Leary, J et al., (2019)
Main authors: J. Leary, F. Mwila, N. Serenje, F. Yamba, S. Batchelor
Associate authors: E. Brown, M. Leach, N. Scott,
About the publication
The eCook Zambia Design Challenge was an important step forward in the evolution of the generic eCook concept (cooking on battery-supported electricity) to the needs and aspirations of Zambian cooks. To continue this evolution, further work should focus on the key learning points identified here: Appliances are cheaper than batteries. Carefully selecting the most efficient electric cooking appliances will reduce the size and therefore cost of the battery bank by significantly more than the cost of the appliance itself. The result is a cheaper overall solution that will be affordable to even poorer consumers.
Empowering women to lead this transition will be key. New livelihood opportunities will emerge at all
stages of the value chain and women are best placed to take these on. This is both from the perspective
of accelerating uptake (for example, women are much more likely to buy a product marketed to them by
other women) and ensuring the broadest developmental impact by contributing to gender equity.
Building upon successful financing models will be key to unlocking the poorer and harder to reach
rural markets. For example, pay-as-you-go solar lighting and Village Banking.
The development of DC cooking appliances will be a key enabler for eCook. AC appliances require an
inverter, which adds cost, bulk, unreliability and inefficiency to the system.
Demand side management. eCook can make a valuable contribution to demand side management of
ZESCO’s grid, reducing the likelihood that load shedding will return. Especially if the devices can be
controlled remotely with a SIM card so that the battery can be charged when surplus power is available
instead of at meal times when demand is already peaking.
Electric pressure cookers are already cost competitive with charcoal; however, they require the cook
to change their behaviour. Further research is required on how the design could be made more
intuitive. Initially, they would need to be packaged with an instruction manual, dedicated cookbook for
Zambian foods, and/or training for first time users. An electric pressure cooker alone may not be enough
for a household to do all their cooking, as some foods require special pots and constant monitoring.
Manually adjusting the heat in the pot is also an important feature that is not available on most models
available on the market today.
Insulating cooking devices not only makes them more efficient, but also improves the experience for
the cook on hot days who does not want to be heated any further!
Recharging an eCook device should be as simple as possible, or cooks may get to mealtime and be
disappointed to find their battery is flat.
LPG-eCook hybrids. The perception of LPG as dangerous by many Zambian households may well change
in the future. Investigating the strengths and weaknesses of electric cooking appliances and LPG and
considering the value offered by hybrid systems would be wise.
Safety of pressure cookers. Pressure cookers also considered by many to be unsafe, so awareness
raising about their safety features may well be necessary.
Cleanliness and speed of cooking are likely to be important selling points for electric pressure cookers