SA’s own energy genius

siya xuza

Growing up with few resources in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape was one of the few things that inspired Harvard graduate Siyabulela Xuza to invent a device that enables the charging of cellphones without using an electricity grid

Although the mobile device might only be available in several years, Xuza is sure his invention will help many South Africans, especially those with no access to power in rural areas .

“Millions of people use cellphones and battery power can be a major problem, especially for people who live in rural areas, as they often have to travel to town, just to charge their phones,” he explains.

Having won a scholarship to study engineering at the esteemed Harvard university, Xuza has always been interested in science. After his graduation last year, he returned home to use his education and innovative ideas to improve the lives of South Africans .

When he identified inadequate resources to charge cellphone batteries as a problem that  was affecting many, Xuza knew he could help.

“If we don’t come up with a solution now, it will mean that in the future we will need bigger cellphones with bigger batteries. The more applications you have on your phone, the more energy you need,” he says.

As a member of the African Union’s energy advisory panel, Xuza sees first hand that one of the major constraints holding African development back is a lack of power. Not only has this inspired him to invent his device, it also motivated him to start his own energy solutions company.

I’m not about chasing money and getting rich quick. I’m about doing things with integrity and doing them the right way. I know it will take time for me to get the company going, but I know that it is possible and I can do it.

Xuza says the energy model that South Africa utilises currently is large-scale and tied to the national grid. His interest lies in turning people’s homes and businesses into personal power plants using alternative energy sources, such as his cellphone battery charger.

“My ultimate goal is to have an energy company – that is my plan for the next two years,” he says.

Xuza admits he is still learning about the energy business and knows that starting such a company within such a restricted industry, will not be easy. He is not worried about the hard work that lies ahead and is realistic about the challenges he faces.

“I’m not about chasing money and getting rich quick. I’m about doing things with integrity and doing them the right way. I know it will take time for me to get the company going, but I know that it is possible and I can do it,” he says.

Xuza’s impressive ‘can-do’ attitude is inspired by his passion to learn from others who have succeeded in their fields.

“What I learned from people such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, is that you must always think outside the box and be innovative.”

Now in turn, the 25-year-old engineer is sharing these messages of innovation and open-mindedness with young South Africans. He is a passionate motivational speaker who is determined to pass on what he has learned and foster independent thinking.

He knows all too well how young people’s lives can be changed when adults take an interest. When he was just 18, Xuza’s rocket fuel project won first prize in a science fair. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) was so impressed with the young man that they named a small planet just next to Jupiter Siyaxuza after him. This win inspired him to continue his studies.

You would think that Xuza’s life would be complete. After all, how many 25-year-olds can say they have a Harvard degree and a planet named after them! But Xuza says he’s far from done because he believes that individual success  is meaningless if it not put to good use to inspire and help others.

“I think as young people we must stop feeling entitled, and always wait for someone to start things for us. We need to start taking the opportunities given to us and also creating opportunities for ourselves,” he said.

He may have come far, but Xuza has never forgotten his roots. Raised by his mother Zanele Xuza in Mthatha he knows honouring his past is the key to succeeding in the future.

“My dream started in my mother’s kitchen, I was always doing experiments and at times I would get a hiding because I was using her things,” Xuza laughs.

His dream is to see young South Africans making a name for themselves and this country.

“I want to be the new generation of South Africans, the ones who source opportunities locally and globally and put this country on the map.”

Xuza will be sharing his story and ideas at the Success Summit that takes place from 1-2 March at the Sandton Convention Centre.