Business in Zimbabwe: Where there is a problem there is an opportunity!

Food waste opportunity

In a branding workshop run by Thembie Khumalo I attended, she said something that changed the way I do business strategy and planning.

People do not care about your business- be the solution they are looking for…in branding 70% of your time is spent in thinking.

To be the solution, you need to understand the problem, how it is currently being solved and how you can be the desired solution to the target market.

Public health, poverty, food insecurity and climate change are cross cutting issues in developing counties that the international development community has worked for decades to solve with victories here and there but the myriad of problems still exist.

The question we should be asking ourselves as Africans,  is how we can solve these problems packaged as a business within the country and stop relying on aid or foreign direct investment?

The Problem of Food Waste

In 2016, the FAO reported that

Food losses and waste have repercussions on hunger and poverty alleviation, nutrition, income generation and economic growth. Food losses are indicative of poorly functioning and inefficient value chains and food systems and, as such, they represent a loss of economic value for the actors in these chains

Practical Action Southern Africa noted that more than 2.5 million tons of household and industrial waste are produced per annum in urban areas across Zimbabwe with food waste constituting about 70% of the total amount of total waste. The final disposal of food waste is into landfill.  A proposed solution is to produce biogas from food waste to manage waste in a sustainable manner, creating a circular economy in the food system thereby creating an energy source.

Why Biogas?

Biogas is unique to other energy sources because:

  1.  It provides an alternative cheaper energy source compared to LPG gas, petroleum and hydropower.
  2. To manage waste at household to national level.

Research into existing urban and rural business models, have revealed the feasibility in both urban and rural areas and a viable energy substitute and waste management as we adopt a circular economy in the food supply chain (

The Africa-EU Renewable Energy  Cooperation Programme notes that 200 biogas plants have been said to have been installed around Zimbabwe by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development,  while a Women in Energy conference hosted by Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority in October 2017 revealed only 52 have been recorded to be in operation in Zimbabwe, mostly established by SNV.

Co-generation potential  currently provides 633 GWh of electricity from sugarcane waste, however there is still potential for more.

Why food waste as the feed?

Looking at existing biogas models, distillery effluent, animal waste and municipal solid waste are the main substrates. However, these make methane production inefficient and limit biogas production to farms and industry. It has been tried and tested that food/kitchen waste because of its high calorific value, is 800 more times more efficient in biogas production as compared to the others mentioned above.  In a feasibility study, a mixture of kitchen waste produced 250% more biogas than cow dung (reference supplied).

679002_hand_512x512With a 1000litre biogas production system, biogas produced with food waste generated in a canteen in 2 hours, is equivalent to 13 cylinders at 14 kg per cylinder.

Current settings on Energy in Zimbabwe

As of June 2017, the country’s electrification rate was currently at 40 percent, with supplies reaching 83 percent of urban households, while only 13 percent of rural households have access to electricity.

Zimbabwe Electrification Supply Authority (ZESA), is currently generating half of its peak electricity demand estimated at about 2 000 megawatts (MW). As a result government has licenced some renewal energy projects, which are yet to take off, while (ZESA) is currently carrying out refurbishment and expansion projects in its plants, including the $550 million Kariba South hydro expansion. However, the Ministry of Energy and power Development, noted that even if all the projects were brought online, Zimbabwe would continue to experience a crisis, hence the aggressive moves towards renewable energy. Renewable energy sources include biogas, solar, hydro and wind.

Biogas Production as a Business

To reiterate, producing biogas solves two problems: food waste and the energy deficit

Government has announced a series of tax exemptions, licence fee cuts and a raft of financing measures to drive renewable energy development. This comes as authorities have been battling to address a growing power deficit in the country, which has emerged as a major threat to economic recovery.


The Draft National Renewable Energy Policy 2017-2030

The policy sets a target to develop additional 1 000 MW or 16 percent of total generation to meet electricity demand, from renewable energy sources by 2025 and an additional 1 600 MW or 23 percent of overall generation to meet electricity demand, from renewable energy sources by 2030.

food for thoughtBiogas could potentially produce a minimum of about 150MW towards electricity generation, though lower that wind with the potential up to 40,000MW, it requires a low capital injection and with a bigger plant and access to food waste as the main substrate has the potential to produce more.

The policy recommends providing national project status to all the renewable energy projects, tax exemptions for all renewable energy projects and capital subsidy for community projects

Current licencing fees for biomass projects pay $15 000 which is said to have been reviewed downwards.

National Bio fuel Policy of Zimbabwe

The production and use of liquid bio-fuels in the transport sector until 2030.


I have identified various ways of engaging into biogas production and I will share these 2 below.

The manufacture and supply of biodigesters and biogas cookers at household level and restaurants.

  • Areas in the process of development such as Kanyemba located in Mbire District, Zimbabwe with prospective trade and tourism traffic, seek to get electricity from Zambia. Yet a biogas plant with regular substrate can convert biogas and supply to the electricity grid. The Infrastructural Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) welcomes other sources of energy to feed into the electrical grid- producing a conducive environment for collaboration and business.

Although not exhaustive knowing is half the battle. It offers a start into further research before implementation. It is only power when it is applied!

Missing puzzle Information is just a piece of the puzzle, what are you going to do with it?







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