Partner Spotlight: African Clean Energy (ACE)
The manufacturing facility and warehouse were built by the government in the late 1990’s and were provided to ACE courtesy of the Lesotho National Development Corporation. The equipment from the Philips stove factory in India was shipped to Lesotho and with joint financing from Philips and the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the first stoves started coming off the production line in January. To date, ACE has manufactured close to 5,000 stoves. The stove can burn any form of biomass, from wood to dung to pellets and briquettes. While I was there Stephen even tried using charcoal in the stove for the first time.
The manufacturing facility is operating at reduced capacity now due to a lack of working capital, although many people have shown interest in the stove and orders through the end of 2013 currently exceed 14,000. ACE is planning to market the stove in Lesotho, and has received orders from biomass pellet companies in Rwanda and Zambia and a health research study in Malawi.
The facility employs 40 locals, and about 50% of the staff are women. When the factory is at full capacity they will employ approximately 200 people. ACE aims to employ physically disabled people as they encounter trouble finding employment; currently there are two disabled people employed by the facility.
Not only does the manufacturing facility employ locals, but it also sources parts locally from Lesotho and South Africa. This has allowed ACE to obtain financing from the IDC to get the facility up and running.
ACE has no immediate plans to change the stove design since the Philips technology works well and the stove has been popular with users to date. They are however looking to make some changes to improve its cost, like using lower-cost steel, and adding accessories, such as a solar charger for the battery that operates a fan in the stove. The stoves are now selling for 650 Rand (approximately 70 USD), but with improvements and economies of scale, the goal is to reduce that to 500 Rand (approximately 55 USD).
At full capacity, ACE says their facility will produce 9,000 Philips Smokeless stoves per month and that the facility in Lesotho is only the beginning. Once ACE has proven their concept with this facility, they are considering establishing others throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Photo: Cookstoves at the ACE manufacturing facility are ready to be boxed and shipped
Credit: Jen Tweddell