A HARARE entrepreneur recently won an award for an energy start-up project which turns waste to diesel. The businessman, Farai Musendo has now secured US$70 million in funding for the ambitious renewable energy project. Our business reporter Fidelity Mhlanga (ZI) had a chat with Musendo. Below are the interview excerpts:
ZI: Tell us about the new waste-to-energy project.
FM: This project involves generation of electricity from solid waste (plastics, tyres, papers, clothing etc). Harare generates approximately 500 000 tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with only 8% going into the circular economy (recycling).
The waste generated in Harare is sufficient to run a 40 megawatt (MW) plant, which has a capacity to process 1 500 tonnes of trash per day.
This project comes at a time when the country is experiencing load-shedding which is affecting the smooth running of industries and the economy. According to a research by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) on the state of the manufacturing sector, it emerged that power cuts are amongst five top structural bottlenecks negatively affecting industrial production.
Power outages have also disrupted availability of essential basic social services such as water, sanitation, education and health, which are basic human rights.
Currently, Zimbabwe has a power generation capacity of 1 300MW, which is not sufficient to run the economy considering President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra on re-industrialisation to create jobs and an upper-middle-class economy by 2030.
Zimbabwe has an energy demand of
2 400MW vs 1300MW the current capacity, thus the need to come up with other alternative sources of power to meet demand.
To supplement the power deficit, Zimbabwe is importing electricity from South Africa and Mozambique. Therefore, this project will provide 10% import substitution on electricity and help ease pressure on foreign currency, as the country is in limited fiscal space for importing energy. This will save the country over US$200 million on electricity imports annually.
This 40MW project will create employment and Zimbabwe will be among the few African countries to have such a kind of electricity generation plant on the continent following countries like Ethiopia which have successfully implemented the project, that is, Reppie Waste to Energy Plant.
ZI: How did you conceptualise the project?
The major drive to the project was the desire to solve problems the country is facing in power generation as well as waste management. Due to climate change challenges and perennial droughts which sometimes hit the country, the Kariba Hydro Station power generation capacity is under threat as it relies on water levels.
Thermal power stations equipment has aged and all of them are running below the design capacity. This definitely guarantees a deficit in energy supply, thus the need to come up with alternatives sources of renewable and clean energy. Moreover, there are various debates across the globe for moving away from fossil fuels like coal towards renewable energy sources of power generation.
My waste-to-electricity plant will generate 360 000MWh annually. The power will be generated at competitive costs which will meet the current Zesa tariffs after a margin.
ZI: Take us through the process of turning waste to energy?
FM: The conversion process of trash into energy will take place in an environmentally friendly way ensuring no greenhouse emissions will be released into the atmosphere using recent technological advancement in artificial intelligence and incineration technology. Turbines and generators will also be part of the system.
ZI: How much funding have you secured for the project?
FM: This is one of the mega-deals Zimbabwe is going to successfully have. A total of US$70 million has been secured through a Chinese Renewable Energy Contractor under Climatic Action Emergency Programme and is enough to fund all project activities to the successful commissioning of the plant till there is no load shedding in Harare.
Part of the funding will go towards purchasing a fleet waste collection/garbage trucks which will move around the community collecting the waste for sustainable environment/waste management. Various waste collection points will also be developed in different communities for sustainable waste segregation.
ZI: How much land do you need from the city council and have you applied for it?
FM: We have started engagements with the Ministry of Local Government and the Harare City Council. The project requires 10 hectares of land. I’m very happy with the engagements so far and I’m looking forward to positive and fruitful results with these parties.
ZI: Have you also applied for IPP licence from Zera?
FM: Again this is work in progress. We have already started engagements with Zera and they are guiding us on the application processes or procedures for an Independent Power Production (IPP) License. We are also busy putting all the necessary requirements in place ready for submission. We are also engaging Zimbabwe Power Company, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company and the Ministry of Energy and Power Development as we intend to distribute our power through the national grid. We will be engaging the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) soon for an Environmental Impact Assessment of the project prior to project commencement.
ZI: Have you ever secured any funding before for such kinds of initiatives?
FM: I have successfully secured funding locally from Total Zimbabwe through the startup challenge for the waste-to-diesel project. CBZ Young Entrepreneurs Programme, United Nations Accelerate 2030 Sustainable Development Goals programme and the Research Council of Zimbabwe on my first waste-to-energy project that I successfully implemented.
ZI: Prior to that you were converting waste to diesel. How is the project doing?
FM: The project is running well and it is from this project that we have managed to identify the existing gap in power generation which is the next problem that we are solving for the country.
ZI: You were recently awarded some United States of America fellowship, what fellowship is it and what are you learning?
FM: I was selected as one of the most innovative and outstanding young African leaders in sub-Saharan Africa for the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship out of over 10 000 submitted applications. Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship programme of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and the programme has empowered young people through academic course work, leadership training and networking.
From the programme I’m learning leadership development, business development, community development and building sustainable solutions to community problems.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship Programme is complementing the local business training I have done, for example, Total Startup Challenge Business Training and CBZ Young Entrepreneurs Programme.