Zimbabwe is said to be having a national electrification rate of around 42%, while electricity has reached 83% of the urban household, rural electrification is still around 13%. To add on, Zimbabwe’s actual power generation capacity is around 1400MW against a peak demand of about 1700MW as per the National Renewable Energy Policy of 2019. Both a low electrification rate and unreliable power supply has seen the solar sector rising with a number of players being distributors and earning quite handsomely from their ventures. We are also in a period where Zimbabwe and the world at large is promoting green energy, which on its own is a fundamental that promotes the growth of the solar sector. Globally, solar and wind energy are set to dominate the energy sector, but what is the position of Zimbabwe and Africa at large in the Solar Industry? What untapped opportunities also come with the boom of solar energy?
A private firm from Zimbabwe is capable of serving the continent with locally manufactured solar equipment. In the manufacturing of solar, silicon solar cells, metal frames, glass sheets for casting, standard sheet for casting, standard 12V wire, bus wire and Plexiglas are the major required components. China is currently the largest supplier of solar panels but can’t a local private company own part of the global share, particularly in the continent?
In 2015, Sub-Saharan Africa was the leading region for purchases of off-grid solar products, this on its own shows that strategically positioning yourself as an entrepreneur to serve the continent with solar manufacturing services can give you a favourable competitive advantage against the global giants.
But do we have the raw materials locally? Yes we do! Silicon Solar Cells, which is the major component are manufactured from quartz and silica sands which both we have abundantly in Zimbabwe, in a case whereby you cannot yet manufacture this, it can be imported and you assemble locally hence a reduced selling price.
The required Metal Frame, is also from either steel or aluminium, which Zimbabwe also has in its reserves. Standard 12V wire are made from Copper or Aluminium, same as Bus wire which is made from Copper and Zimbabwe has all these minerals. With the availability of these materials, nothing can stop a Zimbabwean local firm from dominating the solar panel manufacturing sector in the region and continent at large.
In times where sun radiation is not enough for solar energy generation, energy storage methods are used. This has seen the rise of the lithium-ion batteries market. Zimbabwe is ranked 8th in the lithium production and also has graphite, cobalt and manganese in its soil, which are the major raw materials in the lithium-ion batteries. What we lack most is research, whilst we take so much pride in our educational system. Let’s join the race and secure our own piece of the cake in the continent.
Consultancy and Training Services
As a sector grows, it requires services such as training and consultancy. The whole manufacturing process of solar panels and batteries require expertise that can be acquired through consultancy. It also comes with a demand of some skills which then paves way for training services. The training services can range from manufacturing to installation and maintenance. Which makes this another opportunity that the solar boom comes with.
Whilst a number of players are providing these services, there is need to catch up with the globe and provide off-grid solar energy to the industrial and Commercial Sector. Whilst Zimbabwe aims for Re-Industrialisation, power shortages has been the main barrier and number of private sectors have opted for off-grid solar energy. However, this still needs to be developed for improved efficiency, which makes it another lucrative venture for an entrepreneur.
It all starts with a vision, the world at large is promoting renewable energy, and this has brought easing down of policies and a number of grands an entrepreneur can compete for. All these can make a mere dream be turned into reality.