This morning I chose to make breakfast for my wife Susan and the family. So I simply switched on the cooker then proceeded to cook. In less than twenty minutes, breakfast was ready. The cooking was fast, clean, efficient and healthy because I used Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG).
LPG is both environmentally friendly and healthy because it emits less greenhouse gases than charcoal, wood or paraffin. Unfortunately, only ten percent of Kenyans use it because its cost remains prohibitive.
75 percent of Kenyan households use charcoal and firewood for their cooking. This number is even higher in rural Kenya, where at least nine out of ten Kenyans use charcoal and firewood to cook. As a matter of urgency, this must change because 36 million Kenyans are adversely affected by unclean cooking.
In a 2019 Kenya Household Sector Cooking Study, the Hon. Charles Keter, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Energy noted that, ‘It is expected that clean cooking will reduce the country’s annual disease burden attributable to Household Air Pollution from 49% (21,560) to 20%.’
LPG is the surest bet for affordable clean cooking. That is why most of us applauded the government a few years ago when it introduced the Gas Yetu project, which sought to enhance LPG penetration from the current 10% to 70% within 3 years. Unfortunately, the project became mired in corruption allegations and bureaucratic bottlenecks. As the Government works to fix this awkward mess, the private sector’ must be fully empowered and incentivized to produce affordable LPG that will reach a critical mass of Kenyans.
In the May 5th Kenya Tanzania Business Forum that was graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Samia Suluhu Hassan, we got a taste of some of the roadblocks that stand in the way of the private sector as it tries to solve the LPG problem. At some point during the Forum, most successful Tanzanian Businessman Hon. Rostam Aziz passionately spoke about the severe challenges he has faced in his quest to invest Ksh14 billion worth LPG business in Kenya.
Hon. Rostam informed the Kenya Tanzania Business Forum that despite President Uhuru himself inviting him to invest in Kenya, his subsequent investment proposal has encountered various barricades from greedy individuals and eventually he never received any response from relevant institutions over three years later.
Such Kenyan official’s anti-investor arrogance that seeks to reap from where they did not plant must cease immediately. We cannot be seen to walk away from a Ksh14 billion investment that seeks to create thousands of jobs and avail LPG to thousands of poor households across Kenya’s 47 Counties. We must make investment into Kenya, especially from East African investors, as easy as ABC. As a sign of good faith to President Suluhu and the great Tanzanian people I suggest that our President quickly guarantees to unlock this unjustifiable and most embarrassing stalemate. The gridlock lies at Kenya Ports Authority, Ministry of Energy and National Environment Management Authority.
Our tax regime should also be conducive for investment. On this front, the re-introduction of VAT on LPG in the Finance Bill will derail the gains made in LPG usage and the consequent environmental conservation that comes along with it. Besides as part of the Paris Agreement’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Kenya has committed to cut 32% of its emissions by 2030. On that score, reintroduction of VAT on LPG is self-defeating as it will make LPG more expensive and hence strip it away from the kitchens of Kenyans who will no longer be able to afford it.
It is un-Godly to allow the basic act of cooking to endanger the health of millions of Kenyans and the well-being of our environment. We must make LPG affordable and thus widely available for millions of Kenyans.
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