In Kenya, as in many Sub-Saharan African countries, ‘clean cookstoves’ are promoted as a solution to various health, environmental and livelihood challenges.

Combining theory from technological innovation systems literature and political economy, the article highlights key weaknesses in the sector and offers explanations for the limited success of efforts to introduce clean cookstoves to date.

Clean cookstoves remain a nascent innovation system in Kenya, its main weaknesses being lack of strategic direction, low levels of legitimacy among government and consumers, and weak knowledge accumulation and learning. In the absence of meaningful government engagement, technological choices and business models are influenced by the interests and norms of external actors, including a stronger emphasis on health outcomes than other livelihood or environmental benefits.

The article concludes that going forward, achieving a transformation in cooking energy use will depend on what role national and county governments play. Fiscal incentives introduced in 2016 and work on the country’s Sustainable Energy For All action plan are early signs of greater engagement with household energy challenges.

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