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Cheap Indian Tablet Seeks to Bridge Digital Divide

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

India has had many false starts in innovating in information technology. While the country and its talented army of software engineers have a global reputation for innovation, the fits and starts that have accompanied attempts to create new hardware and devices have drawn a range of emotions, from amusement to frustration.

India faces an urgent problem: the country is falling behind others in the global South in access to the Internet. Based on 2009 data, there are 5.1 Internet users for every 100 Indians. This compares poorly with Brazil at 39.2 per 100 and China at 28.5.

The challenge is to find inexpensive devices that allow people to access the Internet through mobile phone networks. With 37 percent of India’s 1.21 billion people living below the official poverty line – and some estimates placing the number at up to 77 percent – cheap devices are urgently needed to reach the poor. A study developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI),  found eight Indian states account for more poor people than the 26 poorest African countries combined. The Indian states had 421 million “poor” people, compared to 410 million poor in the poorest African countries, it concluded.

The World Bank recently criticised India for lacklustre results in addressing poverty levels.

Five years ago, the Indian government launched a competitive search for an inexpensive device for the masses. The government has been supporting the development of these devices through its National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (Sakshat) (http://www.sakshat.ac.in). It aims to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities in India in an e-learning program.

The motivation behind these attempts is a good one: to try and find an affordable device to bridge the digital divide (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide) and reach the majority of the population living on less than US $2 a day.

But the search has had mixed results.

Low points included a failed attempt to make a rival to the One Laptop Per Child (http://www.onelaptop.org) computer from MIT (Massachusetts Institute for Technology) with an Indian version selling for US $10. What was offered instead in 2009 was a device with no screen or keyboard, requiring an additional laptop and paper to access its stored files. It was also made in Taiwan, rather than India.

Another first stab at making a US $35 tablet computer was launched in 2010 with much fanfare, but by January 2011 the Indian government had dropped manufacturers HCL Technologies for failing to honour its 600 million rupee (US $13 million) contract.

What these first steps show is the complexity of hardware development and how challenging it is to get the user experience right for customers while keeping the price affordable.

But India recently relaunched what it is calling the world’s cheapest tablet computer, selling for US $35. It is called Aakash (http://www.akashslate.com) (http://www.aakashcomputer.co.in), meaning “sky” in the Sanskrit language, and is being sold as an e-learning tool to bridge the digital divide in the country.

The utility of tablets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablet_personal_computer) and e-readers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_readers) for people in the global South is clear: they can enable people to bypass the lack of local library facilities to store vast personal archives of books. This is a powerful educational tool: imagine a village doctor with easy access to thousands of medical texts and papers, or a child preparing for university exams no longer having to worry they can find study texts. It also is a cost-effective way to publish in many local languages and break the stranglehold English-language publishing has had on delivering e-books.

Aakash will be sold for US $35 to educational institutions and marketed for private sale for US $61 under the UbiSlate brand name (http://www.ubisurfer.com). It is also hoped the tablet can be sold in the UK and the USA.

Jointly developed by engineers in India, Canada and the UK, it will be assembled at DataWind’s manufacturing plant in Hyderabad, India (http://datawind.com/products.html). Datawind also makes other low-cost, portable devices like the PocketSurfer3 (http://www.pocketsurfer.co.uk).

The project is run by two Indian-born Canadians, DataWind chief executive officer Suneet Singh Tuli and his brother Raja Singh Tuli.

Based in Montreal, Canada, DataWind bills itself as “a leading developer of wireless web access products and services.”

Suneet Singh Tuli wants to sell 1 million tablets a month. The first 100,000 tablets are being bought by the Indian government and then sold to university students.

The Aakash uses the Google Android operating system (http://www.android.com) and has a WiFi capability, 17.78 centimetre wide screen, two USB ports (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB) and battery that can last three hours. It can stream high-definition videos, read e-books and run Microsoft Windows Office applications.

The components in the device are a mix, including parts DataWind has designed itself to save costs.

“This is not a one-time opportunity,” Suneet Singh Tuli told the Toronto Star newspaper. “There are 2½ to 3 million students entering university every year, as well as 80 million students in Grades 9 to 12, and the government is very serious about making mobile products available to this age group.

