Acumen announces its new investment in BURN Manufacturing, a cookstove company that aims to transform the lives of Kenyans with its low-cost, energy-efficient design.
Today, more than 90 percent of Kenya lacks access to modern energy and clean cooking facilities and rely on traditional wood or charcoal stoves that pose serious threats to the country’s health and environment. The innovative design of BURN’s charcoal stove cuts fuel consumption by 56 percent and reduces carbon emissions by 65 percent to help Kenyans save a significant amount of money and improve their standard of living while also protecting the country’s quickly depleting forests.
“Over Acumen’s nearly 15 years of investing in social enterprises, we’ve looked at nearly 20 cookstove companies that have the potential to help poor customers save money and improve their health, but few have been able to solve for one of the biggest consumer challenges: purchasing power,” said Acumen Founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. “BURN is the first cookstove company in East Africa to strategically partner with lending institutions to provide financing solutions to help customers gain access to a cookstove’s benefits. It’s game-changing.”
Without access to modern energy, nearly 50 percent of urban Kenyan households depend on wood charcoal as their primary fuel for cooking. Because traditional stoves consume a high level of fuel, Kenyans can spend as much as $500 a year on charcoal, bankrupting poor households. BURN’s Jikokoa—or “saving stove” in Swahili—sells for $40 and saves urban households up to $250 a year and, as the company rolls out even more affordable options, the savings will only increase.
The excessive burning of wood charcoal emits carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes that can be detrimental to a household’s health. Each year, 4.3 million people globally die from exposure to indoor air pollution, which adds up to more deaths than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined. The demand for charcoal is also taking its toll on the environment; the wood and charcoal burned for household cooking is responsible for more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s deforestation. Today, only 2 to 3 percent of Kenya is forested, increasing the risk of land degradation and drought.
“The investment from Acumen is absolutely game-changing for BURN and the cookstove sector as it will allow us to manufacture 3.7 million clean-burning cookstoves over the next 10 years,” BURN CEO Peter Scott said. “This will save families $1.4 billion, reduce CO2 emissions by 21.3 million tons, reduce indoor air pollution among users by up to 90 percent, and save 123 million trees. Together, Acumen and BURN will make real on the as yet unrealized promise of cookstoves to transform people’s lives and the planet itself.”
The winner of the Energy for Women and Girls Ashden Award, BURN has established sub-Saharan Africa’s first and only modern cookstove manufacturing facility, employing more than 100 Kenyans, to produce its stoves locally in Nairobi and catalyze Kenya’s economy. On top of Acumen’s investment, BURN is the only cookstove to receive funding from General Electric and the United States government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation.