The need for clean cooking and energy solutions has never been more pressing. As with polluting cookstoves, the majority of people at the base of the pyramid – we are talking about three billion people! – use lighting sources that pose both severe health and environmental dangers.

Speaking at the premier event of the clean cooking sector, the Clean Cooking Forum 2019, in Nairobi this week, which is jointly organised by the Clean Cooking Alliance and the Kenya Ministry of Energy, our CEO Scott Roy presented a new study and key developments at two conference sessions:

  1. Presenting research with Ashden

Collaborating with Harriet Lamb, the CEO of the Ashden Foundation, this session, titled “How to boost Sales by understanding Gender Dynamics”, discussed the results of Ashden’s new study exploring the buying habits of solar energy products in rural Tanzania, and the impact of solar on the lives of these buyers.

The Ashden Foundation, supported by UKAid and the IKEA Foundation, conducted the research over three years. As well as presenting the findings, Scott Roy and Harriet Lamb facilitated a workshop with 75 participants, including government officials, private sector actors, and NGOs.

With regards to sales, the key research finding concerns the decision-making process: Over the course of the research period, more than half of the time husbands made the buying decision and managed the payment method via smartphones and mobile money. A lesson for companies selling pay-as-you-go solar products is that women have the highest repayment rates for loans. These companies would be well-advised to set up buying situations where men and women are together. Decisions made jointly ultimately generate more sales and are more likely to complete loan repayment.

The recorded discussion and completed study are due to be released in a few weeks – so watch this space! In the meantime, the article “African rural women left behind by solar systems revolution” in Business Daily Africa is well worth a read.

  1. Panel discussion “Stories from the Sector” 

Reaching profitability is difficult for any company, especially in the clean cooking sector. Profit margins are thin, logistics is expensive and tricky to reach rural customers, and affordability is always a factor when selling to the ‘Base of Pyramid’ market.

Moderated by Scott, the panel session “Stories from the Sector: The Dos and Don’ts of Running a Sustainable, Profitable, and Scalable Business” outlined diverse and rich perspectives by sector practitioners, including David Smith, (managing director, East Africa, for clean stove manufacturer Envirofit), Carlo Talamanca (CEO of alternative fuel manufacturer Otago), and Annie Roberts (founding partner of management consultancy and advisory firm Open Capital Advisors).

There was some great feedback from the panel: “This was the most honest session I’ve experienced at the Forum,” said one attendee. “Sharing their mistakes, as well as successes, was so valuable. They emphasised that making mistakes is just part of the process, but it’s essential to get over them quickly and move on.”

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