Focus Group Discussions Summary Report (Zambia)

Published Date 

1 Mar 2019


Leary, J et al., (2019)

Main authors: J. Leary, N. Serenje, F. Mwila, S. Batchelor
Associate authors: M. Leach, N. Scott, E. Brown, F. Yamba

About the publication

There is a general perception that cooking with electricity is expensive, however the evidence from the cooking diaries shows that even cooking with inefficient electric hotplates is cheaper than charcoal. This false perception has led many landlords/ladies, whose tenants share their electricity meter, to ban cooking with electricity. Even if electric cooking is allowed, long boiling dishes such as beans are often specifically prohibited, forcing their tenants to pay more to cook with charcoal. The national utility, ZESCO, offers a very generous lifeline tariff of 0.15 ZMW/kWh (just 0.015 USD/kWh) for the first 200 kWh/month. Whilst this is more than enough to cook with, even on inefficient hotplates, it is not accessible to many poorer households, who live in rented accommodation with a shared meter.

Nonetheless, even at the standard tariff of 0.89 ZMW/kWh (0.089 USD/kWh), the evidence from the cooking diaries shows that electricity is still cheaper than charcoal, as almost all meals can be cooked for under 2kWh (1.78 ZMW or 0.178 USD), regardless of household size.

Overcoming the intangibility of electricity by clearly showing cooks how much has been used (or better, how much money has been spent) on each dish will be key to overcoming this false perception. Most people have no idea how much electricity goes into cooking a typical dish and therefore how much it costs. In contrast, with charcoal and firewood it is physically very obvious. If future electric stoves included an energy meter, which clearly displayed how much money had been spent on the last dish, the comparison would be much clearer. PV-eCook (solar electric cooking) devices have a significant advantage here, as they do not rely on an external power supply, as a result, the size of the repayments should clearly communicate to the user just how much (or how little) it costs to cook with electricity.