who is a testing standards officer at the South African Civil Aviation Authority, said she is preparing for the time when drones — now mostly used for military operations — will become “as common and necessary as cellular phones.”

Drone are increasingly used in Africa for conservation, humanitarian purposes and in conflict areas to track militant groups.

Many countries are still formulating regulations for drones, or just ban them outright.

Source: AFKInsider

Refilwe Ledwaba, founder, Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace Industry (SAWIA). Photo: nunnovation

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

South African Refilwe Ledwaba always dreamed of being a pilot but big dreams can be expensive. “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,” she says.

She never lost the desire and realized she could get paid encouraging female aviation entrepreneurs and experts.

She established SAWIA, which helps women pursue and their dreams in South Africa’s aviation sector.

“During my training, I found there was a lack of mentorship and direction which made life even more difficult, and a very conspicuous lack of female role models in aviation”.

Her determination earned the admiration of her peers, and today she is charting new territory for women pilots in South Africa and leading the way for industry reform.

“SAWIA helps more young women to learn about the opportunities in the aviation sector and contribute to its reform. It is able to offer these young fliers the support, networks and mentorship that I never had. I can say from experience that these things make a world of difference,” she said.

Sources: UCTGraduateSchoolofBusiness, VenturesAfrica

Ola Orekunrin. Photo: Flying Doctors Nigeria
Ola Orekunrin. Photo: Flying Doctors Nigeria

Ola Orekunrin, medical director, Flying Doctors Nigeria

British-Nigerian Ola Orekunrin she set up West Africa’s first and only full air ambulance service, Flying Doctors, in 2007. The Lagos-based company says it can reach patients anywhere with a response time of 20 to 30 minutes and a team of doctors accessible 24-7-365.

Orekunrin established the company after her sister, who suffered sickle cell anemia, became ill and died at the age of 12 while visiting relatives in Nigeria. The nearest hospital could not handle the condition, and there was no way to transport the child to a hospital where she could be treated.

Orekunrin graduated from the U.K.’s Hull-York Medical School graduate and she specializes in aviation medicine. She was one of the youngest medical doctors to earn a degree in her department at age 21.

Sources: TakePart, VenturesAfrica

Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines first all-female flight crew

Ethiopian Airlines announced in November that it had launched its first-ever flight crew operated by all females from the pilot and cabin crew to ramp operations and flight dispatchers on the ground.

“It’s not the first time in Addis to have a woman pilot, a woman technician or a woman engineer. But this is a specially planned flight to show the world that the flight can be operated right from the ground, in the air and on arrival all by women,” said Ethiopian Airlines’ group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam.

Gebremariam said the airline wants to attract more women to aviation jobs.

Sources: AFKInsider,

Siza Mzimela, FlyBlue Crane founder and CEO with two crew members. Photo: anna.aero
Siza Mzimela, FlyBlue Crane founder and CEO with two crew members. Photo: anna.aero

Siza Mzimela, CEO, Fly Blue Crane

After leaving her job as CEO of South African Airways, Siza Mzimela, made history as the first black woman to launch her own airline. An independent South African airline, Fly Blue Crane took off in September 2015.

She was also the first female in 67 years to join the International Air Transport Association’s board of directors.

She said she hopes to expand to Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to her new airline, Siza is also founder of Blue Crane Aviation, an aviation services company focusing on African airlines that provides consulting, legal and aircraft management services in an effort to bring access to the global market.

Under her leadership, SAA introduced direct flights to China.

Sources: BlackEnterprise, VentureAfrica