Bucking the trend, making a success
FUMANI Mthembi, who runs a renewable energy producing company, has no regrets about leaving her secure job in the middle of an economic recession to start her own business in 2009.
Mthembi and four of her friends, barely in their thirties at the time, left the banking industry to start a development project to help less privileged youth in the country. However, they were forced to change their plans when they struggled to raise funds. They opted for renewable energy.
Mthembi, the only woman among the five founders (the others being Gqi Raoleka, Obakeng Moloabi, Boipelo Moloabi and Thapelo Motlogeloa), said that while they were battling to keep their dreams alive with the youth project, another opportunity presented itself, which led to the creation in 2009 of the Pele Energy Group, based in Sandton.
South Africa’s Energy Department was searching for independent power producers for renewable energy. Companies had to meet a few criteria to be considered. First, they were required to have the financial muscle and expertise to run a business and also have a solid social development strategy for communities where they would be constructing energy plants.
Of importance also were the company’s plans to raise capital and its technical expertise in producing energy. The department was also looking for technical expertise and hence worked with independent power producers that had that expertise.
“This was actually representing an opportunity for us, because we had skill sets that we gained from our days in the banking sector that would enable us to make sense of what was required by the Energy Department,” said Mthembi.
“So it was clear that, as someone with an economics and development background and as an economist, I could plug in,” said Mthembi. She was just 25 at the time, with a bachelor’s degree in economics and politics and a master’s in politics and development from the University of Sussex in the UK.
Pele Energy Group’s first break came in November 2011, when it successfully bid to become one of the independent power producers. One of its first big projects was a power plant producing 36MW of solar CPV (concentrator photovoltaics) in the Eastern Cape Province. However, the company’s good fortune was short lived. In 2012 all its bids failed, so the company generated income through consulting.
This article was provided by Africa Renewal. Go to www.un.org/ africarenewal