The amazing journey of Siyabulela Xuza – South Africa’s youngest innovator who has a minor planet named after him


Grand Cardone, New York bestselling author, once wrote  that regardless of how you define success – be it financial, spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, philanthropic, communal or familial – the most important thing you must know about success in order to have success  is that success is important, success is your obligation and success is your duty.

Cardone also wrote that regardless of culture, race, religion, economic background or social group, most would agree that success is important and vital to the well-being of the individual, the family unit, the group and certainly to the survival of those things into the future. Those that minimise the importance of success are either confused or have given up on their own chances of success.

Success is the most important part of our life. This is true for Siyabulela Xuza, South Africa’s youngest innovator.  Siyabulela (Siya) Xuza is an energy-engineering Harvard University graduate with a passion for harnessing the power of the sun for clean affordable energy. He conducted research geared towards making cheaper solar cells and assesses the commercial viability of solar technologies.

Siya says: “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.”

A born innovator, Siya began experimenting with rocket fuels in his mother’s kitchen. This passion turned into a serious science project that culminated in him developing a cheaper and safer rocket fuel.


Siya’s science project won gold at the National Science Expo and the Dr DerekGray Memorial award for the most prestigious project in South Africa. This led to an invitation to the International Youth Science Fair in Sweden in 2006, where he presented his project to the King and Queen of Sweden and attended the Nobel prize ceremony in Stockholm.

His project was then entered into the world’s biggest student science event, attracting about 1 500 students from 52 countries – the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in the US. He won the two grand awards.

His credibility was further endorsed by the Nasa-affiliated Lincoln Laboratory,which was so impressed by the young engineer’s achievement that it named a minor planet after him. Planet 23182, discovered in 2000, is now known as Siyaxuza and is to found in the main asteroid belt near Jupiter.

In 2010 he was elected as a fellow of the African Leadership Network, a premier network of those individuals poised to shape Africa’s future over the next 10-20 years, consisting of the most dynamic, influential and successful leaders and entrepreneurs in Africa and its Diaspora. He travelled to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to engage in discussions on creating prosperity for Africa.

In 2011 he became a fellow of the Kairos Society, a global network of top student and global leaders using entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the world’s greatest challenges. He was invited to the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange in recognition for being one of the world’s emerging business leaders and to offer strategies for solving the world’s energy crisis.

Siya says: “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.”

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