Green energy inspires  young entrepreneur Andrew Chikomba
Andrew Chikomba

Andrew Chikomba

Ruth Butaumocho : Gender Editor

When Andrew Chikomba lost his job at African Sun Limited after the group embarked on a restructuring exercise in 2011, his life took a dramatic turn. With his wedding only a few months away, Andrew realised that he needed to move forward, rather than mourn about his demise. It was while he was reflecting on the future, that Andrew perceived that he could mould his career around nature – an area he was passionate about. Today, Andrew is among the top prolific young entrepreneurs who are involved in green energy through the provision of alternative and less harmful energy sources.

He is the founder and owner of a Bulawayo distribution company, Gemwitts Enterprises, formed about six years ago.

“Misfortunes or challenges that we come across in life, should not break us, but should instead strengthen us to forge ahead,” revealed Andrew in an interview, recently.

From an idea that registered in Andrew’s mind during the tumultuous time and a period of uncertainty, mired by financial challenges, Gemwitts Enterprises has grown to become one of the leading suppliers of solar packages in Bulawayo. It provides a wide range of products ranging from LED lighting solutions for mining concerns, to household lighting as well as scalable off-the-grid power solutions for industrial and domestic applications.

On the information and communication technology side, Gemwitts also supplies some of the latest computer accessories.

When he lost his job, Andrew realised that he could not just stay at home and wallow in self-pity, but he decided to venture out and explore other opportunities.

Youths in training at Gemwitts

Youths in training at Gemwitts

His first port of call was to start a small ICT consultancy firm.

Operating with limited resources, Andrew started providing information technology support, designing website and providing supporting programming packages. During that time, he had registered Gemwitts Enterprises.

It was while Andrew was fully engrossed in running his small but highly competitive firm that Gemwitts clinched a deal with Sunde-Electronics, a Chinese Manufacturer.

“The company evolved from pure consultancy to include hardware distribution of thin clients as well. It was at this point while distributing thin clients that we saw a gap in the market emanating from the ‘global’ energy crisis, thus we ventured into LED Lighting Technology, which are lighting solutions that create the most amount of light, using the least amount of energy and with a very long lifespan,” he recalled.

Andrew was to later clinch yet another deal, a distributorship with Lumee LED, a Hungarian-based company, becoming the sole distributor of the Lumee brand in Zimbabwe. The two deals breathed life into Gemwitts, mapping the future for the enterprise.

“In time, we began to also provide other goods that complemented our lighting products like solar panels and backup power solutions. By the year 2013, we were now into retail and had opened our first store in Bulawayo,” enthused Andrew.

Gemwitts has since become a household name in Matabeleland, providing good solar products and accessories. What, however, have endeared Gemwitts to the market is its empowerment policies to the youth, where it is disbursing starter-packs to young men and women to kick-start their businesses.

“The decision to give youths solar consignments that they can get on credit, and pay after they have sold was born out of the need to nurture entrepreneurial skills among young men and women,” he said.

“We first train the youths in the use of solar and other alternative forms of green energy, while honing their entrepreneurial skills, before giving them the consignments,” he said.

The enterprise has to date trained 60 youths in Matabeleland provinces, with plans to increase the numbers to accommodate the growing demand.

A Rotarian, Andrew believes that everyone has got an entrepreneurial flair within them, a measure that the organisation has been using to identify capable youths and even adults keen on starting their own projects.

“We like to develop skills people have, give them space and a platform to flourish.”

Andrew has been using the same principle to recruit people within the organisation, not based on academic qualifications, but on one’s level of ingenuity and their ability to adapt.

“We have a gift of identifying potential and talent, therefore if our budding candidate can read, write and use a computer and they are malleable, then we have hope in moulding them and leading them to achieve their potential, whilst revealing their gift at Gemwitts,” he said.

Andrew says his own life is a testimony of what one can achieve once they set their mind to it. Late last year, Andrew Chikomba was awarded the First Runner-up Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which is a subsidiary of the Megafest Business Awards.

The 35 year-old is also a former Mandela Washington Fellow and part of President Obama’s Young African Leader’s Initiative. His nomination, selection and involvement in these high profile engagements speaks volumes of his success as a business manager, his drive and his business acumen, despite the prevailing economic environment.

Looking into the future, Andrew has plans to grow the business, by setting up small solar farms in other provinces.

The young entrepreneur who is currently in Rwanda for Comesa meetings firmly believes in the economic empowerment of youths to transform communities.

“Given the necessary support, youths can transform communities,” said Andrew.

He urged the youths to follow their dreams, while nurturing their diverse talents.

“You need to have passion about what you do and people will eventually pay money for it. Your talent could actually become your business,” he said.

Andrew’s love for nature and humanity has seen him extend a hand to the less privileged and he is currently working with the Baptist Church as a board member in the construction of an orphanage for several kids.


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