Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza was born in Mthatha in 1989. He is a 32-year-old South African energy-engineering expert and entrepreneur with a passion for clean affordable energy. Siyabulela is the founder and managing director of Galactic Energy Ventures, an investment company focused on the energy needs of emerging markets. He is the youngest member of the Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel.
He had the prestigious honour of having a minor planet named after him by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-affiliated Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, in recognition of his innovation in homemade rocket fuel.
The minor planet in the main asteroid belt near Jupiter, with an orbital period of four years, was discovered in 2000 and renamed “23182 Siyaxuza” in recognition of Xuza’s achievements at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the United States.
Xuza began experimenting with rocket fuels in his mother’s kitchen. This passion turned into a serious science project that culminated in him developing a cheaper and safer rocket fuel, which culminated in the successful launch of a real home-built rocket, The Phoenix. His rocket achieved a final height of over a kilometre and earned him the junior South African amateur high-powered altitude record.
In his own words:
“I may not be able to predict what the future holds. But I am excited at how my engineering education will enable me to achieve my aspirations for Africa. My mother told me that even if a planet is named after you…you should always remain down to earth. People don’t realise that all my work with the rocket fuel was done in South Africa. There are opportunities here, as long as you are bold and brave enough to take them.”
The rocket was propelled by Xuza’s own invention: a cheaper, safer type of rocket fuel, which became the subject of a project titled “African Space: Fuelling Africa’s quest to space”. Xuza’s science project won gold at the National Science Expo and the Dr Derek Gray Memorial Award for the most prestigious project in South Africa.
This led to an invitation to the International Youth Science Fair in Sweden in 2006, where he presented his project to the King and Queen of Sweden and attended a Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.
His project was then entered into the world’s biggest student science event, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, attracting about 1 500 students from 52 countries.
He won the two grand awards, earning him global recognition and a scholarship to Harvard University.
In 2010 he was elected as a fellow of the African Leadership Network, a premier network of individuals poised to shape Africa’s future over the next 10-20 years, consisting of the most dynamic, influential and successful leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa and its Diaspora.
He travelled to the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to engage in discussions on creating prosperity for Africa. In 2011 he became a fellow of the Kairos Society, a global network of top students and global leaders using entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the world’s greatest challenges.
He was invited to the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange, in recognition for being one of the world’s emerging business leaders, to offer strategies for solving the world’s energy crisis.
Xuza recently became the youngest member of the AU-affiliated Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel. He was invited to Mombasa, Kenya, to assist in finding sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing economic and social issues facing Africans today.
He is also an accomplished Xhosa praise singer and in 2003 he had the honour of performing a praise song for former President Nelson Mandela.