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It’s Africa’s Quiet Killer. This Entrepreneur Says He Has a Low-Cost Fix.

Category: Business,Finance

For Mr. Reynolds, the all-or-nothing uncertainties are familiar. Back in his climbing days, he habitually opted for less-traveled routes. On an ascent of Everest that featured a rarely employed bypass around a treacherous ice field, he spent 58 days camped in the thin air between 20,000 and 28,000 feet above sea level.

But Mr. Reynolds nurses fears. Once Inyenyeri demonstrates the potential in the clean cooking fuel industry, he says, greedy competitors are likely to emerge. They could pick off the wealthiest urban customers while abandoning the rural poor. They could buy wood from unsavory sources.

“I worry we could create a monster,” he says. “You’re going to see us make a lot of money, and others are going to flock to this to make even more money by not being scrupulous.”

But if the virtues of the business model have yet to be demonstrated, the demand for Inyenyeri’s product appears overwhelming. Everywhere the company expands, word-of-mouth swiftly exhausts the supply of stoves. Customers speak of emancipation from smoke, and of less need to haul jerrycans of water to their homes from taps 20 or 30 minutes away by foot, because their pots are no longer covered in soot and need less washing.

In Buzuta village, Dorcas Nyiransabimana, a mother of two, simmers beans and leaves them untended while she prepares to feed the pigs she keeps in a pen next to her house.

Twice a year, she sells piglets, fetching 15,000 Rwandan francs (about $17), an enormous sum in rural Rwanda. With her cooking fuel secured, she can spend more time scavenging for food for the pigs — milk past its sell date from a nearby dairy and discarded grains from a brewery.

Nearby, the walls of Ms. Anasthasie’s house are bare, save for a torn poster of pop stars — Rihanna, Beyoncé, Tupac. A low wooden table and three stools are the only furniture in her home. The red Inyenyeri stove glows like a totem of modernity.


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