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Home / Battery manufacturer struggles to procure local raw material
Battery manufacturer struggles to procure local raw material
2018-08-03Staff Report 2 Edgar Brandt WINDHOEK - The owner of the new Star Wave battery brand being assembled in Grootfontein, Ilwenya Thomas Ilwenya, says his products are just as good if not better than the existing brands in the market but expressed frustration at making inroads with local retailer and suppliers. Operating under the name Ilwenya Investments, the new entrant in the local battery market imports the battery housings from China but sources lead locally to assemble vehicle, airplane, and marine and solar power storage batteries. Ilwenya, who says he is a war veteran who spent 12 years fighting the liberation struggle, believes his operation falls squarely within the Growth @ Home initiative as well as within the Southern African Development Community’s industrialisation policy. In fact, Star Wave was one of a host of companies who exhibited their products at the SADC Industrialisation Week, which ended in Windhoek this week. “As far as I know, we are the first local company to assemble batteries in Namibia and currently we have the capacity to produce 30 to 50 batteries per day,” said Ilwenya who has thus far invested about N$1.8 million into the venture. He added that because he is in the introductory phase of entering the local market, his batteries are more affordable than other brands on the market, all of which are exported from neighbouring countries. “Our ultimate aim is to sell our batteries in bulk, both inside and outside the country. However, because our brand is still relatively unknown we are receiving limited support from local retailers to stock and sell the batteries,” said Ilwenya. Besides the lack of support from local retailers and suppliers, Ilwenya narrated numerous challenges in starting up his business, including struggling to procure the machinery, acquiring the necessary skills and even locally sourcing the lead and sulphuric acid used in the assembly process. “We are finding it very difficult to purchase acid and sulphuric acid in the country.” Ilwenya continued that thus far he has not received any complaints on the batteries he has sold, all of which come with a two-year guarantee. “Many other battery manufacturers are neglecting the standards which ultimately result in a shorter battery life-span,” said Ilwenya. His daughter, Katrina Ilwenya, a law student at the University of Namibia, who is also closely involved in the business, noted that they take every precaution to ensure a maximum lifespan of their batteries. “Most of the other brands come with the acid already inside the battery which drastically shortens the lifespan of the battery. However, we only add the acid once the battery is sold which then significantly lengthens the lifespan of the battery,” said the younger Ilwenya. The ‘Growth at Home’ strategy was adopted by government, to implement the country’s first Industrial Policy and to attain strategic objectives for manufacturing as outlined in the national development plans. The strategy emphasises the importance of commodity-based industrialisation by strengthening local and national value chains and creating more efficient linkages within the economy. 2018-08-03Staff Report 2