CLEAN AND IMPROVED COOKING IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
Reliance on solid-fuel cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a large and growing problem. More than 700 million Africans (82%) use solid fuels like wood, charcoal, dung, crop waste, and coal for their primary cooking needs, a number that will reach 850–900 million by the end of the decade. This high level of solid-fuel use, combined with household reliance on inefficient and unsafe traditional cookstoves, constitutes a first-order public health crisis: household air pollution (HAP) from solid-fuel cooking emissions kills nearly 600,000 Africans annually and is now recognized as the second largest health risk factor in terms of death and disability in the region. Solid-fuel cooking in SSA accounts for up to 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 6% of global black carbon, an important additional driver of climate change because it both absorbs solar radiation in the atmosphere and deposits soot on snow and ice surfaces. Solid-fuel cooking also imposes significant costs on African households and economies, with a mid-range estimated opportunity cost of 3% of regional annual GDP—including avoidable spending on solid fuels, time losses due to firewood collection, the economic costs of increased mortality and morbidity burdens, and the environmental and climate costs of deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions. The clean and improved cooking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has evolved significantly but is still highly underdeveloped. Only 11% of Africans use “clean” cookstoves that run on modern fuels like LPG (5%) and electric stoves (6%) as their primary cooking appliances, with many such households continuing to use traditional biomass-burning stoves as their secondary cooking device due to the common phenomenon of fuel and stove “stacking” (simultaneous usage of multiple fuels and stove technologies). Kerosene, which is used by 7%, likely does not qualify as a clean cooking solution in many instances given the increasing evidence of harms from typical kerosene stoves in Africa. Stoves that run on renewable fuels like biogas, ethanol, and solar are uncommon (less than 1%) and the penetration of “advanced” biomass gasifier cookstoves (less than 0.1%) that can come near the Tier 4 emission performance is still at a pilot stage. A growing number of SSA households (about 3.5%) use intermediate ICS (e.g., rocket stoves), which are substantially more fuel efficient but do not achieve the emissions reductions needed to realize the full health and environmental benefits of clean cooking. Another 9–10% of SSA households have access to both basic ICS (less than 5%) and legacy cookstoves (less than 5%) that offer only moderate improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions over traditional cooking technologies. In aggregate, Africa has a significantly lower rate of access to clean and improved solutions (25% excluding legacy stoves) than any other region globally.
The continuation of current trends over the next decade is likely to offer ample opportunities for transformative advances in the adoption of more-efficient and cleaner cooking solutions. On the demand side, key factors include a large urban population (a result of the region’s two decades of rapid urban population growth), the emergence of an aspirational lower/middle class with rising incomes (the African population with discretionary income is expected to grow 50% over the next decade, to 130 million households), and escalating prices for cooking fuel (11% charcoal prices rose 11%, and LPG prices 8%, annually in 2000–10). A large and growing share of SSA consumers (50%) already pay something for their cooking fuels and can benefit tangibly from adopting even basic energy-saving cookstove alternatives. There is growing evidence across multiple SSA markets of consumer willingness to pay for basic ICS. Evidence of consumer demand for more expensive intermediate and advanced ICS is more limited, but emerging consumer survey data suggest that—with extensive consumer awareness building and the right products—demand for higher-cost, quality-controlled cooking solutions could grow rapidly.
On the supply side, key trends include accelerating technological innovation across the full spectrum of cooking technologies, including most notably the development of fan gasifier biomass cookstoves that combine high rates of fuel efficiency (up to 50%) and very low levels of particulate-matter emissions (90%+ reduction vis-avis traditional biomass stoves). Other notable developments are the increased use of scalable and centralized industrial production—international players like Philips [ACE], Envirofit, and BURN Manufacturing have opened new Africa-based manufacturing facilities, and EcoZoom plans to do so later in 2014—along with improve capacity for regional semi-industrial players. All these factors hold the promise of improved performance and higher product quality at lower cost. Another important supply-side trend includes the increasing availability of financing for manufacturers and distributors through the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, the World Bank, Clean and Improved Cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Landscape Report
USAID, the Global Villages Energy Partnership (GVEP), and recently launched private funds like the Base of the Pyramid Impact eXchange Fund, or BIX. Meanwhile, two important trends are affecting both supply and demand in the region. First is the emergence of new distribution and financing models for reaching the poor, including carbon finance, micro-lending, lay-away and leasing schemes, and utility models for distributing renewable biomass pellet or ethanol fuels. Second is the growing number of entrepreneurs across all segments of the clean fuel and ICS value chain: over the past five years, the number of Africa-based industrial and semi-industrial ICS manufacturers has grown from under 10 firms to more than 40.
The enabling environment for clean cooking solutions uptake is also seeing positive developments. There is a growing consensus among regional policy makers on the case for clean cooking energy. National cookstove
programs are being launched or aggressively scaled up in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda,
and Senegal, and Uganda. There is an increased focus on cookstove quality testing and standards, as manifested
by the adoption of provisional ISO IWA standards for stoves (see Appendix 2) and the growing number of testing
centers across the region with increasing capacity to carry out tests according to the established protocols.
