According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Africa has the highest percentage of female pilots in the world, at 5.2% as of 2023. This is a remarkable increase from 4.1% in 2016, and reflects the growing interest and participation of African women in the aviation industry. One inspiring example of this trend is the Makinde sisters of Nigeria, who are all pilots following their father’s footsteps.
Nigeria is a country with many talented and ambitious women who are breaking barriers and achieving their dreams in various fields. One of these fields is aviation, which has traditionally been dominated by men. However, three Nigerian sisters have defied the odds and become pilots, following the footsteps of their father, a veteran helicopter pilot.
Mopelola, Oluwaseun, and Oluwafunmilayo Makinde are the daughters of Captain Wale Makinde, who works for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. Growing up, they were inspired by their father’s stories of flying helicopters to remote and challenging terrains. They also developed a passion for planes and flying, which led them to pursue careers in aviation.
Mopelola Makinde is the eldest of the three sisters. She earned her pilot’s license with the help of her family and became a helicopter pilot. She works for Caverton Helicopters, a leading provider of aviation services in Nigeria. She enjoys flying and overcoming the challenges that come with it.
Oluwaseun Makinde is the middle sister. She also chose to become a helicopter pilot, despite the skepticism and surprise of some people who doubted her ability to enter a male-dominated industry. She works for Bristow Helicopters, another leading aviation company in Nigeria. She loves her job and hopes to inspire other women to follow their dreams.
Oluwafunmilayo Makinde is the youngest of the three sisters. She decided to go in a different direction from her sisters and become a fixed-wing pilot. She told Alpha Bravo TV that she always admired planes and wanted to fly them. She studied at the International Aviation College in Ilorin, Nigeria, and obtained her commercial pilot license. She currently works for Air Peace, Nigeria’s largest airline.
The Makinde sisters are not only successful in their careers, but also in their personal lives. They are all married and have managed to balance their work and family responsibilities. They are role models for many young girls who aspire to be pilots and break gender barriers in the aviation industry. They also show that African women are capable of leading and dominating in any field they choose.
The history of female pilots in Africa is a story of courage, perseverance and achievement. According to some sources, the first female pilot in Africa was **Melody Millicent Dankwa** from Ghana, who flew solo for the first time in 1964 in a de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft . She was honoured with the Companion of the Order of the Volta in 2006 for her groundbreaking spirit.
Since then, many other African women have followed her footsteps and pursued their dreams of flying. Some of them are:
– **Adeola Ogunmola Sowemimo** from Nigeria, who became the first Nigerian female pilot to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Qatar Airways and the Boeing 767 Aircraft across the Atlantic in 2019.
Sowemimo’s passion and determination for aviation started since childhood. She said, “I have always loved flying right from when I was a little girl. I remember telling my dad that I wanted to be a pilot when I grow up.” She pursued her dream by enrolling at the US-based Sunrise Aviation Academy where she graduated in 2011. She then worked as a flight instructor at the same academy for two years before joining Medview Operations in Abuja in 2013, where her career really took off. She started out as a first officer on a Boeing 737 Classic before moving on to a Boeing 767-300ER.
In October 2018, she joined Qatar Airways and became the first Nigerian woman to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In 2020, Qatar Air operated its inaugural flight to Abuja, Nigeria, and Sowemimo was in the right seat as she assisted Captain Khan Sameer Ali. She expressed her gratitude to God and her family for their support and encouragement throughout her journey. She said, “It is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in my sight.” Read more on Adeola Story here.
– **Aluel Bol Aluenge** from South Sudan, who became the first female pilot from her country and rose to the position of captain with Delta Air Lines in 2018 after working with Ethiopian Airlines and Fly Dubai.
– **Lieutenant Ouma Laouali** from Niger, who became the first female Nigerien pilot at the age of 28 in 2015. She was trained by the United States as part of a programme to help fight Boko Haram.
– **Irene Koki Mutungi** from Kenya, who became the first female pilot at Kenya Airways and the first African female captain of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in 2014. She has received several awards in this male-dominated category.
– **Esther Mbabazi** from Rwanda, who became the first female Rwandese pilot in 2012 at the age of 26 and flies for RwandAir, the national airline of Rwanda. Her career choice was influenced by the tragedy of her father dying in a plane crash.
These are just some examples of the remarkable women who are breaking barriers and inspiring others in African skies. They have proven that women can excel in any field they choose, regardless of the challenges they face.
Rising Africa wishes to recognise and celebrate the Makinde Sisters today. You have demonstrated that the African is extremely capable. You are a true Rising African and a role model for younger Africans. Rising Africa is an exciting platform that celebrates the incredible achievements of Africans all around the world and offers African children with the most up-to-date scholarship and sponsorship information. Our objective is to inspire and empower the next generation of African leaders by highlighting Africans’ distinctive achievements and skills in fields such as technology, business, the arts and culture, and social activism.
Rising Africa believes in Africans’ limitless power to shape the continent’s future. Join us in celebrating African excellence.