“I could tell you a romantic story about two Indian brothers who arrive in Montreal to get a great Canadian education, become citizens, and then go back to India to bring Internet to the masses,” says Tuli.

“But the reality is, this is all about profit – my investors and board wouldn’t want it any other way.”

To compare, the Amazon Kindle Fire device (http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Fire-Color/dp/B0051VVOB2), which launched recently, sells for US $199 and has fewer features.

“The rich have access to the digital world; the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide,” Kapil Sibal, India’s education minister told the Financial Times.

India’s initiatives are heating up competition with the One Laptop Per Child project set up by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte (http://one.laptop.org). The colourful OLPC laptop sells for around US $200, and 2 million have been distributed to Latin America, Africa elsewhere.

While many companies and entrepreneurs are developing products for the poor and the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) markets, it is still a difficult thing to get right. A big issue is aspiration: consumers are still attracted to products they perceive as aspirational and quality, despite a higher price.

“(Aakash) might suffer the Nano syndrome,” Shashi Bhusan, technology analyst at brokerage Prabhudas Lilladher, told the Financial Times, referring to the cheap made-in-India car that failed to catch on (http://tatanano.inservices.tatamotors.com/tatamotors). “It is always difficult to predict the market’s reaction to a product, but what we have learnt from the Nano is that people don’t want to buy the ‘car-like’ product, they want the real thing … I feel the same will probably happen with this ‘laptop-like’ product.”

And others strongly disagree that gadgets can transcend the deep-seated social problems that need radical change.

“It is charity of a very superficial nature,” said George Mathew, director of Delhi’s Institute of Social Sciences. “It has nothing to do with the structure and permanency of our society and our system – you have to work for systemic change.”

Earlier this year an Indian company produced a rival to Amazon’s Kindle (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindle-Store/b?ie=UTF8&node=341677031). The Wink (http://www.thewinkstore.com/ereader/index) is designed to accommodate 15 common Indian languages, comes in an eye-catching design and is complemented by a sleek website stuffed with e-books ready for download. The entire package is very well-thought-out and marketed.

The Wink was developed and built by EC Media International and retails, according to its website, for Rs 8,999 (US $200). It looks similar to the Kindle, but where the Kindle is grey the Wink is white. This Indian rival has some impressive capabilities: it can not only support 15 Indian languages, it can also access an online library of more than 200,000 book titles. They range from arts and entertainment to biography, newspapers and science topics. There is also a large archive of free books for download.

But it has come in for criticism for its price, which some say is far too high for the Indian market.

As has been shown by the information technology experience in other countries, it is constant innovation and trial and error which will eventually create successes. But with persistence, this is one space to keep watching.

Published: October 2011

Resources

1) How to build your own personal computer: This guide helps to demystify computing hardware and shows how to build a computer at home. Website: http://www.buildeasypc.com/

2) Hardware design and architecture: An archive of free e-books on all aspects of computer hardware and architecture design. An outstanding resource to get anyone started in computer engineering. Website: http://www.e-booksdirectory.com/listing.php?category=38

3) Jonathan Ive is the man behind the highly successful and user-friendly modern design that has turned the Apple computer brand into such a global success story. He provides tips on how to design usable computer hardware and shares the secrets of his success. Website: http://www.wired.com/culture/design/news/2003/06/59381

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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Asian Factories Starting to go Green

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Media headlines have recently highlighted the growing air pollution crisis in Asia’s expanding cities. This is caused by a mix of factors – the growing number of vehicles, coal-powered factories, people burning dirty fuels to heat their homes, and poor enforcement of standards – and has severe consequences for human health. If it’s not tackled, more and more countries will see large rises in respiratory problems, cancers and early deaths from pollution-caused illnesses (http://www.nrdc.org/air/).

The World Health Organization (WHO) says air pollution is the world’s largest environmental health risk, killing 7 million people every year. Asia has the largest number of air pollution deaths in the world, with 3.3 million deaths linked to indoor air pollution and 2.6 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution (Clean Air Asia).

While most of the Asian countries where this is a problem are also aggressively growing their economies in order to get richer and raise living standards, there is a rising awareness of the need to balance a modern, industrial economy with human health and the environment.