There is rising interest from donors, NGOs, and industry in championing innovation in clean and renewable
cooking technologies. The monitoring and evaluation of cooking projects is improving. And, last but not least,
global coordinating platforms are emerging—such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) and the
UN’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), regional market transformation efforts like the World Bank’s Africa Clean
Cooking Energy Solutions (ACCES) program, and fuel-specific initiatives focused on Africa like the Global LPG
Partnership (GLPGP), and the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP).
Major obstacles remain on the path to maximizing the reach of clean and improved cooking solutions in
Africa. Consumers’ limited willingness to fully adopt new cooking solutions and limited ability to pay for higher
cost clean and improved cookstoves and fuels are the greatest long-term obstacles to broader adoption of
clean cooking in Africa.
From the standpoint of willingness to adopt, limited consumer exposure to new technologies and low
awareness of their benefits is one cause of limited demand. Even when consumers are educated about stove
benefits, however, willingness to adopt is often still low due to the new solutions’ lack of fit with consumers’
cooking preferences (due to the reality or perception of inappropriate design), lack of consumer trust in stove
performance and durability, concerns about the accessibility of fuel supply and after-sales support, and the
behavioral (e.g., risk aversion, present bias) and cultural obstacles to sustained adoption of new technologies.
The willingness to adopt challenge is not just an obstacle to initial stove uptake, but affects sustained adoption
and use—as manifested in the near universal phenomenon of stove and fuel “stacking,” where end-users retain
traditional cooking solutions for use alongside clean or improved solutions to accommodate both diverse
household cooking needs and the force of tradition.
Even where households are willing to adopt improved and clean cookstoves and fuels, they often lack the
ability to pay for the stove and fuel due to insufficient disposable incomes and/or the lack of savings. This
“affordability challenge” is particularly acute for clean cooking solutions. The high upfront costs of higher-end
cooking appliances (US$75–100 for fan gasifiers and US$25–100 for LPG and electric modern-fuel stoves) and
the high ongoing costs of modern-fuel use relative to traditional biomass alternatives serve as a major constraint
on the size of the clean cooking market. Affordability is likewise consistently rated as the top demand constraint
by the manufacturers and distributors of industrially manufactured, high-quality intermediate ICS (rocket wood
and charcoal stoves) in the US$15–50 range. For low-cost improved stoves (i.e., basic ICS in the US$3–15 range),
aside from the poorest segments of the African population, affordability is a smaller obstacle, but nonetheless
still serves as a brake on faster market development.
In making the decision to adopt or pay for improved and clean cooking solutions, Africans are primarily interested
in fuel and time savings, convenience, smoke reduction, durability, and safety, with relatively little interest in
the long-term health benefits and public-good aspects of cooking solutions. Reduction of fuel expenditures
is the most powerful motivator among these factors, but does not apply for many end-users. Only half of SSA
Clean and Improved Cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Landscape Report
households currently purchase cooking fuel, and many such fuel-buying households continue to rely on fuel
collection in parallel, adjusting their mix of purchased and collected firewood as opportunities and economic
situations dictate. Although the number of such fuel-purchasing households is growing, the pace of this change
is unclear due to a lack of long-term data. The economic motivation for fuel-saving stoves is particularly weak
for the poor (i.e., those earning less than $1.25 per day) collectors of wood and other biomass fuels (such as
dung and crop waste), who constitute nearly 30% of the SSA population. Biomass collecting households do
face the physical harms and time burdens of firewood gathering, but tend to place a low value on time losses
given the low opportunity cost of rural labor; polychronic traditional cultures that generally undervalue time;
and patriarchal family structures in which men play the dominant role in stove purchasing decisions, leaving the
time burdens of fuel collection to fall primarily on women and girls.
Many of these willingness-to-adopt and -pay issues can be addressed via consumer education and awareness
building as well as marketing solutions that enhance end-user trust (e.g., warranties, right to return). In addition—
assuming that the underlying technologies are appropriately designed—distribution and financing approaches
can build up end-user comfort through exposure (e.g., free trials), and innovative financing techniques (e.g.,
installment payment plans, pay-as-you-go/utility business models, and consumer financing) can address the
liquidity constraints of those consumers whose income levels can sustain stove purchases but who lack the
near-term savings needed for stove purchases.
For many cooking solutions, even when such approaches are applied, willingness to pay will remain a barrier
to adoption. There is strong evidence that most African consumers are not willing to pay price premiums
for stoves and fuels that generate incremental long-term health benefits, a factor that inherently limits the
market-based potential of clean solutions that cannot compete with traditional or improved stoves on purely
economic terms. Willingness to pay is also an issue for intermediate ICS technologies where actual willingness
to pay can be significantly below the stove’s fair market price. Even after willingness to pay is improved through
marketing, many ICS providers will still need to subsidize the upfront cost of their stoves—with carbon revenues,
for example—to see adoption at scale, particularly in rural areas.
