The future of Clean Cooking in Kenya

Established just five years ago, Proto Energy operates as a subsidiary of the Kenya Energy Group (KEG), a prominent bulk importer of LPG for over a decade. Leveraging KEG’s extensive infrastructure and logistics network, Proto Energy focuses on downstream distribution, delivering affordable LPG to households and businesses across Kenya and East Africa.

The brand has swiftly ascended to a leading market position, making this essential product accessible and aspirational. Currently, their key initiatives include transitioning schools in Kenya from firewood to LPG, encouraging conservation by involving students in tree planting and educational programs about climate change, and finally providing an affordable way for every Kenyan to switch to clean cooking with LPG. Additionally, they are actively working to stem the effects of climate change in Kenya by converting cars to run on LPG rather than petrol. As a diverse company committed to community engagement, Proto Energy envisions a dynamic and exciting future for clean cooking and cleaner vehicles through our innovative initiatives.

Amanda Donahue, CEO of Kenya Energy Group, leads both the upstream and downstream channels of this expansive LPG business. Her executive journey has spanned continents and diverse industries, and she only entered LPG three years ago in Kenya. “When I made the decision to exit the corporate rat race in the U.S. and arrived in Kenya 14 years ago, my initial plan was to take a six-month sabbatical. What has transpired is a winding journey from poultry farming to maternal health clinics to FinTech and now to LPG.”
Amanda developed a deep understanding of the local Kenyan economy and the needs of its people. “You cannot underestimate the imagination, drive and innovation of the Kenyan people – it is simply remarkable.” Amanda joined KEG early on in the COVID pandemic and weathered tremendous inflation, tumultuous Kenyan Elections, and managed to maneuver all those hurdles and continue to innovate and grow the company.

KEG and Proto are focused on several innovative programs in 2024 and beyond. A key tenet of her leadership, Proto Energy hires and promotes women throughout the organisation and has started a program to empower women from low income areas to become delivery tuktuk drivers in the market. This program, coined “Queens of the Road” is completely unique within the gas industry, taking women through a 6-week course of not only obtaining their driving license but equally important, gaining skills in financial management, customer service and even self defense. Women who had few options for gaining such skills are running their own delivery routes, earning income plus commissions and gaining an independence and self worth that cannot even be measured. For those women who pass the training course, they are given a one-year renewable contract with Proto Energy where they will make $1200 USD per month to help support their family compared to the national average income of $78 USD per month. This is a life change amount of money that not only impacts the woman’s direct family but the entire community. They have proven to be hard-working, loyal, competent and strong employees.

Another key initiative that is on a fast growth track is Proto’s technology innovations for traditional cylinders. New advanced cylinders connect with an App to allow for virtual payments. Payments made through “M-pesa” are now the norm in Kenya, an innovative and easy system used by everyone, across generations and in every part of Kenya, to include even herdsmen in remote villages to send and receive payments. Leveraging technology on all fronts, Proto is paving the way for all Kenyans to be able to afford LPG. Once the major barrier to entry, the cost of the outright cylinder will now be spread out over time. Women who used to spend hours per day on cooking with traditional sources of energy will now have time back in their lives, have the ability to perhaps work outside the home and drastically reduce the negative health impacts from smoke.

It is estimated that 2.8 million trees can be saved annually by switching to LPG and just as significant is the health impact for Kenyans, about 7,200 lives can be saved per year due to avoiding smoke inhalation from charcoal and firewood. Within the company and in its approach to business, KEG is disrupting the market in a good way, with these multifaceted programs to make clean cooking with LPG accessible to all. Through its education programs, KEG will help to teach the next generation and move Kenya away from being charcoal and wood dependent. KEG is dedicated to not only the environmental impact but to cost-effectiveness and unparalleled service to the end user, which Amanda attributes to ultimately propelling the company into its position as the market leader.

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