Mwakatobe: First woman to lead Kilimanjaro International Airport

Christine Mwakatobe poses for a photo at a recent event. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • New CEO of the Kilimanjaro International Airport, Christine Mwakatobe, shares her career strides and how she’s expected to turn Tanzania’s second largest airport into a fully-fledged commercial hub and state-of-the-art gateway.

Arusha. The government has appointed Ms Christine Mwakatobe the new chief executive officer of the Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia) with effect from September 1, 2022.

Ms Mwakatobe, a passionate female commercial specialist, becomes the first female to navigate such a country’s strategic airport, handling nearly 80 percent of 1.5 million tourists visiting the country annually.

“I thank God, my President, Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan, the minister for Works and Transport, Prof Makame Mbarawa, and the Kadco board for trusting me to steer the key facility,” said Ms Mwakatobe.

She joined the government executive arm, entrusted to run Kia and its parent firm, the Kilimanjaro Airport Development Company (Kadco), in 2011, with a determination to shape the future of Tanzania’s aviation industry.

Indeed, she started working as a business development and corporate planning manager, with a mission of turning the airport from a mere complex of runways and buildings for the take-off, landing, with facilities for passengers, into a real commercial hub to leapfrog other businesses.

Ms Mwakatobe’s ability and her painstaking efforts to spur business and generate sufficient revenue to relieve the government of footing the airport’s overhead costs, led her way up, rising through the ranks to the interim CEO at Kadco in 2020.

It was estimated that 40 percent of around a million tourists visiting Tanzania’s northern tourism circuit annually, used to land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, Kenya, before crossing overland into Tanzania’s numerous national parks.

But, Ms Mwakatobe, backed by her high persuasive skills, worked extremely hard against all odds, and successfully managed to attract direct flights to Kia, significantly reducing the number of tourists who used to land through the northern neighbour.

Official data indicates that, under her leadership stint, airlines operating from Kia have grown to 15, up from 13 carriers. Cargo traffic also sprouted by leaps and bounds, as KIA had posted a 26 percent upsurge in cargo volumes between 2019 and 2021.

In real figures, Kia handled a total of 4,426.3363 metric tonnes in 2021, up from 3,271.787 metric tonnes in 2019.

“Growing an airport’s cargo traffic largely relies on the ability to provide sufficient and quality air capacity,” she explained.

An influential woman, with diplomatic traits, Ms Mwakatobe is expected to turn the country’s second largest airport into a fully-fledged commercial hub and state-of-the-art gateway, all-inclusive with the cutting-edge technologies, to enhance its capacity to handle aircraft, passengers and cargoes.

Kadco has developed a comprehensive master plan that would see the 110 square kilometre estates surrounding the airport transformed into a state-of-the art, modern duty-free shopping city.

Apart from the air terminal, the Kia area, strategically placed at the meeting point of three Northern Zone regions of Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara, has for many years remained a wide stretch of unoccupied land as far as the eye can see, but this was bound to soon change.

According to the master plan, the location is to become a ‘city’ at the centre of Moshi and Arusha, where prospective investors are to establish massive shopping centres, high class tourist hotels, duty free ports, export processing zone, educational institutions, custom bonded warehouses, curio shops, golf courses and a large game ranch.