BioLite Partnered with CCA to Expand Clean Cooking in West Africa
BioLite is a B2B solar products and clean-burning cookstoves manufacturer with headquarters in Kenya and New York. Working with distribution partners in more than 20 countries across Africa and Asia, BioLite has provided more than five million people to date with access to clean energy and continues to expand toward the goal of reaching 20 million people by 2025.
Much like the rest of the clean cooking industry, though, BioLite faces significant hurdles in distributing clean cooking solutions at scale. Factors such as finance, consumer affordability, and product distribution infrastructure, among others, play a role in limiting distribution. To counter these challenges, BioLite wanted to explore the viability of increasing the number of its partners distributing BioLite clean cooking solutions at scale.
One of BioLite’s existing sector-adjacent partners, Baobab+, specializes in last-mile distribution of Access to Energy and Access to Digital products with financing solutions, such as pay-as-you-go solar home systems and smartphones. Through distribution of BioLite solar products, Baobab+ had already opened access to markets in Senegal, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Given the strong catalytic potential of leveraging the existing partnership between BioLite and Baobab+ to grow the clean cooking market, CCA provided critical funding to BioLite for the implementation of a pilot program to test the viability of selling cookstoves through Baobab+. The pilot was conducted in four markets simultaneously (Senegal, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, and Nigeria) to allow for more rapid identification of which countries would have the highest potential for scale, as well as which markets would be best suited for developing a carbon program. West Africa is a traditionally underserved market for clean cooking
The markets in which Baobab+ operate are a good fit for clean cooking products that could be offered to both current and future customers. However, the lack of awareness in the existing markets about the benefits and availability of high-efficiency cookstoves was a key obstacle to large-scale distribution at lower price points. The financing provided by CCA funded critical marketing and channel readiness work to help Baobab+ more easily introduce clean cooking into their product portfolio. Using the grant funding, BioLite provided training to nearly 500 Baobab+ sales and technical employees on the servicing, sales, and maintenance of two of BioLite’s cookstoves. The partners also developed targeted mass marketing and communication campaigns for various market segments in each of its four identified target countries, leveraging a complex performance tracking system to gather and analyze campaign impact.
With these efforts in place, Baobab+ achieved notable success in selling BioLite clean cooking products. In only six months, Baobab+ sold almost 5,000 cookstoves and reached over a quarter of a million people – a notable boost to both the BioLite and Baobab+ brands. The increased awareness of clean cooking solutions drove uptake of BioLite cookstoves through Baobab+ sales channels, which provided valuable feedback and insights on user behavior and best practices for leveraging partner distributors to increase access to clean cooking at scale.
Given the success of the pilot, Baobab+ will grow the offerings of BioLite products in the original four markets as well as expand the distribution of BioLite clean cooking solutions to Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Moving forward, BioLite and Baobab+ will continue to refine and expand their approach, gathering valuable end user data to develop a strong case for carbon financing that will enable BioLite cookstoves to be offered at a lower price point. In addition, BioLite is well positioned to apply learnings from of the pilot to other distribution partners in support of the further expansion of access to its clean cooking offering, as well as the goal to provide universal access to clean cooking by 2030.
“Baobab+ has been a key partner for BioLite, and this new venture was a further step in expanding the crucial access to energy that Baobab+ has been providing for several years in these underserved markets. This project has been catalytic in gathering learnings about the opportunities and challenges around distributing clean cookstoves at scale, and both the differences and similarities between each market. We look forward to further developing this project with Baobab+, as well as applying the lessons learned to future partnerships across Africa and Asia.”
– Claire Baker, Associate Director of Business Development, BioLite