It is common knowledge that as a nation we are going through numerous challenges some of which are energy and fuel shortages. Fuel shortages have been rampant for a while now whilst energy shortages sharply surged recently. Load shedding has become the order of the day with some areas being said to be going for as long as 48 hours without electricity. These are circumstances that are quite daunting for the majority of Zimbabweans but also present opportunities for business. That is why in this article I shall be discussing business ideas premised on the current energy and fuel shortages prevailing in the country. These are business ideas that appeal to both the energy and the transportation sectors.
The most ubiquitous alternative energy source in Zimbabwe is solar. Sadly it’s also the most untapped and underutilized alternative energy source locally. Most people, especially in the rural domains, greatly appreciate the use of solar energy to cater for their energy needs. Things are now taking a bit of a turn in the urban and peri-urban areas due to the incessant power cuts. Load shedding has taken its toll on people so much that they should seriously consider tapping into solar energy. So therein is a business idea of sourcing and retailing solar products from solar panels to all other associated accessories. This can even branch off into the retailing of solar powered gadgets or whole systems (e.g. solar pumps).
If you study history you would be amazed to learn that some early car models were meant to be run using ethanol. Amazingly, some of the earliest engines even ran on peanut oil. However, fossil fuels gained ascendancy and relegated all that to the pages of history. The truth is there is tremendous potential in exploring bio-fuel alternatives. Plant material that has decayed can be used to generate biofuel. So research can be done to this end – fuels and energy students this is your baby! I’m not quite sure what happened to the jatropha project because that had huge potential for the production of bio-diesel. The Mt Hampden plant that was built for this has a capacity to produce as much as 100 million litres of bio-diesel. Fuel-grade ethanol is one of the most common biofuels locally and is mainly used for petrol blending. Notice I mentioned research for a reason; it’s been reported several times that cotton seeds, soya beans, sunflower seeds and vegetables can be processed to produce bio-diesel. The same Mt Hampden plant I mentioned early on was also built to process oils from the crops I just mentioned. So those are some of the business opportunities that can be looked into. It’s said that for instance, 1 tonne of the seed oil is enough to give as much as 300 litres of bio-diesel. Zimbabwe has vast tracts of arable land so I think this must be seriously considered. So from the farming side to the actual processing and the supply chain, those are all areas of business opportunities.
Biomass comes mainly from plants and animals. Biomass in the form of wood can be gasified or can be used to produce fuel for transportation. The main types of biomass can be extracted from wood, landfill gas, crops, garbage and alcohol crops. Wood and wood processing waste can be burnt to produce heat or to even generate electricity. Crops or waste can be burnt as fuel or used to produce biofuels. Garbage, animal and even human waste can all be used to produce biogas or can be burnt as a fuel. So there are business prospects in producing and selling these products or making and selling custom-made appliances such as stoves that run on any of these fuels.
For as long as I can recall I’ve always seen dilapidated or out-of-order windmills. Windmills are a great means to pump water for households or particularly small to large scale plots. This is one great way of harnessing wind energy which we do have in abundance locally. If you do your homework you can find ways of making money out of sourcing and installing windmills across the country – particularly in farming communities. This is a great alternative to water pumps that run on fossil fuels or electricity (both commodities that are scarce and expensive nowadays).
This is a must-have for any home, commercial or industrial location. With the long hours of load shedding now prevalent, UPS (uninterrupted power supply) units can be a sought-after commodity. You can get into the business of sourcing and then retailing UPS units. Of course, installation and other relevant support services can be added on top of the retailing.
Sugar Cane Farming
Just recently the mandatory ethanol blending ratio was raised to 20%. This is an attempt to lower our fuel import bill and to also to make fuel more available. The thing is the blending ratio can still be increased further if significant results are to be noticed. Interestingly the biggest setback on increasing the ethanol blending ratio is the shortage of adequate sugar cane due to weather factors or decreasing capacities of some farmers. This means the government would really welcome an increase in the yields from sugar cane farming. So this is a huge opportunity for those who can manage to venture into sugar cane farming.
You’ll notice that some of the ideas I discussed entail installation which then will result in the repair and also maintenance in the future. The installation, repair and maintenance are what I’m referring when I say support services. It’ll be up to you to see which area of focus you want to major for instance solar, bio-fuel, UPS units and so on. Providing such services can be a brilliant business idea where lots of money can be made.
So these are some of the business ideas for your consideration locally – it’s possible.