Entrepreneurs in Africa
Mutoba Toba Ngoma: Beating the Odds, the Bio-fuel Way
I am Facebook friends with Stella Mutale Sata, daughter of the late President of Zambia, Michael Sata. Now and then, I read her posts and the endless comments, which seem to accompany them. The most recent had her exhorting young Zambians to explore their entrepreneurial leanings and start something, no matter how small. Needless to say, she received a lot of flak for it.
Why, you might ask? Well, her country-men insisted that the government had not provided an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and others simply insisted that it was the government’s duty to provide jobs for them.
Somehow, Mutoba Toba Ngoma of Lusaka is not cut from the same cloth.
Born in 1985, Mutoba is a registered Technologist in Aircraft and Manufacture Engineering. His first brush with entrepreneurship was in 2006 at the age of twenty-one and his inspiration was a TV documentary on renewable energy in Brazil.
He bid his time however, and put the project on hold when he got employment at the Zambian Airways Limited. Mutoba worked as a Maintenance Planning and Reliability Officer for two years until they went out of business. Then it was time to pursue his dream of creating bio-fuels in Zambia. He affirmed that formal, decent employment opportunities were hard to come by, and maybe he needed the push to expand his horizons.
Tapera Industries was born in 2009, and what birthing pains it underwent. In his words via huffingtonpost.com;
“I convinced my father to partner with me in the bio-fuel business and initially it was a success. We had seven employees, who were paid a decent salary, above the minimum wage. But this is a new industry in Zambia and it’s hard to compete with the big companies selling fossil fuels. It’s also difficult to find the raw materials we need. At first, we collected waste cooking oil from restaurants to recycle into bio diesel and natural soap but this is now in short supply. Waste oil is often sold instead to low income households, for people to re-use at home, which is a real health hazard.”
Did he encounter challenges? Of course! Because of tough competition from the big producers, he was reduced to a two-man staff, and restricted to producing only soap with the vegetable oil he collected himself.
About Tapera Industries: Tapera Industries Limited is a business in the renewable energy sector which has focused on the production and promotion of biodiesel fuel and derivatives of vegetable oils. Tapera has been a pioneer in the initiation of used cooking oil waste management systems in Lusaka which has facilitated the responsible disposal of used cooking oil, by processing it into biodiesel fuel and glycerol. Working in conjunction with the Lusaka City Council, Tapera has over the last five years, collected and disposed of over 200,000 litres of waste vegetable oil through the biodiesel process.[taperabio.com]
Now a locally recognized brand name and a thriving business, Tapera Industries develops other products and services which include natural soap washing powder, natural soap spray cleaner, cooking oil production, oil seed out grower schemes and energy crop aggregation services.
His vision: To increase Zambia’s fuel supply sustainability and to help provide stable employment opportunities.
Mutoba serves on the board of directors for the Biofuels Association of Zambia, consultancy for the Alliance for Youth Entrepreneurs and is a Lusaka Global Shaper.
If you say you can, you are right. If you say you can’t, you are also right. Same challenge, different outcomes.
April 1st, 2015