SEI prepared a background paper for the Africa Progress Report (APR) reviewing and synthesizing the latest evidence on the health, socio-economic, and environmental consequences of relying on traditional biomass for cooking in Sub Saharan Africa. The paper was funded by the New Climate Economy project , and aimed to explore the potential for Africa to meets its goals in terms of poverty reduction , growth and climate while scaling up access to clean and safe energy for household cooking.

The focus of the summit was sustainable development, financing, and climate change with a particular emphasis on Africa’s urgent energy crisis. Reflecting the rationale of the New Climate Economy, the Africa Progress Panel Report focused on the potential of renewable technologies to increase agricultural productivity and improve resilience to climate change in Africa, while contributing to long-term reductions in carbon emissions.

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, and chair of the African Progress Panel, launched the report. In his opening speech Annan said, “We categorically reject the idea that Africa has to choose between economic growth and low-carbon development. Africa needs to utilize all of its energy assets in the short term, while building the foundations for a competitive low-carbon energy infrastructure.”

Clean cooking technologies essential for sustainable development

SEI used case studies to highlight innovative approaches for delivering clean and improved energy across Africa, and to draw out lessons and policy recommendations for taking such approaches to scale. These recommendations were then “road tested” with a group of African experts and policy makers during a workshop in Nairobi earlier this year , and refined based on feedback gathered at the workshop. The full synthesis paper will be published later this year.

Fiona Lambe, SEI Research Fellow, said, “Reducing demand for traditional biomass fuels such as fuelwood, charcoal and dung and increasing demand for clean, efficient cooking stoves would save lives, boost household incomes and generate wide-ranging environmental benefits.”

“There are many examples of innovative solutions delivering access to cleaner and safer fuels and cookstoves for African households. Together with our partners we identify some policy bottlenecks which, if dealt with, could bring these solutions to scale with multiple co-benefits for health, livelihoods, environment and economies”, continued Lambe.

SEI’s review demonstrates that in Africa access to electricity and clean cooking facilities is low, with dire consequences for health, livelihoods and environment. And Africa’s high rate of population growth is not matched by equal investment in expanding the supply of electricity and clean cooking facilities.

According to the report, approximately 727 million people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on solid biomass for cooking (mainly fuel wood and charcoal) and, without action; this number is set to increase to 900 million by 2020. This heavy reliance on traditional biomass results in about 600,000 deaths a year linked to exposure to household air pollution, with women and children the most affected. Reducing the use of biomass for cooking by 50% could also save 60–190 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.

APR recommendations for scaling up clean cooking

The report drew on SEI’s input to make recommendations on how to scale up access to clean and safe cooking facilities:

  • Every government should develop integrated strategies for tackling unsafe cooking practices.
  • The starting point is to recognise the value of biomass energy and end the under-pricing of charcoal and firewood.
  • Governments should support consumer demand for clean cooking solutions by exempting imported cookstove components from taxes and duties and by subsidising research and development in the cookstove sector.
  • Specific government agencies should be given responsibility for supporting producers of clean cooking stoves through revolving equity and credit funds where appropriate.

The Africa Progress Report (APR) is an annual publication of the Africa Progress Panel, a group of ten distinguished individuals from the private and public sector who advocate for equitable and sustainable development for Africa. The APR draws on and compiles the latest research and analysis available on Africa and presents it in a concise and readable form. The report mainly targets leaders around the world, providing them with policy recommendations and advice on steps to be taken in the international, public and private sector to help achieve sustainable development in Africa.

Read the African Progress Report 2015: Power, People, Planet>>