Faith Sammy, a trader in Mombasa, is eager to get an electric egg trolley and replace her charcoal smokie.
The 23-year-old fast food vendor claims to have been in the industry for six months, during which time the pricey charcoal fuel has caused her problems and reduced her income.
“I use one sack of charcoal in five days because I operate 24/7. A bag costs me Sh1,800. This translates to almost Sh11,000 in a month on charcoal alone,” she says.
Sammy hopes her new equipment will cut the cost of fuel significantly and leave more money in her pockets.
She is one of the beneficiaries of the eco-friendly smokie/egg trolleys launched by Kuza Freezer, a cold storage units manufacturer in Mombasa.
Speaking at the launch on Saturday, Kuza Freezer co-founder and CEO Dennis Onkangi said the cooking solution would be a game-changer for the smokie/egg vendors because of its health and cost-saving benefits.
“Smokie and egg vendors use charcoal to cook and heat their products. This not only has side effects to their health but also to the environment,” Onkangi said.
“This EcoHeat solution eliminates the need for charcoal and helps the vendors have access to a clean solution,” the 30-year-old added.
He said the clean and attractive mobile trolleys would give the vendors the edge over their competition in the market, hence better incomes.
“With this solution, they are able to save on the cost of charcoal,” Onkangi said.
For Sammy, it was not just the cost of fuel that was a problem. She is certain that the smoke the charcoal emits when starting the fire was to blame for her recent health issues.
“I have fallen sick more frequently in the last six months than in my entire life,” she says.
Similarly, the smoke sometimes affects the smokies, which start smelling of charcoal fumes, making customers complain.
“Another thing is with charcoal, you cannot effectively control the fire, thus sometimes the smokies become so black and hard that the customers complain.
“With EcoHeat, you can control the heat and cook the smokies well,” she said.
For instance, after cooking about 30 smokies, you can switch off the heating system. However, the heat will remain for about another hour, sufficient to maintain the heat of the smokies and eggs.
Sammy said the old charcoal trolley she has been using rusts fast and requires frequent maintenance. And when it rusts it looks dirty, scaring away customers.
“Another thing is I can also use the EcoHeat trolley to charge my phone and so it will never go off. Customers increasingly pay through the phone and if your phone is off, they get irritated that they have to show you their M-Pesa messages to check whether they have truly sent the cash,” Sammy said.
She said the EcoHeat trolley is also bigger, with space for more eggs and smokies.
In a day, Sammy said, she makes about Sh3,000 on average and this goes up to Sh4,000 or Sh5,000 during weekends.
The sales figures were from when she used the old charcoal trolley with a capacity of about 100 smokies and two trays of eggs.
With the EcoHeat trolley, she can carry 200 smokies and four trays of eggs, meaning she can easily double her sales.
Esther Mwaka, also a vendor, said the EcoHeat trolleys are cleaner and more attractive to customers.
“This will make the customers easily come to buy the products because they will automatically feel this is a clean person. Customers like cleanliness,” Mwaka said.
She said the old charcoal trolley costs Sh10,000 but because it rusts easily, it needs frequent servicing.
“After three months, it has some rust and will need servicing which costs about Sh5,000,” Mwaka said.
Onkangi, who has been working with small and medium enterprises at the Coast for a while, said he came up with the idea after encountering an asthmatic smokie/egg vendor, who complained of the effects of the charcoal smoke.
Health experts warn that charcoal production and usage may result in an increased risk of cough, chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma.
“This became my concern. Why couldn’t we come up with a clean cooking solution for them so they can prevent health risks and also cut down on cost of operation?” Onkangi said.
There are two types of the EcoHeat trolley: a push trolley and a tricycle.
The tricycle EcoHeat trolley goes for Sh45,000 while the push EcoHeat trolley goes for Sh30,000.
However, Kuza Freezer has partnered with Nyali Capital Limited, who will be financing the SMEs and other interested buyers.
Nyali Capital Limited is a microfinance company providing short-term credit facilities, financial advisory services, and training programs, with operations in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, and Nyanza.
Already, Kuza Freezer has produced 30 units of the EcoHeat smokie/egg trolleys and 15 vendors, including Sammy, were financed by Nyali Capital on Saturday.
The EcoHeat trolley battery lasts eight hours before it is due for recharge at Sh50.
This means per day, a vendor will spend Sh100 on batteries, which translates to about Sh3,100 a month, unlike the Sh11,000 used on charcoal, according to Sammy.
Charging centres will be set up at different locations which are densely populated and easily accessible.
For instance, a charging centre is stationed at Bamburi, which is fast growing as a business and entertainment hub.
“We charge batteries and offer them to the vendors as a service. They don’t need to move around with solar panels on top of them. The only thing they need is access to energy,” Onkangi said.
The CEO said the cost of charcoal is ever increasing as the government discourages use of the fuel and promotes a shift to clean cooking solutions.
“The government is bringing measures to prevent deforestation. So, at the end of the day, it is not only going to be hard economically for them to use charcoal but also health-wise it is harmful,” Onkangi said.