Saturday, 9 October 2021

VENDOR TURNS SERVICE STATIONS OWNER

FROM sitting under a tree with a 5 litre container of fuel and selling mostly to illegal taxi operators in 2015, Mr Tapfuma Chikutu is now counted among the top registered suppliers of petroleum products in Zimbabwe.

He and his wife, Nomalanga, run a chain of Allied Petroleum fuel service stations in the country.

The couple started as vendors in 2015, occasionally having running battles with authorities as illegal sale of fuel usually leads to a cat-and-mouse game with police and local authority officials.

Vision, determination and patience saw the couple opening its first-ever garage in 2019 in Bulawayo near Fairbridge.

The first branch has given birth to five others, the latest being Allied Petroleum Hwange which was officially opened by Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Richard Moyo.

The new entity is a boost to Hwange and surrounding areas where there have only been three fuel stations in the coal mining town.

One Allied station is at Halfway along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway, another in Masvingo and the rest are in Bulawayo.

Allied Petroleum is a division of Plugin Investments which specialises in the supply and retail of petroleum products, motor spares, lubricants and vehicle accessories and a member of the Direct Fuel Imports (DFI) group.

Mr Chikutu, who is the founder and chief executive of Allied Petroleum, said a conducive environment created by the Second Republic for business start-ups has led to his success.

When he started the business as an illegal fuel vendor on the streets, he would sometimes go for days without the commodity due to lack of capital.

He said he tried several times to formalise the business without success until the coming in of the New Dispensation whose Vision 2030 entails empowering indigenous businesses through the devolution agenda which is one of the key policies put across towards achieving an upper middle-income economy.

Allied Petroleum finally became a legal entity in 2019.

Mr Tapfuma Chikutu delivers his speech while Matabeleland North Minister of State Richard Moyo follows proceedings

“We started in 2015 and it was not yet a registered company. We had a plastic 5-litre container selling on the streets to mshikashikas. From 2015 we were trying to penetrate this industry but we finally got our breakthrough in 2019 under the New Dispensation and we finally opened our first outlet in Fairbridge, Bulawayo,” he said.

“We are in line with indigenisation policies being brought by the Second Republic, something which we really appreciate because it empowers us not only to depend on foreign petroleum companies but it’s a chance for us the locals here and youth of Zimbabwe to invest and venture into this business. We now have got six outlets and we have other sites still under construction and will be opening soon.”

Six years after starting as a vendor and two years after officially opening the first branch as a registered company, Allied Petroleum now has three fuel container trucks.

One has a capacity of 20 000 litres and two others are 44 000 litre containers.

The company also employs 58 people across the six outlets.

Mr Chikutu said his vision is to have an outlet in every part of the country by 2023.

“This is a family business run by me and my wife. We were born in this part of the country, so charity begins at home. We thought the best is to start by opening branches in this part of Matabeleland and expand going to other parts of the country. Our vision is that by 2023 as you go into any city in Zimbabwe, you will see the face of Allied Petroleum.

“From day one, we have never run out of fuel, we have to do the same in Hwange. We took it upon ourselves to import fuel and help Government to ensure there is enough sustainable supply and we thank the regulatory authority for providing a conducive environment,” he said.

Allied Petroleum’s motto is: “We never run out.”

DFI group president Ms Noma Dube said it is because of policies put by Government in the Second Republic that many companies can still operate during the Covid-19 pandemic guided by President Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

Minister Moyo said the Second Republic ably led by President Mnangagwa has created a favourable business environment in Zimbabwe and policies that support business start-ups with capital through loan facilities are also in place.

He said the Government wishes all youth to start their own businesses than to go around looking for jobs.

“It is because of policies put in place by the New Dispensation that most companies are still operating and expanding despite the Covid-19 pandemic. This is largely guided by President Mnangagwa’s mantra that Zimbabwe is open for business, which enables companies like Allied Petroleum to use their free funds to import fuel for resale in Zimbabwe,” said the minister.

He implored businesses to prioritise locals on employment.

“We are grateful that companies are finding it worthwhile to invest in Matabeleland North and when such businesses are opening, we expect locals to be given preference in jobs.

The National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) encourages investment and improvement in key infrastructure areas such as energy and I urge Allied management to employ locals in the district in order to uplift livelihoods of the communities in line with the devolution agenda and Vision 2030,” said Minister Moyo. Chronicle

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