In developed and developing countries, biofuels could hardly be viewed more differently. In developed countries they are modern, even trendy, with broad government support driving consumption levels to record highs.
In the developing world, typified by the traditional three-stone fire, biofuels are a symbol of the not-so-good-old days. Known mainly by their common names of wood and charcoal, they are seen as a barrier to economic progress and a major source of illness. Governments have recognized this, prompting a revolution in energy use that is already underway. Part of this involves a massive shift from cooking with wood and other forms of biomass to cooking with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Today Rwanda is at a crossroads. The transition from traditional firewood and charcoal to cleaner fuels is growing at a breathtaking pace. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or cooking gas is at the forefront of this growth story due to its emergence as the most popular and reliable kitchen fuel in the country.
Just as the telecom sector transformed Rwandan lives in the last decade and a half, LPG will do the same in this decade and the next. The New Times’ Joseph Mudingu had a one on one with the Managing Director of Safe Gas Ltd, Mugabo Liban, on the advantages of using LPG and gas.
According to Mugabo, as players in the LPG and gas space, they are proud to be leading the charge as the main suppliers of gas in Rwanda. “The question is how can cooking gas or LPG change our way of living? Simple! Cooking has been around forever and will always be part of everyone’s everyday life. This is not a speculative market and because it is a part of everyone’s life, it is a very large target market. LPG will take this routine task and revolutionize the way in which we all do it,” says Mugabo.
Mugabo admits that LPG has been in Rwanda for many years but it has taken time for people to adapt to it. However, he says that things are changing and the time is now.
“LPG was first introduced in Rwanda in the 1990s. For many years since, it was considered to be the rich man’s fuel, due to its limited availability and lack of distribution facilities. However, during the last couple of years, LPG has emerged as the most popular and reliable kitchen fuel in the country as availability has increased significantly and cooking gas companies have built up distribution channels that make it available to a much wider population and at an affordable cost,” explains Mugabo.
He adds that LPG is less volatile and lighter than other kitchen fuels. “LPG is considered safe, convenient and reliable, and has become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Apart from these qualities LPG also contributes to the improved health of consumers over such common fuels as charcoal and firewood, due to its smokeless nature. Second, important for our country and today’s world, it is an environmentally responsible choice to make. Third, rapid urbanization and the rise of the middle-class will continue to drive the need for LPG-related products and services in Rwanda,” he adds.
Asked whether they are the leaders in the market, Mugabo admits that despite LPG’s massive market potential, there is no clear market leader. “There are both small and big companies that are still fighting it out for market share. Until now, no one has really found the recipe to win in the LPG space. But at Safe Gas, we think that we have found the recipe to be a true winner and trusted brand in the LPG market. Through quality, customer service, innovation and prices that are accessible to a wider public,” says Mugabo.
He added that their cylinders are the new standard for the industry. They are made of fiberglass. This material is incredibly strong and is used in various applications within defense and space technology. “This is exactly where we want to be – not a speculative product but, rather, one that integrates technology. We have embarked on the journey of providing modern day benefits to the Rwandan population. It is our strong belief that we are on the brink of changing Rwandans’ lives for the better and forever,” concludes Mugabo.
According to the International Energy Agency’s vision of the future, the so-called ‘Universal Modern Energy Access Case’ (UMEAC), nearly half a billion people made the switch by 2015, with another three-quarter billion joining them by 2030.