Company revolutionizes the provision of clean energy solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Catherine Kuria
The Global Alliance for Clean Cook stoves, launched by the United Nations Foundation in 2010, is one of the organizations working towards universal adoption of affordable, effective and durable clean cooking technologies. Around the world, 3 billion people cook over open fires or on traditional stoves. The cooking fuels used by 40 percent of humanity are wood, charcoal, animal dung, crop residues, and coal.
As they burn, often inside homes or in areas with limited ventilation, they release plumes of smoke and soot liable for 4.3 million premature deaths each year. Traditional cooking practices also produce two to five percent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. A wide range of improved cook stove technologies exists, with varying impact on emissions. However, advanced biomass stoves are the most promising.
Burn at a glance
Burn Manufacturing designs, produces and distributes Africa’s best-selling, most durable and economical charcoal and wood clean cook stoves. Not only does its products save money, fuel and natural resources, but they also dramatically reduce harmful indoor smoke emissions which can cause significant health problems, even death.
With more than 500,000 stoves sold since commencing manufacturing operations in 2013, Burn has positioned itself as Africa’s most trusted cooking stove brand thanks to its unwavering commitment to innovative research and design, manufacturing excellence and customer care. It manufactures its products in Sub- Saharan Africa’s only state of the art clean cook stove manufacturing facility.
The firm employs 225 team members throughout Kenya and East Africa and supports a workforce which is 60 percent female, thus empowering women in roles traditionally considered to be for men. “I started Burn in 2010 after working in the clean cook stove space for ten years. The goal was to help save lives and forests in the Sub-Saharan Africa by providing super clean burning cook stoves,” says Mr. Peter Scott, founder and chief executive officer of Burn.
From 1999 to 2010, Mr. Scott worked in the cook cleaning space in the Sub-Saharan Africa. He spent a lot of time considering the issue of opening a clean cooking stove manufacturing company and thinking about the right approach. “If you are looking at manufacturing in the Sub-Saharan Africa, the most suitable place to do that is Kenya.
At that time people only considered making things in China and so we wanted to prove that manufacturing did not have to take place there. Kenyans are just as good or better as Chinese at making products,” he expresses.
If you go to any urban area in Kenya, most people use charcoal either for domestic or entrepreneurial purposes. Burn targets the people who don’t have any other mode of cooking except through charcoal. The unique selling point of its products is that they are affordable and highly efficient. It has over 60 warranty stations and a 2-year warranty on all its products.
Burn is also the only cook stove (jiko) company that manufactures locally and is helping to contribute to the Big 4 agenda. It envisions a world where cooking saves lives and forests. It currently offers four products which contribute to its vision of a world where cooking saves lives and forests: The Jikokoa which is Kenya’s top-selling, most fuel-efficient charcoal cook stove.
The Jikokoa Extra is a larger version of its charcoal stove which is even stronger, more durable and cooks for more people.
Additionally, it has the Kuniokoa which is the world’s most fuel-efficient natural draft wood stove. It offers families a safe, clean and economical alternative to cooking with wood. The Burn Kamata on the other hand is a pot gripping tool which protects hands and offers a more hygienic cooking experience. Mr. Scott notes: “Burn Kamata is our initial product entry in the cooking accessory marketplace. Our improved cook stove has a market share of about 60%.”
Next year, Burn plans to launch a lower cost stove that has the same performance and durability but at a lower price and that will help raise sales volumes by 4 times. The consumer can expect a whole new range of clean cooking solutions that include electric kerosene, highbred biomass and electric stoves as well as low cost charcoal and firewood stoves.
“Our jikos help in improving the lives them reduce fuel costs. Moreover, we help socially by creating a shift in their cooking behaviour from the traditional to the modern mode of cooking. In addition to that, we give them a clean cooking environment,” he adds.
Environmentally, it has helped to conserve Kenya’s forest by reducing charcoal use. Its jikos use half the fuel of a traditional jiko and help reduce the impact of climate change.
Burn’s commercial model is transforming lives while providing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems. According to tests conducted by Berkeley Air and the University of Nairobi, the Jikokoa reduces PM2.5 emissions by 65% as compared to the improved ceramic jiko. In terms of PM2.5 emissions, the Jikokoa is ranked as an ISO/IWA Tier 4 stove.
This is the highest ranking available and is in the same class as LPG and natural gas stoves. An Acumen Fund survey of Jikokoa customers reported meaningful health benefits including a 54% reduction in sick days per household. 89% of customers attributed increased health benefits to less smoke in the house.
Economically empowering women
A study conducted in 2016 by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that empowering women economically adds an extra 11 per cent to the global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. Women have the potential to change their own economic status as well as that of the communities and countries they live in. Yet more often than not, women’s economic contributions go unrecognized.
Gender inequalities have been a major stumbling block towards achieving development. It’s important therefore for women to participate in providing labour Economic empowerment of women spurs economic growth within a country. It is very important for a country’s development right from the smallest unit of the community which is the family.
Mr. Scott emphasizes: “Having empowered women in a country means great reduction in dependence rates. It also means increased household income leading to increased purchasing power and an improved standard of living.” Moreover, it adds on the taxes that the government in each country collects which are used in developing economies. This further leads to independent decision making regarding career, job selection, education, health, investment and human rights.
Burn is helping in empowering women economically in the country. Its workforce comprises a 60 percent female employment rate at the factory. Women are taking on jobs in manufacturing and engineering, often dominated by men. Burn has created an avenue where both genders receive equal opportunities and fair treatment at the workplace.
Burn’s distributors market its cook stoves worldwide through an extensive range of channels, including modern retail, pay-as-you-go solar, financial institutions, social (field agent) distributors, cooperatives, corporations and online commerce. It has on the ground operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, Namibia, Rwanda, Malawi, Djibouti, Cambodia, USA, Mexico, and Guatemala.
Among its national and global honours, Burn received the 2018 Bloomberg New Energy Pioneers Award for being among the world’s leaders in clean energy solutions.
It also received the 2018 Swiss Energy and Climate Summit Award for its pitch on the impact of clean burning stoves. In addition, it was awarded the 2015 Ashden Green Energy International Award for empowering women with new economic opportunities.
“We really need support from the government in creating a suitable environment for manufacturing,” says Mr. Scott. This includes a friendly tax regime, for instance, removing VAT from sustainably produced charcoal.” The company is planning to embark on the production of sustainable charcoal to go with its stoves in the near future.