On the supply side, corresponding obstacles to wider adoption of improved and clean cooking solutions
include the cost and complexity of last-mile distribution; the limited business management capacity and
financial constraints of cooking sector entrepreneurs; the still-limited adoption of uniform quality standards and
product certification to minimize market spoilage; biomass supply market failures limiting fuel sustainability;
and regulatory constraints, such as high taxes and duties on clean technologies or perverse subsidy incentives
for the ongoing use of harmful fuels.
To address these various obstacles, sector funding is a cross-cutting challenge involving financing for fuel
supply chains, working capital for improved stove producers and distributors, public sector funding for market
transformation programs and enabling market infrastructure, and—where sensible—targeted subsidies and
incentives tied to access, health, and climate change goals. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates the
funding needed for universal access to clean cooking energy in SSA at more than US$1 billion annually through
2030—whereas the current fund flow is US$50–125 million. Public and donor sector funding, in particular, is
far below levels that can realistically address the immensity of the health challenges caused by household air
pollution: current SSA funding levels are an estimated US$100–250 per death for HAP versus US$2,000–4,000 per
death for public health crises like HIV/AIDS and malaria.
The “business as usual” scenario for the clean and improved cooking sector’s growth is encouraging but
falls far short of potential and need. Existing market dynamics will ensure that tens of millions of new SSA
households will gain access to at least minimally improved cooking solutions by the end of the decade without
any further interventions. But the “business-as-usual” scenario would by 2020 still leave 80% of Africa’s population
without clean cooking solutions and over 60% without access to even minimally improved cooking solutions.
This would still represent a much lower level of access than what is currently seen in regions like South Asia,
where the lack of clean cooking solutions is being addressed as a major crisis. Furthermore, in the absence
of significant public and private sector investment, the spread of clean cooking solutions across SSA will be
highly uneven—with successes in countries like Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa (where the combined
penetration of ICS and clean fuels is already above 50%) serving as exceptions amidst the overwhelming
majority of SSA countries still mired in traditional solid-fuel cooking. In places where ICS adoption is growing
quickly, much of this growth is still in basic and intermediate ICS rather than in clean cookstoves and fuels.
Clean and Improved Cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Landscape Report
Furthermore, there is a vast gap in clean cooking access between rural and urban areas that is likely to widen
further in the absence of new targeted investments. African governments, the development community, and
the private sector can and must do better.
Disrupting the status quo will require stepped-up investment and a differentiated approach. While this is
a moment of great promise, it is also one of great responsibility for sector stakeholders. To ensure that the
current revival of interest in clean cooking does not become a passing fad or disappoint with meager results,
new investments are needed to accelerate the uptake of clean, high quality cooking appliances and fuels in
countries like Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa, where sizeable markets
for clean fuels already exist. Many of these countries—and others, such as Ethiopia and Uganda—already have
significant markets for basic and intermediate ICS that could likewise benefit from further acceleration.
At the same time, it is also vital to establish the foundations for clean and improved stove ecosystems in the
vast majority of other African countries where the current penetration of ICS is negligible and the enabling
environment antecedents for clean cooking are weak. While a major push is needed in both cases, the relative
intervention priorities and appropriate technologies will vary by market stage. In less developed countries,
public sector support will be particularly critical since the creation of artisanal ICS markets and early-stage
“market-seeding” awareness campaigns are time and resource-intensive efforts in which the private sector is
typically less willing to invest.
Changing the status quo likewise requires a significant further tailoring of sector approaches based on target
technologies, consumer segment characteristics, and policy objectives. Market-led approaches hold significant
promise for expanding access to clean cooking solutions for middle-income consumers, particularly for
the urban and peri-urban segments that have growing disposable incomes. The optimal strategy for such
consumers involves expanding uptake of modern fuels and, where biomass cooking persists, progressively
displacing household biomass stoves with clean or highly improved biomass cooking solutions to transition
the entire fuel “stack” to cleaner cooking energy.
Poor urban consumers, who already often face significant fuel costs, similarly offer growing opportunities for
the private sector. Reaching them, however, will likely require different strategies and challenges such as (a)
capitalizing on carbon finance markets and growing demand via businesses that generate fuel savings (e.g.,
via highly efficient charcoal stoves) or (b) offering competitively priced alternatives to expensive biomass (LPG,
biofuels, biomass briquettes) that can also create significant health co-benefits.
In contrast, for rural poor consumers and other marginalized segments (e.g., refugee camp populations), the
path forward will very likely involve continuing to expand low-cost artisanal ICS markets that, while potentially
generating significant fuel savings, will realistically have only minimal health benefits. High-quality intermediate
ICS, advanced biomass cookstove technologies (ACS), and clean fuels will likely remain inaccessible to most
rural African consumers without public sector leadership and significant subsidies for many years to come