Kenyan Cooking Start-up Uses Tech To Cut Costs And Save Lives
Kenyan cooking start-up: In the corner of Dafne Okech’s tiny general store in Kayole, a working-class district of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, a tall and futuristic blue vending machine looms over tightly packed rows of tinned fruit and washing powder. Half way up, a 14-inch touchscreen scrolls video adverts, while the device pumps out an in-store radio program.
Designed and built by Koko Networks, an energy start-up, the machine dispenses ethanol and is part of the company’s solution to a perennial problem in African cities: how to get cheap, safe fuel into homes to use for cooking.
The Koko Point is the first product in what the company says will be a suite of technology-backed services to improve life in the continent’s metropolises.
Story from Financial Times. Story by Tom Wilson.
Across Africa, where electricity connections are patchy and mains gas non-existent, the average urban household spends $20 a month on cooking fuel. The market is worth $40bn, Koko says.
It is dominated by charcoal and paraffin, both of which give off fumes and soot that contribute to the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of people a year. Ethanol, made from corn or sugarcane, is far safer but so far has been hard to package and transport.
Greg Murray, chief executive and co-founder of Koko, set out to solve the problem five years ago. After a pilot project in Mozambique, he launched his business in Kenya this year.
“Ethanol cooking is not new but people have used a bottling approach, which is very expensive,” says Murray, giving a tour of Koko’s factory in Nairobi.
Instead of distributing bottles, Koko has 700 vending machines in corner stores, such as Okech’s Eagle Services. Customers draw the fuel into reusable Koko-branded fuel bottles and once at home they connect the bottles to Koko-designed twin-hob stoves, which have an airlock to limit fumes and prevent spillage.
Read more at Financial Times.