One solution is to adopt green and sustainable building standards when constructing new factories. This is more than just a public relations exercise: the energy savings possible from building smart pay off in the long run. And green factories not only pollute less, they save lives and the environment.

Asia plays a critical role in producing the world’s consumer products, from the small and simple to the highly complex components used in 21st-century computing technologies.

Intel (intel.com), the manufacturer of electronic devices and the computer chips that go inside them, is trying to lead the way. It has built a US $1 billion manufacturing plant 16 kilometers outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and it is designed to exceed Vietnamese environmental and sustainability guidelines and laws.

Opened in 2010, it boasts the country’s largest solar power system. It is also currently working on a water reclamation system to reduce water consumption at the plant by 68 per cent, according to The New York Times. It is hoping to receive certification from the US Green Building Council (usgbc.org).

It is all part of a wider trend that is starting to reverse the damaging, short-termist approach of the past. More and more Western multinationals and their Asian suppliers are building environmentally sound factories in the developing world.

According to the US Green Building Council, around 300 manufacturing facilities in Asia are either certified or are awaiting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The LEED certification recognizes the building has met certain standards in becoming a ‘green’ building.

Going green is more and more part of corporate policy for companies that want to avoid the bad publicity of disasters such as the garment factory collapse that killed 1,135 people in Bangladesh in April 2013.

But it is not just driven by a desire to avoid bad publicity: large corporations that build factories in the global South are also realizing there are big financial savings to be made.

Intel has been able to reduce its global energy costs by US $111 million since 2008. It did this by investing US $59 million in 1,500 projects to boost sustainability across its facilities worldwide. The projects have reduced carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the amount produced by 126,000 American households per year.

Intel’s solar array in Vietnam, which cost US $1.1 million, offsets the equivalent of 500 pollution-belching motorbikes every day.

How effective are LEED-certified buildings? The New York Times reported that a 2011 survey compared a typical shoe factory with a LEED factory run by the American sport shoe maker Nike. It found the LEED factory used 18 per cent less electricity and fuel and 53 per cent less water.
And this trend is creating a new economy unto itself. As an example, a new marketplace for industrial efficiency upgrading is developing in India. Power outages are frequent in India, so finding a way to save electricity and alternatives to dependence on the national power grid is attractive to any economic enterprise.

Prashant Kapoor, principal industry specialist for green buildings at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), believes demand for upgrades is strong enough that various companies can specialize in this field and profit from it.

And things are also happening in the notoriously smog-choked cities of China. By the end of 2012, China had certified eight factories and 742 buildings as LEED, according to the China buildings programme at the Energy Foundation (ef.org) in San Francisco.

Damien Duhamel of Solidiance (solidiance.com), a firm that advises businesses on how to grow in Asia, believes avoiding risk caused by environmental accidents or scandals is heightened by the growing presence of social media, which amplifies negative publicity.

“The next battle will be here” for higher corporate environmental standards, Duhamel believes. “This is why some smart companies – Intel, for example – took the steps of being proactive.”

Resources

1) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. Website: http://www.usgbc.org/leed

2) US Green Building Council (USGBC): Its mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. Website: http://www.usgbc.org/

3) Dwell: Dwell magazine is focused on demonstrating that modern design can be both functional and comfortable. Website: dwell.com

4) Inhabitat: Design for a Better World: Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future. Website: inhabitat.com

5) Solidiance: Singapore-based consulting firm specializing in Asia’s green-building sector. Website: solidiance.com

6) Clean Air Asia: Clean Air Asia was established in 2001 as the premier air quality network for Asia by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and USAID. Its mission is to promote better air quality and livable cities by translating knowledge to policies and actions that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and other sectors. Website: cleanairinitiative.org

7) Southern Innovator Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization: This issue is packed with ideas on to how make cities and urban environments greener and reduce air pollution. Website: http://www.scribd.com/doc/133622315/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-4-Cities-and-Urbanization and here: http://tinyurl.com/oc2mqgm

