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Cutting the Trail: Learning from eMobility to drive forward eCooking in Kenya.

6th September 2023

By Jon Leary & Syprose Ochieng, Gamos East Africa.

In Kenya, the eMobility revolution is happening at breakneck speed. Whilst it was unusual to catch sight of an electric vehicle on the streets of Nairobi even last year, we are now frequently overtaken by electric vehicles, particularly buses and bodabodas (motorbike taxis). Many of the companies in this rapidly developing market were founded just a few years ago and have developed highly innovative IoT-enabled business models to develop products and services targeted at (Bottom of the Pyramid) BoP consumers. This blog reflects upon a key milestone achieved by one such company, Roam, drawing parallels and distilling out key lessons to enable us to learn from and leverage their success to drive forward to the eCooking sector.

In July 2023, the President of Kenya, William Ruto, attended the inauguration of Roam Park, the assembly and manufacturing plant for their fleet of electric bodabodas (eBodabodas). We  highly recommend watching the 20-minute video produced by eMobility blogger, Drivafy, but for those of you with just a few minutes to spare, we present the highlights below, showing why eMobility has received such high-level attention over the last year, and how it can equally apply to eCooking.

Drivafy: Tax-Free Electric Vehicles | President Ruto Inaugurates Roam Park And Promises All These!

00:20 – Roam opened the proceedings by noting that they are producing “world-class products developed for African markets,” that the “green transition is a huge opportunity for the Kenyan economy” and that “6 years & billions of Kenyan Shillings of research and development funds have been invested to develop motorbikes that are “robust, affordable, zero emissions & fully assembled in this facility.” Meanwhile MECS Programme alone has already invested 5 years and hundreds of millions of Kenyan Shillings of R&D funds, with major funders such as GEAPP, SEforAll, and EnDev recently pivoting their programming towards eCooking and joining forces under the Global Electric Cooking Coalition (GeCCo). Our private sector partners, including PowerPay, Groupe SEB, Sayona, Hotpoint Appliances, and Burn Manufacturing provide a wide range of modern energy-efficient eCooking appliances, with a range of innovative consumer financing mechanisms and specific adaptations to local cuisine.

Image 1: Roam’s partnership with digital asset financing giant, MKopa. Photo credit: Drivafy 2023

1:40 – He notes that “Given that 90% of electricity generated is renewable, this is a unique opportunity for Kenya to take the lead in the global climate transition in the mobility sector.” Of course, this is the same electricity that powers eCooking devices and and it’s worth noting that both switching from a fossil-fuelled to electric boda-boda and transitioning from charcoal to an EPC are estimated to mitigate around 2 tonnes of C02eq per year.

2:50 – President Ruto notes that “Boda-boda riders bring in 1bn KSh every day for their families.” Meanwhile, MoE & CCAK, 2019 reported that households are spending 68bn KSh on charcoal every year and ESMAP (2020) showed that cooking with energy-efficient electric appliances is significantly cheaper than charcoal.

4:30 – President Ruto notes that they have made “special provisions for boda-boda riders in this year’s Finance Bill”:

  • VAT for eBodas exempted, resulting in a 16% reduction in costs.
  • Not only this, but spare parts for eBodabodas, batteries, and battery components and equipment for charging stations have also been exempted.

CCAK (Clean Cooking Association of Kenya) has already launched a series of engagements have already begun with key sectoral stakeholders order to make the case for tax exemptions for energy-efficient eCooking appliances, their components, and the electricity that powers them.

7:20 – According to President Ruto “special tariff for electricity for charging electric vehicles has also been created.” Kenya Power’s 2022 Annual Report positioned eCooking and eMobility were identified as two key drivers of demand growth. The eMobility tariff was made viable because charging stations can be programmed to do the bulk of their charging during off-peak hours, public transport is a public service, and electricity for mobility can easily be disaggregated from other loads with a dedicated meter. . Cooking loads, on the other hand, are often mixed together with other domestic applications, however with the advent of IoT-enabled eCooking appliances, load disaggregation for cooking has become conceivable.

8:30 – President Ruto highlights the value of local manufacturing to Kenya’s economy, stating that “14 parts for Roam’s electric boda-bodas are already made here in Kenya” and that “next year, 30 will be.” Meanwhile PowerPay are already manufacturing IoT hardware and assembling smart eCooking appliances in partnership with Kenyan innovation lab, Gearbox; and Burn Manufacturing are already manufacturing a range of clean cooking devices in their modern cookstove factory in Ruiru, which are sold across the continent.

