Demand for cooling is hot in Nigeria. Here’s why

In Kano, Nigeria, an employee from dairy producer L&Z loads yoghurt into a solar powered refrigerated tricycle developed by cold chain innovator Eja Ice. These two Nigerian companies received support from IFC’s TechEmerge programme to pilot the technology. Photo by IFC/Freya PR Agency.

This piece is an excerpt of an article first published by the IFC.

Demand for cooling is rising fast across a rapidly-warming globe. But responding to the need isn’t as obvious as it may seem – because cooling systems are also heating up the climate. It’s a vicious cycle: air conditioning and refrigeration units emit 7% of all greenhouse gases, a major contributor to climate change, and those emissions warm the world further.

The call for energy-efficient solutions is more pressing than ever, especially in emerging markets that are experiencing the ongoing impact of climate change, urbanisation, and economic development. For example, cooling demand in India is growing by 15% to 20% annually; commercial and domestic demand for refrigeration is expected to quadruple over the next 20 years.

Because cooling is essential for human health and economic development – to protect life-saving vaccines and medicines, prevent food from spoiling, safeguard communities during heatwaves, power energy sources, and much more – start-up companies around the world are creating technologies to make cooling solutions more sustainable and cost-effective.

Businesses in Nigeria are now implementing cooling pilot projects through their partnership with IFC’s TechEmerge programme, which matches startups developing sustainable cooling solutions with companies in emerging markets. Here’s a closer look at promising solutions in Nigeria’s food sector.

Cooling solutions for Nigeria

On a good day, Adeola Mojodi says, the electricity at his small office in Ikeja, Nigeria stays on for about 16 hours. That’s a problem because Mojodi, a local agent for FanMilk, must keep milk and other dairy products cold before vendors pick them up for delivery.

Usually a diesel generator kicks in to power the refrigerators, but diesel is expensive – and also pollutes the environment. More frequent power outages have threatened his business and made distribution of fresh milk more difficult in the community he serves. After FanMilk sent him a Koolboks solar-powered refrigerator, worries about his inventory started to fade. Koolboks refrigerators, developed by a French startup that is scaling solar refrigeration across Africa, keep food cool without grid power.

During a recent power outage, moving his products into the Koolboks refrigerator “saved the day,” he says, because he didn’t have to throw anything away. “We had no damages … and the vendors were able to go out that same day” to supply the community with milk and dairy products. If most of his refrigerators and freezers operated on solar energy, he says, “it would really help the business”.

Koolboks’ proprietary solar-powered freezer has also been tested at a retail store in Lagos to store frozen poultry for delivery to last-mile customers. Photo by IFC/Freya PR Agency.

Mojodi is one of more than 1 billion people – the vast majority of whom live in Africa and Asia – whose lack of access to cooling poses serious risks to health, development, the climate, and individual livelihoods. Solar-powered refrigerators and freezers like those from Koolboks, part of a TechEmerge pilot, aim to offer cost-effective, dependable options.

To meet the need for long-haul transportation solutions, TechEmerge has paired cold chain innovators Indafre (Colombia) and Tessol (India) with major Nigerian food and pharma retailers such as Câm Dairy, Anthorad/Relifood, Spar, and GSK. The companies are testing climate-friendly thermal storage technology to transport frozen and chilled commodities such as dairy products, frozen chicken, fresh fruits and vegetables, and pharmaceuticals.

A pilot with TechEmerge has enabled Câm Dairy to develop cold supply chains that safely transport milk produced by pastoralist communities in the northern part of Nigeria to aggregation centres, central milk processing plants, and consumers. Câm Dairy field-tested refrigerated trucks built with technology from Tessol as well as specialised cold boxes from Indafre and Tessol to transport smaller volumes using normal “dry” trucks. Results indicate that these technologies were able to maintain the temperature for 24 or 36 hours without the use of electricity or fossil fuels.

Indafre boxes were also tested for retail storage and last-mile transport. In a pilot with Anthorad and Relifood, Indafre eliminated the need to run a diesel or petrol generator to keep meat cold, and opening and closing the cooling box during market trading had a minimal impact on the temperature.

Such solutions could strengthen food security within Nigeria and across the continent. Food losses in sub-Saharan Africa reach $4 billion every year, according to the FAO.

Currently, Nigeria loses 40% to 50% of the total food produced every year, and the lack of cold storage and refrigerated transportation accounts for at least a quarter of post-harvest losses. For example, an estimated 40% of Nigeria’s yam crop yields are wasted because there is no successful temperature-controlled commercial yam storage facility.

One new solution is a low-cost insulated storage facility built of adobe bricks and powered by a mechanical refrigeration system to prolong the shelf life of yam tubers for up to four months. The adopter, Nigerian company TAK Logistics, will continue to develop the project and offer a commercially viable solution to farmers and traders for safe storage of yam tubers for consumption in the off season.