Well before sunrise in the small village of Msangani, Tanzania , Tunu ali Matekenya begins work at five, baking fresh bread. Formerly an agricultural laborer, Tunu’s life has improved thanks to entrepreneurship training she received in using advanced cookstoves.
“The oven I am using is very efficient, it is easy to use and consumes less charcoal, which reduces the cost of baking...all this means more profit” Tunu exclaims proudly.
In many areas of the developing world, women and children spend hours foraging for wood and other fuel sources then prepare meals around open fires or primitive cookstoves in poorly ventilated homes. Not only does this present an obvious fire hazard, but it also means they are inhaling toxic fumes from incomplete combustion of toxins that are responsible for nearly 500,000 premature and preventable deaths annually in Sub-Saharan Africa . The problem is particularly acute because 82 percent of the population depends on charcoal, dung, fuel wood, and forms of biomass for cooking purposes.
Increasing demand on fuel wood and charcoal is also putting pressure on local natural resources, contributing to degradation and, potentially, localized deforestation around booming urban areas across Africa. Together, traditional biomass cooking and charcoal production in Sub-Saharan Africa contributed about one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.
These were the central issues that brought together 120 stakeholders from 15 African countries in Dakar, Senegal  on November 16, 2012 for the launch of the “Africa Clean Cooking Energy Solutions ” (ACCES) initiative.
ACCES aims to promote enterprise-based, large-scale dissemination and adoption of clean cooking solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative is part of the World Bank’s engagement to expand and improve household access to clean energy.
In Dakar, the urgency to scale-up use of clean cookstoves was palpable and many participants pressed for solutions to this long-standing energy challenge. One panelist, Bill Farmer of Uganda Carbon Bureau called on the World Bank to “Be adventurous… and take risks.”
Developments in the private sector are a key part of the clean energy story. Technological innovation, better performance and impacts, and innovative business models are helping to meet the growing demand for clean cooking solutions. Many companies present at the Dakar event were optimistic about the potential for growth and are beginning to invest. Some like the Rwandan-based company, Inyenyeri, are integrating fuel and stove offerings to exploit the benefits of vast cooking fuel market.
Tunu’s business is growing, and she now also mentors women in her community.
“The business has changed my life tremendously,” she told me. “I have built a modern house, and my children are attending a good school. I have also been able to extend my support to my brother’s children.”
This is an exciting time for the Energy sector – we are seeing firsthand how clean cooking can change lives. Furthermore, growing momentum through the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves  and a focus on modern energy for cooking under the UN Sustainable Energy for All  initiative has catapulted the issue onto the global stage.
The World Bank’s ACCES initiative is part of this momentum, geared to improving the lives of millions of Africans, one hearth at a time.