I worked as a Civil Engineer for nearly 15 years - 8 years in South Africa and 7
years in London - While I was working in the UK , my father started potting around
with some ‘primitive’ Gel Fuel Camping Stoves and I immediately realised the need
and the potential of these energy products in our local market.
My father started testing and re-designing the stoves and slowly learned to understand
the fuel, burn times and many other associated issues & benefits the stoves had to
offer. This was the platform I saw my dad create in the early years. In 2006 we had
a stand at the Aid Africa Disaster & Relief Management Expo - the interest and response
from all attending was overwhelming - Bio-fuel is a clean, alternative energy, and
is needed through out Africa and the world.
After that I started working part time on the business idea while still Civil Engineering
in the UK. My journey started by learning the issues surrounding ‘dirty’ energy –
the negative health, social and environmental impacts, I also researched the work
NGO’s do in this field and how they tackle this huge global problem. I was all about
the social, health problems and ethanol as a realistic alternative energy - these
thought processes were before I had truly started forming my employment initiative
With this new ‘unformulated’ information and a number of our early samples I made
contact with some UK based NGO’s. (Save the Children, Oxfam, UK Red Cross, ITDG,
IDEALS and I’ve had various telephonic and email discussions with some senior members
of Virgin Unite) These groups were all very interested in these energy products and
were welcoming of the products but were a little hesitant on change for a number
of reasons - the two main ones were - performance history and fuel / product availability.
This became my conundrum - how do I get a wide acceptance and availability of this
life changing energy...
Since those early days I have been back in SA to develop the company, products and
this recently learned 'conundrum'. I went down many roads trying to understand my
industry – from product development, to logistics, to marketing, to sales. I have
had my fingers burned more than a few dozen times in order for me to get to where
Shisa Afrika is today. The lessons learned by trying to market our products and getting
them out into the market was the most valuable and it was these lessons, which has
brought me back to the 'conundrum' I had all those years ago and the solution was
always - to create employment opportunities for everyone to benefit down the supply
chain of this new energy.
I have invested so much into attaining this dream - playing out scenarios, building
relationships, working and researching till sunrise and meeting with the people who
will ultimately benefit, it has all been quite a privilege and I am truly grateful.
Getting to understand the realities of what poverty really means to billions of under
serviced people is both sad and humbling and it is for this reason I am passionate
about delivering on this dream.