8) Better Air Quality Conference 2014 and 8th Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia:  From 19 to 21 November 2014 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, BAQ is the leading event on air quality in Asia, covering the key sectors of transport, energy, industry and climate change, with a particular emphasis on government policies and measures. Website: http://cleanairinitiative.org/portal/node/12274

9) Tianjin Eco-city: The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city’s vision is to be a thriving city which is socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient. Website: tianjinecocity.gov.sg

10) Songdo: Songdo International Business District (IBD) officially opened on August 7, 2009 as a designated Free Economic Zone and the first new sustainable city in the world designed to be an international business district. Website: songdo.com

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

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Brazil Preserves Family Farms and Keeps Food Local and Healthy 

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Today’s global food crisis sparked by a toxic mix of events – high oil and commodity prices, food scarcity, growing populations, and environmental catastrophes – has woken many up to the urgent need to secure food supplies and help those who grow the world’s food. More and more countries are turning to local and small farms – or family farms – to offer food security when times get rough.

Right now there are more than 862 million undernourished people around the world (FAO), and U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people living on less than US $1 a day live in rural areas in developing countries and 85 percent of the world’s farms are of less than two hectares in size.

There has long been a tension between those who believe in very large farms, agribusiness and mono-crops (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mono-cropping), and those who believe in having a large number of smaller farms with a wide variety of crops and animals.

Family farming has been seen as doomed for a long time. In the 19th century, figures like philosopher Karl Marx believed they would be split into capitalist farms and proletarian labour. Most modern economists regard family farming as an archaic way to grow food, destined to give way to agribusiness. Most family farms refute this, saying family farmers have been able to operate with success in both developed and developing countries.

And small farms have endured. The livelihoods of more than 2 billion people depend on the 450 million smallholder farms across the world. With their families, they account for a third of the world’s population.

Family farms are critical to weathering economic crises and ensuring a steady and secure food supply. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (www.ifad.org) called earlier this year for small family farms to be put at the heart of the global response to high food prices and to improve food security. And in Brazil, this call is being answered by a bold initiative to create what they call a “social technology”, combining a house building programme with diverse family farms.

Brazil is currently buying up unused land and distributing it to people making land claims, including Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (http://www.mstbrazil.org). When they receive land, family farmers often find there is no house on the land, or just a very basic dwelling.

This is where the Brazilian farmer’s cooperative Cooperhaf: Cooperativa de Habitacao dos Agricultores Familiares (http://www.cooperhaf.org.br/), steps in. It has put together what it calls a “social technology” combining housing and farm diversification to support family farmers.

“We see the house as the core issue,” said Adriana Paola Paredes Penafiel, a projects adviser with the Cooperhaf. “The farmers can improve their productivity but the starting point is the house.

“Family farming is very important for the country – 70 percent of food for Brazilians comes from family farming,” said Penafiel. “The government wants to keep people in rural areas.”

Started in 2001 by a federation of farmers unions, the Cooperhaf works in 14 Brazilian states with family farmers.

“Family farmers had to organize themselves to deal with housing,” said Penafiel. “The cooperative was formed to mediate between farmers and the government. The farmers have a right in the law to a house.

“We promote diversification to make farmers less vulnerable: if they lose a crop in macro farming, they lose everything. We encourage diversification and self-consumption to guarantee the family has food everyday. We help to set up a garden.”

The concept is simple: a good quality home acts as an anchor to the family farm, making them more productive as farmers. The farmers receive up to 6,000 reals (US $2,290) for a house, and can choose designs from a portfolio of options from the Cooperhaf.

As in other countries, the Cooperhaf and other coops encourage markets and certification programmes to promote family farmed food and raise awareness. Penafiel says promoting the fact that the food is family farmed is critical: to the consumer it is healthier, fresher and contains fewer chemicals than imported produce.

“We sell a livelihood not a product. If you get to know the product, you are more conscious of what you eat.”

In the US, there are almost 2 million farms, 80 percent of which are small farms, a large percentage family-owned. More and more of these farmers are now selling their products directly to the public.

In the UK, family farms are on course to provide 10 percent of the country’s food and drink and be worth £15 billion a year.

“If we forget them, we actually may get a situation where, while meeting the world’s immediate supply targets, we wind up with an even greater imbalance in the global supply system and greater food insecurity,” said IFAD President Lennart Båge.

