Africa is an oyster for young entrepreneurs

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) -- which is expected to create a continent-wide market comprising 1.3 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$3.4 trillion -- will make the continent an oyster for young entrepreneurs.

This is the view of Silenx Director, Sifiso Nxumalo, whose company is in the process of conducting a feasibility study for the development of a solar power plant that will be located in the Central Province of Zambia.

The study is funded by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) through its Capital Projects Feasibility Programme (CPFP).

The programme is a cost-sharing grant that contributes to the cost of feasibility studies that are likely to lead to high-impact projects that will increase local exports and stimulate the market for South African capital goods and services.

Nxumalo, 26, says the African economy is teeming with a plethora of opportunities for trade and investment that the continent’s young and innovative entrepreneurs can take advantage of by transcending borders and working together.

“The commendable efforts that are being made to integrate the African economy and eradicate limitations and blockages through the establishment of the AfCTA make the continent an oyster for young entrepreneurs to come up with viable solutions to solve the problems experienced by the populations in various countries.

“To this end, our company has identified an opportunity in Zambia. As a result, we are working in collaboration with other businesspeople in the country towards setting up a 50 Megawatts (MW) solar power plant in Zambia,” says Nxumalo.

Nxumalo says he is aware that the energy challenges that the South African economy currently experiences require all the resources that the country could garner.

However, he reckons that the fact that the problem is not unique to South Africa, but is prevalent in many parts of the African continent, means that South African renewable energy companies can cast their nets far and wide and be part of the solutions across the continent.   

He says the pie is big enough for everyone who wants to provide renewable energy solutions.

The pull and pushing factors in the energy space in various countries should determine where entrepreneurs go, transcending borders.

For instance, he notes, in Zambia, the government is investing in a solar energy, with a target to increase electricity generation to 6 000MW by 2030.

“The government has been encouraging private players to join the industry in order to achieve this target. The goal of our project is to collaborate with other players in the energy sector to complement government’s efforts in alleviating this challenge in the country.

“With its year-round sunshine and geographical location, Zambia is well positioned to integrate solar power into its energy mix, which is currently dominated by climate-vulnerable hydropower,” Nxumalo explains.

Nxumalo says he is confident that the feasibility study that his company is conducting with the support of the dtic (set to be completed in July this year) will result in him setting up the solar power plant in Zambia as planned.

Although he could not reveal much on the discussions with potential off-takers, he is excited about the possibility of his company creating employment opportunities, contributing to the country’s economic growth and playing an important role in being part of the solution to Africa’s energy challenges.  

Nxumalo advises young South African entrepreneurs to cast their net as wide as possible, expand their horizons, transcend  borders, and explore trade and investment opportunities that the African continent is teeming with - from Cape to Cairo. –