Fuelling African Innovation

South Africa’s Rocket Scientist – So bright they’ve named a star after him (well, actually a planet)

In a dusty township in rural South Africa 21 years ago, a 6-year old boy saw a plane flying above his home. This ignited his curiosity to find out what makes things fly.

He can now look up to the sky, and point to a planet named Siyaxuza after him by NASA-affiliated Lincoln Laboratory, in honour of his invention that won first place at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in the US, competing against 52 countries.

Of this milestone that ”shows people that you are part of something bigger than yourself”, rocket fuel inventor and science prodigy, Siya Xuza says: “I realised that Africa, South Africa, is equally capable of competing head and shoulder against the world when it comes to innovation, the greatest minds, we are equally capable. Nothing is impossible.”

These days the darling of NASA is the youngest member of the Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel. The pan-African organisation comprises the continent’s brightest minds and is committed to seeking sustainable solutions to challenges faced by Africans.

Siya Xuza is the founder and CEO of Galactic Energy Ventures, an investment holding company developing and investing in smart energy solutions – focused on addressing the energy needs of emerging markets.
According to the World Bank, in sub Saharan Africa only 24% of the population has access to reliable electricity. This is about to change. Watch this space! 

Currently, Xuza is part of the Kairos Society, a global community of fellows, founders and advisors who work together to identify society’s biggest challenges and find new solutions to address them.

Previously, Xuza conducted research at the Harvard Center for Nanoscale Systems and the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories on microfuel cells – distributed energy that could be used to power remote and rural areas.

In 2013, his ground breaking work on micro fuel cells was published in the Journal of Electroceramics. Xuza was awarded a 2010 Fellowship to the African Leadership Network.

In 2011, he served as the youngest member of the African Union – affiliated Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel and was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper.

He was featured in SA’s 21 Icons – a film series that traces SA’s history and vision for the future.
His work has garnered world wide recognition – such as by former US First Lady Michelle Obama and the Nobel Foundartion in Sweden, while at home he’s been awarded the county’s Order of Mapungubwe, honouring citizens who have made an impact internationally and served the national interest.

Born in South Africa, Xuza holds a BSc in Engineering Sciences, from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.

Michelle Obama’s Tribute: ”You can choose to answer to the peer pressure and just go along with what everyone else is doing, or you can answer to your own hopes and dreams, and start working to become whatever you want to be in this life. That’s what Siya Xuza did” says the US First Lady.

Acknowledgement: African Leadership Academy.org & The Journalist.org.za

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