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Turning clean tech ideas into reality in Kenya

Sonia PhalnikarJune 11, 2013

Kenyais home to the world's first Climate Innovation Center, a World Bank initiative, to help companies working on clean technologies turn their ideas into viable businesses.


The World Bank, in partnership with the governments of Denmark and Britain, set up the Climate Innovation Center (CIC) in the Kenyan capital Nairobi last September. It's to be funded with a combined total of $15 million over the next five years. The focus is on accelerating innovation in renewable energy, water and sanitation and agribusiness.

Small and mid-size companies working in these sectors can submit their clean tech ideas to the CIC. If accepted, they are given help in securing funding, business advice and market research.

“The center is meant to be an incubator for clean technologies,” Edward Mungai, CEO of the CIC, says, adding that the center has received 200 applications so far out which 30 have been accepted. Grants of $25,000 to $100,000 are given for approved entrepreneurs to try out their ideas, he adds.

One of them is a Kenyan company that produces a cooking gel made from ethanol, a waste product in sugar production and which is also used in alcoholic drinks. But ethanol, a cleaner alternative to the widely-used kerosene, is heavily taxed in Kenya. “So the company cannot become competitive because the high taxes mean the price of ethanol is higher than kerosene,” Mungai says, adding that the CIC is trying to lobby the government to have a differentiated tax policy for ethanol used for cooking and ethanol for making alcohol.

The CIC is also providing technical support to another biogas company to install affordable biogas digesters for farmers in Kenya using a pay-as-you-go metering system.

Mungai says the CIC hopes to see 70 such clean technologies out on the market in five years.

“It's better to tackle climate change on a local level,” Mungai says. “If you start on a small scale with farmers and consumers, you'll see a better impact. This bottom-up approach is better than a top-down one.”

The World Bank plans to open five more CICs across Africa in the coming years.