Invasive trees and plant species are depleting the country’s water supply, increasing the risk and spread of wildfires, and reducing space needed for agricultural productivity.
As the government continues to find ways to manage this threat on native biodiversity, Shaun Devine’s company Siyakapa is playing a significant role by curbing the rapid growth of these invasive trees in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.
Established in 2014, Siyakapa is strategically positioned as the only charcoal manufacturing plant in the Nelson Mandela metro – and has great potential for growth. The business manufactures charcoal for domestic, restaurant and retail use with wood harvested from invasive, water-guzzling trees, specifically the hardwood eucalyptus species. Not only does it manufacture different pack sizes from 5kg to 10kg bags, it also supplies smelters with charcoal for industrial application in silicon production.
Devine was one of the lucky applicants selected to be part of the immersive SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme and credits it with helping him with the branding of its 5kg bag – the company’s flagship product. Siyakapa has also recently expanded into the briquettes market, with plans for international export. If successful, he will need to almost double his staff complement, currently comprising six kiln workers and four chainsaw operators.
Siyakapa’s plant is designed to produce 100 to 120 tonnes of charcoal a month. Though Silicon Smelters – one of its biggest clients with plants in Polokwane, Mpumalanga and Witbank – could easily buy all its charcoal, Devine says the company doesn’t want to simply be a producer. Fifty percent of its output goes to the smelters and the other 50% is packaged to supply clients such as Zebros Chicken and Chesanyama, who use it for fuel for food preparation rather than wood, as well as spaza shops.
“When it’s wet and raining, we can’t work. Add to that, there’s a dip in demand from retail during the winter months – so we sell more to the Silicon Smelters. But I can’t neglect my retail clients otherwise someone else will take my market share. Then again, there was a time when smelters experienced a dip due to the economy, and demand for charcoal decreased. So it’s important to balance output and keep both industries happy. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” says Devine.
“The Tholoana programme has helped me to legitimise business, get my statutory stuff in order, and helped me to do some networking.” It is through the Tholoana programme that Devine connected with and won Spar as a client. He says that the financial mentoring and the encouragement you receive to get more organised is also a big plus.
The Tholoana programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing & PR, to financial management and human resources.
“Shaun started producing charcoal in a fairly informal environment. From those early days he has created a business that has secured big clients and a new briquette machine is about to be commissioned which will double his market. While harvesting alien vegetation for charcoal, Shaun has taken the opportunity to take down alien trees and has acquired access to an export market for this timber”, Jeremy Barton, his Tholoana mentor says.
“Our vision is to provide an affordable product so that our charcoal becomes an alternative to increasingly expensive electricity,” says Devine. “We want to grow our charcoal into a household name, synonymous with quality and reliability.”
For more information about Siyakapa, contact Shaun Devine or call him on 0847884354.