‘Liquid petroleum gas players need a voice’

BY KUDZAI KUWAZA

THE liquid petroleum gas (LPG) industry in Zimbabwe is growing exponentially and the consumption of the liquefied gas product has increased significantly particularly for use by households. There has been an increase in the number of unlicensed dealers trading the product in undesignated outlets, which poses a major threat given the hazardous nature of the LPG product. With such an increase in the uptake of gas, safety concerns are growing prompting the establishment of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Zimbabwe (LPGSAZ). Deputy business editor Kudzai Kuwaza (KK) caught up with Robert Mandeya (RM) who is the interim president of the newly launched safety association to explore these developments. Below are excerpts of the interview:

KK: Can you give us a brief background to the establishment of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Zimbabwe?

RM: LPGSAZ came after the realisation by players in the industry of the need to promote self-regulation in the sale and consumption of the LPG gas product. Lately there has been a proliferation of gas outlets in Zimbabwe most of whom are not licensed, exposing both the trader and the consumer to danger since gas is classified under hazardous substances. The need to have a voice which represents the interests of licensed players and that of consumers on this and other issues in the industry became paramount.

KK: How does one become a member of the LPGSAZ?

RM: If one is licensed and satisfies all the regulatory requirements, they can apply to be a member. This is based on the assumption that licensed players are inspected by the regulatory authorities and satisfy all the safety requirements to practice in the industry. And when I refer to licensed players, this includes wholesalers, retailers, transporters, distributors, installers and  hardware vendors in the gas Industry.

KK: What are the benefits of membership to the association?

RM: This is a voluntary association bringing together all interested players to a platform to share experiences and concerns in the industry. So, not only does it provide opportunity to network but also grow in business as it becomes a point of reference to those who want to deal with licensed dealers who assure them of safety and provision of a quality product.

Secondly, the association provides membership access to conferences and special events where members interact and share researched papers on the gas industry as well as opportunities for growth in the industry.

It brings together all those players in the different specialties like transporters, installers, hardware vendors, etc. Thirdly the association builds beneficial connections and business linkages both locally and internationally which help members to discover new business partners and identify new partnership opportunities during LPGSAZ trade missions and events.

Members will also be enriched through regular updates from our monthly newsletters and weekly alerts on developments in the industry.

Lastly, members will be fully represented to authorities and government on issues affecting safety and growth of business in the industry, including issues of policy.

KK: What are the challenges faced by LPGSAZ at the moment?

RM: As a new establishment LPGSAZ is facing challenges of accessing every member in the industry. There is also general suspicion among players in the industry on the intention of our existence. Most of the illegal operators view our existence with suspicion yet we solely exist to advance safety issues in the industry.

KK: Recently you held your inaugural all-stakeholders virtual conference on safety, licensing and challenges in the gas industry. Can you take us through what this was about?

RM: Indeed, this was a conference bringing together regulators and players in the industry, the first of its kind, to explore issues affecting safety and growth of the industry in Zimbabwe.

The conference attended by 40 participants explored various issues in the operating environment in the gas industry in Zimbabwe including the recently promulgated Statutory Instrument 90 of 2021. It provided the much needed interface between the licensing authorities and players in the gas industry.

The conference was also aimed at finding out about the challenges being faced by both authorities and players in ensuring safety in the industry. It is our belief that such interfaces between authorities and players will bring beneficial engagement and promote better understanding between parties in the gas industry.

KK: Going forward, what should people expect from your association?

RM: We have lined up a lot of programmes which seek among other things to:

  • Advocate for and create our own standards which relate to our own operating environment-currently we use the South African standards which are not relevant in certain circumstances.
  • Operate a service exchange model where as in Zimbabwe we do refilling of gas tanks
  • We are working on creating our own certification and accreditation of our own installers, distributors, marketers, transporters, hardware vendors and dealers.
  • We are also working on affiliating with regional and global bodies such as LPGSAZ and WLPGA
  • Most importantly we want to promote safety and best business practices which add value to our LPG business in Zimbabwe.

We will be exploring these and many other issues affecting the operation of LPG business with our membership.