9:40 – President Ruto is happy that students trained in Kenya’s TVETs (Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutes) are working in Roam’s factory. Meanwhile, 2 County eCooking Hubs have been established at TVETs (Makueni – Wote TTI and Kisumu – RIAT) and Nyalore Impact have recently established a partnership agreement with Mawego TTI (Technical Training Institute) to train their students on eCooking and provide employment opportunities on graduation.

11:14 – President Ruto states that there are “1.9 million pikipikis in Kenya. We want all of them to become electric.” Meanwhile, there are 12 million households, almost all of whom are cooking, plus street vendors, restaurants, schools, prisons, hospitals, etc.

12:50 –”I’m truly happy to see what is happening in this factory,” President Ruto said. “It is because we believe as a nation that with different types of intervention, especially around tax, we can make things a lot better. The reason why this sector has been having challenges is we’ve been having the wrong policy interventions around tax. That is why you’ve heard me speak internationally about…we need to change the financial architecture…that is not supportive of enterprises that lift the majority of people out of poverty and build the capacity of more businesses to be able to drive our progress, our prosperity and our economy…you can see that just be intervening in a small way that we can bring down the cost of our eMobility infrastructure by 16-20% just by adjusting taxes here and there…we need a tax infrastructure globally that is going to respond to climate change“. Kenya is also a global champion for clean cooking and eCooking specifically. Interestingly, despite President Ruto’s recent tax exemptions for LPG, electricity and eCooking appliances have yet to receive any tax exemptions, which has had the net effect of making eCooking relatively more expensive than cooking with fossil fuels, whilst the government has made eMobility relatively cheaper than fossil-fuelled transport. We hope that the eCooking Strategy and the overarching Clean Cooking Strategy that it feeds into will enable us to realign these relative costs.

Image 2: Davis Chirchir, Cabinet Secretary Energy. Screenshot courtesy of Drivafy.

16:50 – Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Davis Chirchir claimed that: “we want to work with the mobility sector to ensure that the true target of reaching 100% carbon neutral for Kenya is achieved not only on power generation, but also on mobility…if we roll out 30% eBobaBoda by 2025, this will give us up to 500,000 motorbikes on the road…will require an additional 500MW generation…we need to start today so that this power is available to support the boda-boda riders.” In fact, the latest iteration of the Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP) already plans for demand growth in both the eMobility and eCooking sectors and we expect the demand projections in the forthcoming eCooking Strategy to inform the next iteration.

17:40 – Chirchir notes that “As we go towards the Africa Climate Summit, I’m consulting with State House to ensure we have a charging point…if we move fast, we will be riding on an electric vehicle on that day.” We imagine that much of the food prepared at the Kenya International Convention Centre (KICC) will already be prepared by task-specific electric appliances (microwaves, ovens, etc.). The MECS team and its partners will of course be there to showcase the array of modern IoT-enabled eCooking appliances that its partners have developed to further accelerate the uptake of eCooking amongst low- and middle-income consumers.

Image 3: Sakaja Johnson, Governor of Nairobi County. Screenshot courtesy of Drivafy.

19:00 – Nairobi County Governor Sakaja Johnson stated that “as a County… want to aggregate these manufacturers into a special economic zone so that they can benefit more and serve the whole of East Africa…why shouldn’t Kenya serve Uganda, DRC, and Rwanda rather than them importing from China…the biggest component of this battery is cobalt, cobalt starts in DRC, passes through Uganda, then Kenya, to China, then back here. That company manufacturing over there, why don’t we invite them here.” This aligns with the Kenyan government’s goal of not just achieving universal access to clean cooking by 2028, but also transforming Kenya into a regional manufacturing and innovation powerhouse for clean cooking solution.

It is my hope that this blog will raise the ambition of our private sector partners’ future engagements with government by demonstrating what is possible and highlighting the key narratives that resonate at the highest levels within government, allowing them to align their messaging and enable Kenya’s innovative eCooking sector to receive the recognition it deserves.

Featured Image: Roam staff showing President Ruto how parts for their eBodabodas are assembled. Screenshot courtesy of Drivafy, 2023.

Opportunity: Women in Modern Energy Cooking (WMEC) initiative launched