Kavendjii a source of inspiration

> Magreth Nunuhe

Windhoek – Isaiah Kavendjii is a Namibian entrepreneur who is breathing life into upcoming and aspiring business people. His idea is simple. If you have N$1 million to N$2 million or can qualify for a business loan of that amount, then his company, Petro Afrika, can help you set up a franchise filling (petrol) station in any peri urban area in the country.

Under normal circumstances, to build a petrol station in Namibia can cost you on average N$6 million, but with Isaiah’s noble idea, you can set up infrastructure that can store up to 60 000 litres of gasoline for much less.

“We have modelled cost so that you remove things that are not crucial to the operation of a service station,” said Isaiah, explaining that it is not a requirement that a service station should be fitted with a shop or café for customers, as that adds substantially to the cost.

“We can’t tell you how your service station should look, but some of the essential requirements to set up a filling station is electricity,” he says, adding that if electricity is not available in the area where the enterprise will be constructed, they can opt for solar power or use generators.

Another thing that also increases costs, as Isaiah explains, is paving and installing interlocks, which are not necessarily required. But the crucial prerequisite is that the service station has a spill containment system installed in case of spillage and a driveway where drivers can park to fill up their car tanks.

In a spill situation, there should also be a manhole containment structure through the storm drain pipe inlet to carry spillage to an oil/water separator.

He says that the model for a low-cost filling station is conventionally the same like the franchised service stations seen all over the country and government regulations work the same way as well, where it is required that there should be no spillage or contamination of the soil at the business outfit.

Before setting up a filling station, the owner should obtain land use rights, an environmental authorisation and site and retail license from the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Currently, Petro Afrika is constructing a service station at Oushake, some 20 kilometres from Eenhana in the Ohangwena Region in the north and there are potential retailers who also want to set up service stations at Elambo, Okankolo, Oshango and Okongo in the same region through the franchise.

“If you want to respond to fuel needs, we can ensure that all the legal requirements are adhered to. We are trying to put money back into people’s pockets,” says Isaiah.

He adds that with more filling stations in the country, people, especially farmers will not need to drive long distances to buy petrol and there is also the potential of other business services coming up in the area, such as banks, restaurants and shops.

“This is poverty eradication. We are looking at a way that investment can commensurate with profits,” he adds, saying that his company has partnered with Bank Windhoek and Nammic for financial guidance.

As soon as a business signs up with Petro Afrika, the franchisor installs the petrol station and also supplies petrol.

According to Isaiah, who is the Managing Director of Petro Afrika, the company currently employs 12 people and is based in Windhoek, but is looking to expand beyond Namibia into the SADC Region.

“We see a solution to Africa’s problems. This is a good product that helps retailers set up sites in a price competitive manner,” he reiterates.

Isaiah was born and bred in Swakopmund, but later moved to Windhoek during the years of students’ uprising against the Bantu education system before Namibia attained its independence from South Africa in 1990.

He holds two Masters Degrees in Developmental Studies and Entrepreneurship from British universities.

Initially, together with other business partners, they started a company called Petrotech, with the idea of setting up containerised service stations, but the idea did not pass government regulations as it is a requirement that petrol must be stored above ground.

Namibia’s petrol stations fall into two categories, which are independent and big franchise premium petrol stations.

Service stations that are independently owned AND play a big role in the Namibian economy, especially in peri urban areas, while franchise operations have branches in almost every town with tall signs showcasing their familiar brand logos.

Often, the franchise service stations spot additional business units such as a forecourt, convenience store, bakery, car wash and a quick-service restaurant.

November 2015
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