Siyabulela Xuza

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Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza
Born1989 (age 31–32)
Nationality South African
EducationSt. John's College
Alma materHarvard University (BSc Engineering Science)
AwardsOrder of Mapungubwe

Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza (born 1989) is a South African scientist, energy-engineering expert, entrepreneur and Harvard engineering graduate.[1] He 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.[2]

In 2017 President Jacob Zuma presented Xuza with South Africa's highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe[3][4][5] for his contributions to scientific innovation.

Early life and career[edit]

Xuza was born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape in 1989 and attended St. John's College in Johannesburg.[6] Describing the moment that sparked high passion for science he said:

I was chasing the roar of a Cessna plane dropping election pamphlets over Mthatha, my South African township. It was 1994, the first year of a new democracy in my country, and the sight of that technological marvel ignited in me a curiosity for science and a passion for using technology to engineer an African renaissance.[7]

Ten years later, at age 16, Xuza began experimenting with rocket fuel he made in his mother's kitchen. After six months and 77 failed launches his experiments culminated in him launching a homemade rocket, The Phoenix, which achieved an altitude of over 1 kilometer, thereby earning him the junior South African amateur high-powered altitude record.[4][8]

Xuza's project on solid rocket fuel won gold at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists in 2006, along with the Dr Derek Gray Memorial award for the most prestigious project in the country.[1] He was invited to present his project at the international Youth Science Fair in Sweden in December 2006.[9]

In 2007 Xuza's project, “African Space: Fueling Africa’s quest to space”, was entered into the International Science and Engineering Fair where it won the “Best of Category” award and a "First Award” in the energy and transportation sector.[9] He was presented with the Dudley R. Herschbach Award, an all expense trip paid trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar, and attendance to the Nobel Prize ceremonies.[1][10] The New Mexico Oil and Gas Company awarded him US$8 000 and a high performance laptop from Intel.[9] Xuza was also awarded a scholarship to the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.[1][11] There he conducted research into making cheaper solar cells and the viability of solar technologies.[8]

In 2010 Xuza was elected a fellow of the African Leadership Network, which aims to create prosperity in Africa. In the same year, he spoke at the African Union in Addis Ababa on this topic.[1][2]

Xuza became a fellow of the Kairos Society in 2011. The organisation is focused on establishing companies who aim to promote affordable everyday services.[1] He also served as the youngest member of the African Union – affiliated Africa 2.0 Energy Advisory Panel.[2] He was invited to Mombasa, Kenya, to assist in finding sustainable solutions to economic and social issues facing Africa.[6]

In 2014, Xuza co-published work on micro fuel cells in the Journal of Electroceramics.[2][12] Xuza was interviewed about this research by Phakamisa Ndzamela, financial services editor at Business Day, in which they discussed how the technology could be used in a power source to charge small devices such as cellphones and laptop computers.[13]

Xuza became Total South Africa's energy ambassador[14] in 2015 and he was a guest speaker at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg in 2015.[2] In May 2017 he was interviewed on the Expresso Show on SABC 3 regarding his "Upliftment Initiative".[15]


In 2017 Xusa was presented with the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver by President Jacob Zuma. The description of the award reads: "For his excellent contribution to scientific innovation at an early stage, proving to himself and others that through determination and hard work one can achieve new career heights. His brilliance has attracted great international minds to his work."[3][4][5]

Xusa featured in 21 Icons a film series that traces SA’s history and vision for the future.[16]

In 2013, as part of her presentation at the SciBono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg, Michelle Obama spoke about Xusa's early life.[17]

Asteroid 23182 Siyaxuza, discovered by astronomers with the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research on 23 July 2000 was named 23182 Siyaxuza after him.[18][19] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 28 August 2007 (M.P.C. 60502).[20] It is an X-type asteroid from the main-belt's background population.[19] It measures approximately 2.5 kilometers in diameter.[21] This honour was bestowed on Xuza in recognition of his innovation in rocket fuels.


  • 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.

Personal life[edit]

Xuza is an accomplished Xhosa praise singer and in 2003 he had the honour of performing a praise song for former President Nelson Mandela.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "2006 Expo for Young Scientists winner reaches new heights" (PDF). Eskom. 31 March 2016. p. 27. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Siya Xuza". African Leadership Academy. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b "President Jacob Zuma bestows 2017 National Orders Awards, 28 Apr". South African Government. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Maromo, Jonisayi (28 April 2017). "National Orders: Wayde van Niekerk bags gold". Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b "2017 National Orders awards - The Presidency - DOCUMENTS". Politicsweb. 2019-06-13. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Mr Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza". The Presidency. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  7. ^ "Notable South African: Siyabulela Xuza". Welcome to South Africa. 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  8. ^ a b "South Africa's rocket scientist rock star". Tellumat. 25 May 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "SA teen wins at tech awards". Brand South Africa. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  10. ^ "SIYABULELA XUZA". Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  11. ^ "GQ Man - Siyabulela Xuza". GQ South Africa | Men's Fashion, Style, Grooming, Trends & Culture. 2018-09-11. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  12. ^ Kerman, Kian; Xuza, Siyabulela; Ramanathan, Shriram (25 April 2014). "Free standing yttria-doped zirconia membranes: Geometrical effects on stability". Journal of Electroceramics. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. 34 (1): 91–99. doi:10.1007/s10832-014-9917-1. ISSN 1385-3449.
  13. ^ Africans with no electric will be able to charge cellphones with microfuel cell on YouTube, 17 January 2014
  14. ^ "Total South Africa announces Siya Xuza as Energy Ambassador" (PDF). Total South Africa. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  15. ^ SA Harvard Students Starts Upliftment Initiative on YouTube, 30 May 2017
  16. ^ "21 Icons celebrates Siya Xuza" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  17. ^ US First Lady Michelle Obama at Scibono on YouTube, 5 November 2013
  18. ^ "23182 Siyaxuza (2000 OV12)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  19. ^ a b Schmadel, L.D. (2009). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names: Addendum to Fifth Edition: 2006 - 2008. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 109. ISBN 978-3-642-01965-4. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  20. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Asteroid 23182 Siyaxuza". Small Bodies Data Ferret. Retrieved 22 October 2018.