Opportunities & Challenges for eCook Zambia

Published Date 

13 Oct 2019


Leary, J., et al (2019)

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

About the publication

The focus groups, cooking diaries and national policy and markets review showed that electricity is the
aspirational fuel for most households in Zambia and that access, affordability (or perception of affordability) and reliability are the main barriers holding back wider adoption of electric cooking, all of which are addressed by the eCook concept. Whilst adding a battery into the system raises the upfront cost, breaking it down into manageable repayments on a par with how people currently pay for biomass using innovative financing mechanisms make it affordable.

They also showed that LPG is not yet popular in Lusaka, as it is currently expensive and is perceived as unsafe. If the LPG market is established, a fuel stacking scenario with LPG and energy-efficient electric
appliances attractive to modern Zambians, as they could cook faster, multi-task and save money.

Electricity may be the aspirational cooking fuel for most Zambian households, however the national
markets and policy review showed that charcoal use is deeply embedded within society. In 2013, 12% of
Zambians (2 million) were already using electricity as their primary fuel, however recent load-shedding
caused many of these people to revert back to charcoal. 37% of Zambians (6 million) use charcoal as their
primary cooking fuel - globally, only Liberia, Haiti and Togo have higher proportions of their population
cooking on charcoal.

The cooking diaries indicated that it is highly likely that many more than 2 million Zambians own an electric
hotplate, as it is often used in a fuel stacking scenario with a charcoal mbaula. The Zambian mbaula is an
extremely inefficient device constructed purely from thin sheet metal, allowing heat to escape into the
surroundings rather than into the pot. It’s appeal primarily relates to its extremely low purchase cost (just
1.5USD) and its familiarity.

The focus groups, kitchen laboratory experiments and cooking diaries showed cooking with electricity is
highly compatible with Zambian cuisine and modern energy-efficient appliances are highly desirable to
everyday Zambian cooks. Together with the choice modelling survey, they showed that urban Zambians
typically fuel stack between charcoal and electricity. Charcoal is typically used for “long boilers” like beans,
as hotplates consume a lot of units. However, there is now a much more efficient alternative to the hotplate: the Electric Pressure Cooker (EPC).

The Design Challenge showed that EPCs can already cook certain foods much faster and much cheaper
than charcoal on ZESCO’s grid; however, they require the cook to change their behaviour. Cleanliness and
speed of cooking are therefore likely to be important selling points. 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 more. Emphasising safety will be important, as there is a perception that pressure cooking is dangerous.