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Mpumzi Swana - Fulfilling his life’s mission

Mpumzi Swana, the chief operating officer at SAMAC Engineering Solutions, was born in the Eastern Cape, where he says his story begins.

The Swana family moved to KZN when he was five years old and Mpumzi completed high school at George Campbell School of Technology. He commented, “I think that was quite an interesting space to be because that’s where my technical skills and acumen were built.”

Following matric, as creating finished products from raw materials intrigued him, Mpumzi studied chemical engineering. Much of his career has been centred on the development of new products.

Mpumzi has completed a number of post graduate degrees. His highest qualification is a manufacturing focused MBA that he obtained from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) through the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing (TWIMS).

His first job was at Toyota Manufacturing, where he worked in the paint plant for three years. Of this experience he says, “I had very good supervisors and managers who had quite sharp leadership acumen and I use a lot of the learnings that I gained from them in my leadership at our business.”

Product Development
SAMAC is focused on product development for the HVAC or refrigeration industry. “We have developed technologies that help customers to reduce their energy bills, which is the core focus of
our business.”

The company’s technology is geared towards storing thermal energy during cheaper times of the day, which then can then be used more efficiently like during peak tariff times or during loadshedding so
that businesses save money, reduce product spoilage, become more green and more environmentally responsible. “That is why I wake up every morning,” says Mpumzi.

Mpumzi’s successes have been recognised on a number of occasions. These include being one of the top five youth innovators in Africa in the energy space, and as the most innovative youth business by
SAB Kickstart.

However, he says that his proudest moment is seeing the change in and the impact on the young employees who work at the company. “Some of them have started straight out of school, and some of them have only worked one year. To look at how they’ve grown in terms of their own profession and as people and to know that as a company we are contributing to the development of people that
are going to do great things in their own respective lives is a huge achievement.”

Ensuring motivation within his team is important to Mpumzi. “Our philosophy is that you must be able to give someone a vision so that they are able to motivate themselves internally. For example, when we engage our engineers, we say to them that our company is probably one of the few companies where they have free rein to actually design and build products. This allows them to fully express themselves and develop their skills, which we find is a huge motivator.”

Focus is key
The best advice that Mpumzi has received is: Don’t sweat the small things. “Focusing on the key things that will get you the most results is essential. Don’t be anxious and want to control everything. That really has come through in the way that we do business and engage with our customers. We focus on what their biggest problem is and how we can help to solve that problem. People see that you’re interested in the things that matter to them.”

While KZN is a dynamic province, in the last couple of years it has met with a number of challenges. And, says Mpumzi, his company has not been immune to some of those challenges. COVID really impacted on the business as some of the work that they were doing was in commercial buildings. When everyone was told to work at home, this requirement caused projects to be terminated or put on hold. During the July riots their office and workshop was looted of all stock and completely destroyed.

Mpumzi commented that as an entrepreneur there’s no going back and as such started rebuilding from scratch. A key component of this meant that the company engaged with their customers and stakeholders and shared with them their situation and plan to rebuild to be able to fulfil their obligations.

“We found that they were very supportive and that different stakeholders came to the party. In fact, in the past two to three years our business has grown quite significantly financially and in new markets compared to the previous years where we even had investors. From the hardships that we came through we are much better off as a business and much better off as human beings.”

Be The Best
One of the people that has inspired Mpumzi in his life has been his grandfather who never left Lusikisiki or the farm where the family came from.

“In that space he always managed to thrive and to be the leader at whatever he was doing. He was in education, a principal, and one of the drivers for early childhood development. I want to build a business that will be the best at what is does and I want to be the best at serving want to be the best at serving our customers in that space.”

In addition, says Mpumzi, he is driven by the belief that each generation has an opportunity to fulfil its own mission. “If you know that you are in this particular time to fulfil a specific purpose than you won’t sleep at night until you actually fulfill that purpose. That for me is a core belief that I don’t want to leave without actually fulfilling the mission that we’ve been sent to do and our company won’t die without fulfilling the mission that it’s sent to do.”

Mpumzi believes that KZN can be the platform to build a new industry, which has been a core focus for him. He believes that thermal storage technology has the ability to transform specific industries to make them greener and more profitable. In addition, the company really wants to create a platform where young innovators and entrepreneurs can develop their own products using their technology.

In conclusion, Mpumzi explains that his life motto has to be seen from an introspective perspective.
“I live by a motto that says that ‘I am the one that is needed for whatever it may be’. Whether it’s
growing an industry, building business, growing a family, being a responsible citizen of the province, being a great South Africa or being a great African, I don’t need to wait for anyone else to come and rescue me. Each of us can really take agency and bring
change wherever we may be.”


 Mpumzi Swana Mpumzi Swana, the chief operating officer, SAMAC Engineering Solutions blog image.png
 Mpumzi Swana Fulfilling his lifes mission.pdf

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