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A fresh look at energy use in the informal economy

In a recent scoping exercise on energy consumption for productive uses in the informal sector, it was found that the food sector was an important source of income for the urban poor. The research highlights that multiple fuel uses are prevalent and that energy policy needs to consider this when developing plans in the local environment. Read the report here.

Energy for productive uses was identified as one of five key research areas by ENERGIA in their DIFD funded call for proposals published in 2014. In addition to the basic energy needs of cooking and heating for domestic purposes, energy is required for a range of income generating and productive uses.

Lead by the University of Twente in the Netherlands, our consortium of research partners includes the ERC at UCT, ENDA in Senegal and MARGE in Rwanda. Our research focuses on the micro and small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) in the informal food sector (IFS) in urban areas of Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

During the scoping phase we found that the informal food sector (IFS) is an important source of income generation for the urban poor (of which the majority is women); the sector is also important for urban food security. The preparation and processing of food items in this sector require various forms of energy. A mixture of modern energy services for cooking, refrigeration, heating, drying or curing can improve the quality of food and increase market opportunities and income generation but also health and safety of both entrepreneurs and customers.

Download the full report.