Vegetable oil is used around the world, mostly for cooking purposes, after which it is discarded. But somewhere in Zambia, a young entrepreneur has taken steps to create something out of used vegetable oil.
In 2006, Mutoba Ngoma saw the need to provide a solution to fuel shortages in Zambia, and Africa in general. This led to setting up Tapera Industries – a biofuel company that converts used vegetable oil into fuel.
In an interview with CNN, he said, “I had just completed my schooling in the UK in aeronautical engineering and I came across a program about renewable energy in Brazil. At the same time Zambia was going through fuel shortages.”
With a mission to increase the country’s fuel supply sustainability and provide vocational training and stable job opportunities, the company started out as a backyard business, producing around 200 liters of cleaned and processed fuel monthly.
Presently, Tapera produces 3,000 liters of fuel each month and generates about $15,000.
The business is profitable, but not without its own challenge. With the challenge of having to constantly get used vegetable oil, Ngoma decided to diversify his company’s product range by making soap.
“The idea of making soaps came about as a result of one of our challenges of securing enough raw material for the diesel. We realized as we were waiting for more oil to come about we could actually be producing something else. And we found that we could actually produce soap from the same oil. So we just had to clean it a bit more and it’s even cheaper to process than the diesel. We stuck with it because we felt it is also a good income generator.”
While African leaders take steps to stop the challenge of fuel crisis that arise once in a while, entrepreneurs are doing their best to provide solutions, and Mutoba Ngoma’s idea of turning used vegetable oil into fuel is one of the many unique solutions that can turn things around in Africa.