Bridging the Gap: Reaching Last-mile Consumers with Clean Cooking Gas
Jane Ekeh is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of GAS360, a platform that is transforming Africa’s energy ecosystem by connecting clean cooking gas retailers to customers and communities, as well as providing access to crucial supplies. Ekeh and GAS360 are helping meet the demand for increased access to cooking gas, improving both women’s health and overall quality of life.
CCA spoke with Ekeh about her motivation to co-found GAS360 and how she is helping to empower women.
This story is part of a series showcasing women leaders in the clean cooking sector.
“In Nigeria, 98,000 women lose their lives every year due to the use of dirty solid fuels,” says Jane Ekeh, Co-Founder and COO of GAS360. This alarming statistic, along with a desire to prevent women from losing their lives due to cooking with polluting fuels, inspired Ekeh to co-found GAS360, a platform providing last mile liquified petroleum gas (LPG) retailers with the critical supplies they need to serve households and communities effectively.
“Growing up as a woman in Nigeria is inspiring and challenging at the same time. My motivation to solve the clean cooking access problem comes from my first-hand experience as a youngster,” Ekeh shared. “As a child, I only visited my village during the festivals. I saw women lose productive time because women and young girls had to walk up to 3 hours to gather firewood to make breakfast. They suffered the direct impact of dirty, smoky solid fuels by developing health issues like bloodshot eyes and respiratory problems,” recalled Ekeh.
Early in her career while conducting field visits, Ekeh met a woman whose son had just bought her a clean cooking LPG cooker so she could stop cooking with charcoal. “The joy on her face as she described the ease she has felt since he got it installed for her is one I cannot forget,” said Ekeh. “Her only complaint was how hard it was for her to quickly access a new LPG canister when hers finished.” That’s when Ekeh realized the problem that she would dedicate her life to solving.
With a background in last-mile business-to-business retailing and franchising, Ekeh knew that she could use her extensive experience in clean cooking operations to improve last-mile access to clean cooking solutions in Nigeria. She realized that the infrastructure to scale clean cooking access already existed, but the sector needed a leader to tie it all together.
Ekeh co-founded GAS360, a company that streamlines clean cooking gas distribution. GAS360 seamlessly connects various businesses and customers, ensuring that retailers can easily access vital LPG supplies and meet its increasing demand in . While the company serves both rural and urban settings, the primary focus lies on rural areas. Customers in rural settings are both on-grid and off-grid, but because power outages are frequent throughout the country, LPG is a more reliable cooking solution.
“In 2022, I teamed up with a group of passionate co-founders to tackle the problem head-on. It has been an interesting journey going from our first order of by May 2023, and we are just getting started,” said Ekeh. “I take pride in making sure that last-mile LPG retailers do not have to travel long distances to get critical supplies to meet the demands of the last-mile consumers.”
Moving away from conventional business models and distribution networks is important to increase access to clean cooking solutions. GAS360 uses flexible financing options that enable retailers to receive LPG on credit, ensuring a steady and secure supply to meet their community’s needs. “GAS360’s artificial intelligence-powered credit scoring system for end consumers and flexible payment options, such as three installments, help overcome last-mile connectivity barriers,” shares Ekeh.
Ekeh is hopeful that investors will see potential in such innovations in the clean cooking sector and be encouraged to engage more. “Many investors don’t fully grasp the market dynamics, business models, and long-term benefits associated with clean cooking companies. This leads to hesitancy in investing or a preference for more traditional sectors,” she explained. “Insufficient funding limits their ability to expand production, reach new markets, and develop innovative technologies, preventing them from achieving economies of scale, keeping prices competitive, and investing in research and development. Optimizing the last-mile clean cooking LPG distribution network will reduce logistics costs to small- and medium-sized enterprises, trade finance to help them grow their business, and increase their unit economics to catalyze the conversion to cleaner fuels.”
Beyond investors, governments, donors, and other stakeholders also have a role to play. “Governments need to support favorable policies and regulations, such as banning the felling of trees for making firewood and charcoal, investing in awareness campaigns to educate communities about the health and environmental benefits of clean cooking, and supporting infrastructure development, which will strengthen the security of supply and empower them to drive access at the last mile,” Ekeh declared.
But for Ekeh, the true measure of success lies in empowering women. “My team and I are advocating for policies that will accelerate access to clean cooking by helping draft the first clean cooking policy in Nigeria. This will empower women and create real-time positive effects on women’s health by helping them transition from firewood and charcoal to clean cooking LPG,” Ekeh shared. She also realizes the value of building livelihoods and income from the transition, and therefore manages the company’s 50% female workforce.
For young women interested in social enterprise, Ekeh advises they have confidence, seek guidance, pursue education, collaborate, be resilient, build support, embrace diversity, tell stories, and stay connected to your purpose. “The tremendous progress women and girls have made in the sector throughout the last decade is impressive. With your unique perspective and passion, you can drive positive change and make a lasting impact,” she beams.