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Solar: Solution to Zimbabwe’s energy crisis

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The energy deficit in Zimbabwe is one of the biggest challenges affecting the growth of the local industry.

The country has over the years witnessed unending load-shedding severely affecting production. Clean energy experts believe solar energy is a solution to Zimbabwe’s power crisis and could go a long way in reducing the deficit as Zesa is failing to cope with the ever-increasing national demand.

The country is currently producing 1 203 megawatts (MW) against demand of 2 200MW due to obsolete machinery and limited investment in the energy sector.

Solar has been identified as an alternative energy source and potential key driver of the economy.

NewsDay Business Reporter Tarisai Mandizha (ND) spoke to Summersrand chief executive Craig Mapedzamombe (CM), who is involved in harnessing solar energy and providing solutions including solar roofing tiles. Below are the excerpts:

ND: Can you give us a brief background of your company and the services you offer to the market?
CM: Well, Summersrand Alternative Energy (SAE) is a company that started to operate officially in 2014 after we saw the need for uninterrupted power supply and seeing the global warming situation growing. We wanted to make a change and reduce the impact of climate change.

ND: What motivated you to get into this line of business?
CM: When I was in high school in the United Kingdom, I was part of a group called Global Citizenship, an after-school club for pupils who wanted to tackle global issues and the major one that affected me was the subject of climate change. After learning how much this can affect Africa it touched my heart and ever since I always thought about what I could do to help and after studying electrical engineering I also learnt how much the production of electricity by fossil fuels can affect the globe. I decided to come back home and left my job at Siemens Manchester to come and start my own company here in Zimbabwe. That’s how Summersrand was born.

ND: How have you managed to get to where you are right now?
CM: It has not been easy, but I must say it’s by hard work and giving people quality products and results. And simply by God’s grace.

ND: What are your opinion of the small to medium enterprises sector and the general performance?
CM: The companies I know are performing well, but there is still room for expansion and I think we need more help from the government to improve our sector because if they fail to help us we won’t be able to become the big corporates in the future.

ND: Given that there are very few young people like you in this line of business, what are some of the challenges that you face?
CM: When clients and business associates find out my age they usually change their mind on doing business with me simply because of my age. At one point a big organisation I was supposed to deal with later told me that I should bring an older person with me because the board was worried about my age yet I am perfectly capable of doing what needs to be done.

ND: What kind of help would you need to develop and grow your business?
CM: First of all, one always needs financial help to expand operations. My dream is to start manufacturing solar products here in Zimbabwe and make Zimbabwe a stakeholder in the solar industry. The continent that needs more solar energy is Africa yet the people that produce solar are outside Africa. Why can’t Africa make what Africans needs? More support from the government can go a long way.

ND. What is particularly unique about your business?
CM: SAE offers nothing but quality and innovation and we create relationships that last a lifetime

ND: What do you think should be done to improve solar businesses in Zimbabwe?
CM:Well, first of all we need to control the kind of solar products that enter our country, let’s have approved products of high quality. This won’t just be good for me, but good for others too and the consumers

ND: What are your future plans?
CM: My future plans are to manufacture solar products from solar panels, inverters, regulators, batteries and solar tiles and many more and be able to export and have our products being recognised on the international markets. I have always said one day I will put Zimbabwe on the map for what I do

ND: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are in your line of business or any other business venture?
CM: Well, my advice would be let’s sell and distribute quality and genuine products. Let’s not fill our nation with junk because 20 years from now all we will have is a big junk yard.

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