Siphamandla Ndawonde sees challenges as opportunities.

JOHANNESBURG - A passion for industrial business development influenced a young entrepreneur to explore agriculture. 

Siphamandla Ndawonde says he saw opportunities where other people saw obstacles. Today, he is a partner at Maneli Foods and managing director of Maneli Pets.

“One of the biggest drivers behind Maneli Foods and Pets is social entrepreneurship and beyond that, building financial subsidiaries for businesses,” Ndawonde says. “We are trying to employ more people and get people job opportunities.” Maneli Foods takes off-cuts of ostrich, game and crocodile meat and processes them into high-end pet food and treats for the overseas market.

Maneli Pets is a subsidiary of the Maneli Group. It is based at Sebenza in Edenvale, Johannesburg. Last week, Maneli Pets received grant funding of R12.5million from the Department of Trade and Industry, as part of its Black Industrialists Scheme (BIS).

“We purchase our raw materials from farmers in Limpopo, the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape,” Ndawonde says. “Our business processes and supplies specialist premium pet treats to one of America’s largest pet food wholesalers in the form of game and ostrich by-products such as bones, tendons, organs and meat.” The 30-year old joined the company at the start of last year. He says the experience has been phenomenal. “We have been supported by a number of organisations and supermarkets to get where we are now.”

Before joining Maneli Pets, Ndawonde acted as a consultant across a variety of industries in several African countries - from renewable energy at Frost & Sullivan to agribusiness at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) and impact investing at Edge Growth. His expertise at Maneli Foods and Pets lies in strategy, business development and investment. Maneli Foods contributes to job creation and employs 42 people. They want to create 80 more jobs in the next five years.

It has been a long journey for the KwaZuluNatal-born entrepreneur who grew up in a township called Imbali in the capital Pietermaritzburg. He says he wanted to become a medical doctor when he was growing up to help people. But as time went by, he developed a love for industrial businesses that drove him to study commerce and science.

Ndawonde holds a BSc Honours degree from KwaZulu-Natal University and a BCom from UCT. He says he is grateful that his parents did their best to make sure that he got a good education, adding that he would continue to work hard.