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Nairobi’s Koko tech good news for forests

Starting in Nairobi, customers can now buy the two-burner SmartCook stove and canister from Kokopoints in their neighbourhood. PHOTO | COURTESY
Starting in Nairobi, customers can now buy the two-burner SmartCook stove and canister from Kokopoints in their neighbourhood. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Nairobi-based Koko Network will Friday be publicly launched at the Africa Technology Summit in London.

This innovative cloud-based commerce platform enables neighbourhood merchants to grow new lines of business and better serve their regular customers, through partnerships with major suppliers of goods and services.

Koko has developed a smart digital kiosk (called a “Kokopoint”) that is franchised to well-established shopkeepers in large cities, achieving presence within 200 metres of every target customer home.

The resultant network of Koko agents and self-service Kokopoints is connected to the company’s cloud-based software system to create a seamless market channel.

The first consumer product being offered through Koko’s commerce platform is a novel cooking fuel solution (called “SmartCook”) that solves many pain points for 250 million urban middle-income consumers across Africa.

SmartCook fuel is made from denatured ethanol supplied by the sugar industry and delivered to Kokopoints in partnership with the fuels industry, enabling mass-market households to access an affordable modern cooking experience.

Starting in Nairobi, customers can now buy the two-burner SmartCook stove and canister from Kokopoints in their neighbourhood.

Stoves are ready for collection from the local Koko agent within 24 hours of purchase, after which the Kokopoint serves as a safe and easy-to-use ATM for clean and modern cooking fuel.

SmartCook’s liquid ethanol is safer than kerosene and charcoal. It also provides more heat at lower cost than the ethanol gel-based fuels.

This is exactly what African countries should pursue, considering the fact that our continent’s dependence on charcoal leads to destruction of five million acres of forests annually.

Indeed, a recent VoA bulletin quoted a Tanzanian Forests Services Agency as saying that more than 370,000 hectares of forests are being cut every year, a significant portion of it for charcoal.

As a result, the country is considering a special charcoal tax to discourage further destruction of the forests.

The WHO estimates that more than half a million people in Africa die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with dirty fuels.

In Kenya, the Ministry of Health estimates that 15,700 deaths annually in the country are from indoor air pollution due to dirty cooking fuel – more than three times the national death toll from road accidents.

Having witnessed SmartCook in operation, I can attest to the fact that it solves the problem of indoor air pollution.

The pricing of this new fuel lies between kerosene and charcoal but it may be prudent to remove duties and taxes on ethanol-based cooking fuels as a strategy to accelerate uptake and start saving forests as well as lives lost to indoor air pollution.

Koko is already planning to become a platform for complementary consumer and business solutions, like targeted local advertising, shop-based e-commerce, financial services, WiFi connectivity, e-government services and more.

This tech platform empowers any entrepreneurial person with something like an eBay for Africa. Neighbourhood merchants are catapulted into the digital revolution rather than being displaced by big retailers.

The cashless platform empowers producers and suppliers of all sizes to reach mass-market customers more efficiently.

It moves the digital technology discourse from techies behind laptops to the common person right in their neighbourhood offering a product that delivers significant lifestyle improvements.

Koko moves the digital technology discourse from techies to the common person.