An insight into the life of Zim’s young innovator
Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
One of the most significant young innovator and inventor in Zimbabwe is Maxwell Sangulani Chikumbutso, best known for developing a green power generator which can produce electricity using radio frequency. Recently, he was featured on the Thrive II documentary which captured breakthroughs in science, medicine and engineering among top global innovators and inventors across the world. In this report, Sifelani Tsiko (ST), our Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor speaks to Dr Farai Katsande (FK), a mentor and business associate to Maxwell’s Saith Holdings to share some insights into a man who is rising to join the ranks of global 21st century technology innovators.
ST: What is the main purpose of this event today?
FK: Today we are featuring Maxwell Chikumbutso’s works virtually in preparation of the launch of the Thrive II Documentary. Thrive On is a movie company based in California.
The company came to Zimbabwe to see Max’s Greener Power Machine. They brought in some technicians who tested the machines. They wanted to test the machine and verify his innovations. All this was meant to test whether the machine does what it does as designed by Max.
The team was convinced about how the machine functioned and this vindicated Max’s innovations as he claimed them. After that they asked to film Max’s innovations together with other innovators around the world who have actually innovated disruptive technologies.
So, all we are doing is to showcase his works in preparation of the launch of the Thrive On documentary.
We are connecting him to California so that the technicians there can ask further questions about how the Green Power Machine works. Through the virtual link, they want to hear Max’s vision in relation to this technology and how it can help humanity. This is a game-changing technology and Thrive On launch has more than 123 million viewers across the world who will see his innovative designs.
ST: As one of his mentors and advisors, could you tell us just who is Maxwell Chikumbutso? How would you describe him?
FK: I have known Max for quite a number of years and I have worked with him for some time now. The words that I would use to describe are: “Max is a thinking machine.” His brain is always functioning. Every time I meet with him to talk about life issues and so on, he always has new ideas that he is coming up with. He is an ideas man.
He is a young man who is really endowed with a lot of innovative ideas. And, most of the things I have seen him talking about, they kind of seem to work, you know. Like for instance, recently, we got a call from someone in Mexico.
This guy from Mexico has big contracts to do street lights. So he told Max, “I’m doing a street lights project, but I’m having problems”. That is when its winter, there is no sun to help power the lights and so he asked him if there was a way Max could help him because he wanted lights that could work most of the times.
Then Max said, “Oh,” he was quiet for a minute or so. He then told him that: “I think I can come up with a solution for you.” Then he said: “Are you sure?” And then Max responded and said: “Yes.” So Max asked the guy to send the housing of the street lights and how they were designed. The guy sent the samples by DHL. After receiving them, Max started working on them to find solutions. So he designed street lights that cannot go off whether its winter or at any season. So, that’s what he designed on his own, customised product for the guy in Mexico.
ST: Max in all his postings on Facebook and other online platforms, seems to attribute everything he does to God. He seems to be a man who has deep faith in God. Can you tell us more about his beliefs.
FK: Max grew up in the church. Right from a tender age, we were actually in the same church. Our pastor is Apostle Abel Sande and we grew up in the same church. It is during this time that he developed his faith. Max comes from a humble background and it was during that time that he saw visions that led him to come up with the Green Power Machine using radio frequencies to generate energy.
He grew up very strong in his faith and he was committed to the Lord. In those early days, I know for sure, he would go and pray in the mountains every Friday. He would do this all night.
ST: This is quite amazing. But can you tell me, just what has kept him close to his faith in God when it’s so easy to be distracted by many things? He could easily be lost to the world.
FK: It is the power of his faith in God that has kept him going. I also continue to mentor him and to guide him to remain on track. As an advisor to him, that’s one of the things I always try and work on.
I keep checking how he is working for the Lord and how he is conducting his life. Max still believes strongly in the Lord and everything he does, he walks with the Lord. Every time, whenever he starts working with his team, they always start with a prayer.
