Investing in World Problem Solvers

The world’s first Climate Innovation Centre has been established in Nairobi, Kenya as of September 2012. Launched in an effort to allow those with climate-technology ideas to turn them into viable businesses, the CIC is currently supporting the invention of Kenneth Ndua, who designed a cooking stove that will improve the drinking water conditions for his community.

Using recycled biomass as fuel, the stove reduces actual fuel usage by half and has a water chamber that boils and sanitizes up to seven litres of water, even while the stove is used for cooking. But despite the excellence of this innovation, growing his business, Fawanda, is nearly impossible without the help of funds for marketing and distribution. The CIC has now stepped in to provide that funding, along with the financial backing of the UK and Denmark governments.

In addition to funding, Ndua will have access to business guidance, market research, and facilities for the development of his product. This goes for any company supported by the Centre. Through all this, potential world problem solvers will be given the chance to appeal to larger investors for help in bringing their solutions to fruition.

“If you look around the world, you will see that there is in fact a fair amount of capital out there looking for investment opportunities … but they fear going [into] an environment they don’t understand” explains Jonathan Coony, coordinator for the infoDev Climate Technology Programme at the World Bank. This fear prevents ventures in their earliest stages of initiation from receiving crucial funding. The CIC plans to fill this funding gap with grants of up to $50,000 for idea development and investment finance of up to $1 million for business expansion.

Ndua is not the only one receiving the help of the CIC at this time. Africa Bio Products Ltd., a Kenyan company that produces cooking gel manufactured for ethanol (a waste product of sugar production), is hoping to begin producing their cooking gel in Kenya, rather than in Tanzania where it is now manufactured. The CIC will be working alongside the government on policies relevant to the companies the Centre supports and in doing so may lower the taxes enough that Africa Bio Products Ltd. will be able to afford manufacturing in its homeland.

Though the CIC is new, there is much hope for the changes it could produce in developing countries in Africa and around the world. Danish Ambassador Geert Anderson stated, “We are here to support initially and to try to see that this is actually going to be sustainable. I’m quite sure it will.”

As for Kenneth Ndua, the initial help is more than enough. “If I had someone with me four years ago, this would be one of the greatest projects. Maybe this is the time I will start making a profit … Maybe I will do my ten cook stoves … and keep on growing the business slowly…I believe I can get there [now].”

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