The scoping resulted in an incubation programme design that will use a Challenge Fund mechanism to put enterprises on three tracks:
- Incubation via direct technical assistance or workshops
- Performance-based grants
- Concessional loans or guarantees.
This programme will be implement in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the REDD + National Fund (FONAREDD), and supported by the Central African Forestry Initiative (CAFI).
Business Health Assessments
It is critical to do assessments and work closely with enterprises already in DRC to better understand their needs and to design sharp interventions accordingly. This is especially the case in a market where there have been many donor-funded interventions for the clean cooking sector that have focused on product design versus market development through distribution and financing.
Thus, based on market scoping, technical assistance and funding to support to each company in their roadmap to commercialisation, will be based on UNCDF’s understanding of:
- the stage of development of the clean cooking sector;
- the critical needs of the sector; and,
- the enabling conditions and key barriers currently present in the sector
There are a large range of clean energy company categories to consider in DRC. Of these, capacity, performance, willingness and commitment to invest, and product quality to meet efficiency standards are critical to understand.
As a development programme, we want to ensure that enterprises we provide tailored technical assistance and funding to, will manufacture and distribute clean cooking technologies that improve peoples’ lives, while reducing fuel wood consumption and therefore de-forestation. Solutions in market are rapidly evolving, requiring frequent testing and consumer feedback to ensure they also meet the needs of customers too.
Product Consumer and Field Testing
In addition to the business health assessments, UNCDF also tested the available cooking energy products and devices on the market. This product assessment complements the business health assessment and provides a more complete picture as to what is needed in developing a sustainable cookstove market.
Products were tested for quality, consistency (standardization), efficiency & fuel consumption. Consumer feedback was also gathered. This includes cookstove preferences, willingness to pay and capacity to pay. This helps UNCDF assess the production capacity and cookstove quality of readily available products, and provides insight into the required support for companies to become more sustainable and increase distribution through the use of tailored technical assistance.
The information generated in the field testing helps the programme and manufacturers build a roadmap towards commercialization by understanding:
- consumer cooking and energy consumption habits (locally/regionally)
- consumer taste (what appeals to them and will drive demand)
- the value proposition for potential products
The field testing complements the business evaluation and together they inform the design of the incubation programme, as it sheds light on how potential partners’ products perform in the field and their potential demand.
Stove testing process
The information from the testing covered:
- Consumer performance and preference on models, price, behavior and usage-market orientation
- More accurate measurements of fuel consumption of the stoves in households-can calculate fuel and emissions reductions (stove performance)- Baseline Consumption Measures
- Value proposition of potential products
For the manufacturers, the results from the testing can help manufacturers’ improve the product in efficiency, design, and consumer appeal. The technical feedback from the testing results combined with the factory evaluation will help manufacturers understand options and tooling for get to scale.
The process included:
- Manufacturers informed of testing and business health evaluation opportunity to participate
- Willing manufacturers who want to participate communicate participating with programme through providing basic information about their businesses and stoves they produce or sell
- Stoves were purchased in local markets where possible and other arrangements will be made for those products not yet on the market—those not on the market were asked to provide a plan for how they intend to bring their products to market by the start of the incubation programme (especially international manufacturers)
- Testing in the field occurred from August to November 2019 with products from those manufacturers willing to participate
- Women were recruited and trained to carry out the cooking
- During testing, focus groups and individual interviews of cooks were carried out to gain feedback on stove usage, learning curve, appeal etc.
- After testing, results feedback is provided each individual manufacturer
- The manufacturer has a chance to respond to the results, and the response is integrated into report
- The manufacturers are invited to incubation workshop to learn general and specific technical assistance for immediate improvements with business and product