All you need to know about Salima Mukansanga, the first woman referee in the African Cup of Nations

All you need to know about Salima Mukansanga, the first woman referee in the African Cup of Nations

Grace Waruguru
updated at February 3, 2024 at 11:49 AM
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FIFA World Cup
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FIFA Women's World Cup

Salima Mukansanga is a female football referee who hails from Rwanda. The phenomenal woman made history as the first woman referee in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and the first African female referee to officiate the FIFA World Cup in 92 years. Netizens are curious to discover her life story and all the details of her professional life. Read all about Salima in this article.

Salima Mukansanga
Salima Mukansanga is a Rwandan football referee who has officiated the FIFA World Cup and the African Cup of Nations. Photo: @salma_rhadia (Modified by author)
Source: Instagram

Who was the first African female referee in the World Cup? The sports personality was one of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup officials and was awarded the 2022 Choice Awards Icon Award. As a young girl, Mukansanga was interested in basketball but could not pursue it due to a lack of amenities. Here is the story of the Rwandan national who is causing ripples in the football scene.

Salima Mukansanga's profile and bio summary

Full name

Salima Rhadia Mukansanga


35 years old (As of 2024)

Date of birth

July 25, 1988

Known for

Breaking barriers in the female referee career

Place of birth

Rusizi, Rwanda




5 feet, 6 inches



Hair colour


Eye colour



University of Gitwe

Social media presence

Instagram, X (Twitter)

What is Salima Mukansanga's age?

Is Salima Mukansanga married?
Salima Mukansanga during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match between Denmark and Tunisia at Education City Stadium on November 22, 2022, in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Photo: Ulrik Pedersen (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Salima Mukasanga (35 years old in 2024) was born on July 25, 1988, in Rusizi Province, located west of Rwanda.

Who are Salima Mukansanga's parents?

There is scanty information concerning Salima Mukansanga's biography online. She was born and brought up in Rwanda, but the details of her parents are undisclosed. Additionally, it is not clear if she grew up alongside any siblings.


The referee attended a local primary school before proceeding to St Vincent de Paul Musanze Secondary School. Later, she joined the University of Gitwe for a degree in Nursing and Midwifery.

Is Salima Mukansanga married?

The 35-year-old has not disclosed any information about her love life, and curious netizens have been searching for Salima Mukansanga's husband. It is unclear if she is married, but several online sources have stated that she is likely single. The details of her children, if any, are not public.


Salima Mukansanga's career
Salima Mukansanga during a referees media day held at the Qatar Sports Club in Doha ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 on Friday November 18, 2022. Photo: Mike Egerton (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga started playing in primary and secondary school as a young girl. Initially, she was interested in basketball but could not pursue this dream because of insufficient facilities in the school. Additionally, she was disqualified from joining the Under-17 national team because she had yet to attain the required age. In an interview with, the athlete said,

I liked basketball, and wanted to take it very seriously, but access to basketball infrastructure and coaches was hard. That’s how I ended up in refereeing, which I have also never regretted. I love it.

Salima started playing football in her final year of high school. After completing her studies, she approached the Rwanda Football Federation (RFF) about a refereeing course, but her proposal was rejected because she was too young. The ambitious athlete studied the football rules independently and later signed up for one of their courses.

Mukansanga started her career officiating women's national second-division and men's local amateur games. She attained the FIFA international classification in 2012 and was a FIFA Women's World Cup representative in 2019. The referee started serving in the CAF (Confederation of African Football) Women's Champions League in 2004.

Mukansanga broke the internet in 2022 when she became the first female official to officiate an AFCON match. In 2023, Mukansanga was awarded the Forbes Women Africa Sports Award, which recognizes individuals below 40 impacting various spheres in Africa.

Salima Mukansanga's World Cup experience

Salima Mukansanga's net worth
Salima Mukansanga warms up before the AFCON 2021 match between Zimbabwe and Guinea at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on January 18, 2022. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Mukansanga was among three female referees selected to work in the FIFA World Cup 2022 (Qatar) alongside Stephanie Frappart from France and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan. The 26-member list also had three assistant female referees.

Salima Munkansanga was the first African woman to referee a match at the premier men's competition. In January 2023, FIFA appointed her as one of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup officials in Australia and New Zealand.

Mukansanga's achievements have set her as the top female referee in her country and among the best in Africa. She spoke of her experience in the global event, saying,

Officiating at the World Cup is every referee’s dream, especially when you come from a country like mine where women's football is still very low. I feel privileged for the opportunity.

Salima Mukansanga's net worth

Salima Mukansanga World Cup
Salima Mukansanga at the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 match between Portugal and Vietnam at Waikato Stadium on July 27, 2023. Photo: Phil Walter (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Salima Mukansanga's rise to become an international figure has significantly boosted her financial portfolio. According to several online sources, she is worth between $500,000 and $1 million. Football is her primary source of income.

Salima Mukansanga's salary

The Rwandan national started earning back at home when she refereed for various local clubs. Unfortunately, her previous salary is undisclosed. The average salary of a FIFA referee earns a basic pay of about $70,000. According to, Salima's annual salary is an estimated $260,000.

Besides her professional career, the female athlete has partnered with several brands. She serves as the MTN Rwanda brand ambassador. The football official was also named the UNICEF Rwanda Champion and has an ongoing partnership with Coca-Cola.

Salima Mukansanga's cars and houses

Thanks to her successful career, the referee has likely invested in other profitable ventures. Unfortunately, the details of her investments, cars, and houses are not public.

Salima Mukansanga images

Salima Mukansanga's referee career
Salima Mukansanga issues a yellow card during the FIFA World Cup play-off Tournament between Chile and Haiti at North Harbour Stadium on February 22, 2023. Photo: Hannah Peters (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Despite her highly private lifestyle, the female referee has active social media platforms with a massive following. Salima Mukansanga's Instagram account has over 23.5k followers (As of January 2024). On X(Twitter), Salima has over 20k followers.

Salima Mukansanga's contact

The Rwandan referee is available on her social media platforms. Unfortunately, her physical address is not public.

Final word

Salima Mukansanga has proven her ability over the years, opening opportunities for female footballers globally interested in pursuing the profession. The athlete was one of the BBC 100 Women in December 2022, and fans will watch to see the new territories she will take on as her career progresses.

READ ALSO: Ranking the top 15 best football referees of all time

Sports Brief published a listicle featuring the top referees of all time. The ranking is based on these individual's courage, judgment, and communication skills. Who are some of these athletes?

According to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, Italian Pierluigi Collina was named the World's Best Referee consecutively from 1998-2003. He is followed by Mark Geiger and Martin Atkinson. Check out the link above for the full list of legendary referees.

Grace Waruguru photo
Grace Waruguru
Grace has over 4 years of experience in article writing and digital media content creation for various local and global brands. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication (Public Relations) from Daystar University, Kenya.