ST: Zimbabwe and Africa still face numerous challenges when it comes to recognising and promoting young and gifted innovators such as Max. Africa continues to lose a number of gifted minds to the US and other western countries because of lack of recognition and other incentives. What is your comment on this?
FK: I think what is quite disheartening is that as Africans, we have this problem that we just don’t believe in ourselves. If we did, given the noise that Max made in the past, one would have expected, for instance, that Government would test his works and found meaningful ways to support the uptake of his innovations as a lasting solution to energy problems we face as a country.
The previous president assigned a team of engineers who came to look at his machine. They looked at the machine and then they said the machine does what Max claims to say. And that was it. It ended like that. Nothing was done after that.
So we have these problems that we do not believe in ourselves. We don’t promote innovation and I think the biggest challenge, is, as long as we don’t see how do I fit in what is happening, then we lose interest.
Let me use this analogue. Let’s say for example, if people doubt this machine, ok, I would say can we work with the young man and put the machine to test. Let’s prove him right or wrong. And, up to now we don’t have that. Zesa knows about Max’s innovations. They know about it and they don’t have any interest in Max’s innovations.
ST: So, what do you think are the main barriers to the recognition of Zimbabwe and Africa’s innovators? Is it lack of political will or what? Zesa spends millions of dollars importing power and what do you think is the main problem?
FK: There could be two things that happen. Firstly, can anything good come out of Zimbabwe? The mentality, that nothing good can come out of Zimbabwe is our major weakness.
The second point, is corruption. I know for sure, that Max has told me that there are some people that he has been exposed to and after talking to them, they would really be like, there should be something in it for me.
So, if one is in a place of authority, then they don’t see how they will benefit, they lose interest. I think corruption is a disease in Africa that prevents the full recognition of our inventors and innovators. It’s a disease in Africa that we don’t care much about innovations that could easily help the poor and improve the quality of their lifestyles.
This is free energy and the cost of production using this Green Power Machine is very, very minimal and it can change the lives of the majority of our people. The estimated cost of a 50kva machine is between USD$25 000 to USD$30 000 because we are still at the R&D level. The cost could easily come down significantly with mass production.
But look, US$25 000 or US$30 000 as cost, we could probably sell this machine for probably US$40 000 or so, for a machine that can power 10 houses. When you look at the cost-benefit analysis you can see that this is a machine that will make much impact if rolled out on a mass scale.
ST: As an advisor and mentor to Max, as someone who has worked with Max for several years, what then is your hope for Zimbabwe, Africa and the world when it comes to the support and adoption of such disruptive technologies, which threaten the survival of large oil firms, solar components manufacturing companies and a range of other firms in these energy supply chains?
FK: My hope for our country, first of all, is that we really need to make sure our country benefits immensely from such disruptive technologies before we think about everybody else. There is a reason why God influenced Max to come up with such a technology in this beautiful country — Zimbabwe. My desire and prayer is that responsible authorities in the country should take interest in innovations coming from our own young people.
These innovations can benefit the country and all efforts should be made to widen access to energy to the majority of the poor people in the country. We need energy that is sustainable, cost effective and energy that doesn’t cost the government much to generate.
We can then at some point, give it away to the world and benefit from our own innovations in much the same way as others benefit from us. Max’s motivation is not money, but widening access to energy for the majority of the poor. His motivation is more about how can we give back energy to the people free of charge.
Toiling women in Mudzi or Dotito should benefit from these disruptive technologies to improve the quality of their lifestyles through access to clean and cheaper energy. That’s where through Max and Saith Holdings we are aiming to go, to transform the livelihoods of rural communities.
ST: To end our discussion, what then would you really say excites or motivates Max in his life? What makes Max tick and come up with various innovative ideas?
FK: Max is motivated more when he is alone and working in his own workshop. At least, that’s what I have seen.
If you put him into a lot of meetings, conference and other discussions — he switches off completely.
Even when I take him to some business meetings or discussions, you can actually see that you are talking, but his mind is not there. But the moment he gets back to his workshop, his life gets back.
He focuses, ignites and works passionately, exploring new possibilities.