“Most agri business is for export,” said Penafiel. “If we don’t have food in the country, food for poor communities would not be available. This enables farmers to be more autonomous, not having to buy fertilizers and equipment and take on too much debt. That approach is not sustainable as we saw with the so-called Green Revolution.”

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: December 2008

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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African Fuel Pioneer Uses Crisis to Innovate

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Crisis, as the old saying goes, is also a window of opportunity. And there is one African entrepreneur who knows this better than most. Daniel Mugenga has been on a journey of innovation that has led him to become a pioneer in the emerging new field of algae technologies. The story of how he got there is a testament to the power of using business to both solve problems and make profits.

Kenyan entrepreneur Daniel Mugenga has found a solution to the problem of high fuel costs for the transport sector in his country. He has been making money from turning waste cooking oil and inedible vegetable oil into biodiesel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel). He then discovered that he could boost his production of biodiesel by using marine algae as a source for oil.

According to the body that represents the algae fuel industry, Oilgae (oilgae.com), algae are “plant-like organisms that are usually photosynthetic and aquatic, but do not have true roots, stems, leaves, vascular tissue and have simple reproductive structures. They are distributed worldwide in the sea, in freshwater and in wastewater. Most are microscopic, but some are quite large, e.g. some marine seaweeds that can exceed 50 m in length.”

The U.S. Department of Energy has been investigating algae as a fuel source since 1978, and it is being investigated as a potentially transformative fuel source around the world. His business, Pure Fuels Ltd. (http://www.purefuels.co.ke/), is currently seeking venture capital funding for expansion and innovation. Pure Fuels is “a commercial producer of biodiesel and also manufactures biodiesel processors, which we sell to budding entrepreneurs,” says Mugenga.

The Pure Fuels website educates readers on biodiesel as well as offering opportunities for investors and news updates. Pure Fuels was registered as a business in Kenya in 2010.

The business was born out of crisis: in 2008 there were frequent fuel shortages in Kenya and prices were volatile. That was bad news for Daniel Mugenga’s job, working for a transport company with a fleet of trucks. Rising or volatile fuel prices can destroy businesses in areas like trucking, where the biggest expense is fuel.

Mugenga began to do research into fuel alternatives in the crisis and came upon biodiesel. He then set about training in how to produce biodiesel. A period of testing, trials and research ensued between 2008 and 2010, which enabled Pure Fuels to build confidence they had something that was high  quality. The company started producing 120,000 litres of biodiesel in 2010 and increased production to 360,000 litres in 2011 and 700,000 so far in 2012. In 2011, Pure Fuels had revenue of US $230,000 from selling biodiesel.

“We started off using jatropha oil, but when its price went up it was no longer profitable,” Mugenga told the VC4Africa website blog. “Having invested in the machinery, we switched to the next quickest alternative which is used cooking oil. We source it from several of the tourist hotels along the Kenyan coast.”

Turning to cooking oil for biodiesel at first was a good idea. The company was able to get enough waste cooking oil from Kenya hotels and tourist resorts to meet demand. But as demand rose, the thorny problem of Kenya’s tourism business being seasonal arose.

“For about five months of the year, many hotels in Mombasa temporarily shut down or operate at lower capacity. Of course this is affecting the amount of waste cooking oil,” Mugenga said. This is where algae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae) comes in.

Pure Fuels found a biotechnologist in Kenya to help develop a solution using algae as a source for fuel. While the company is keeping details of its innovation secret, it is currently hunting for investors to help increase the quantity of biodiesel it can make – and in turn, revenues.

Investor funds would be used to import non-edible vegetable oil and also to continue the company’s work on extracting oil from marine algae.

Pure Fuels make a bold statement on algae fuel development: it “may actually be Kenya’s next cash crop.”

Pure Fuels sells several products: there is the biodiesel itself, as well as a processing machine called the GXP-200, which can turn customers into biodiesel manufacturers themselves. The company also builds large, industrial-scale processors that can produce between 1,000 litres and 5,000 litres a day.

Pure Fuels currently sells fuel to truck, bus and tuk-tuk companies, and also operates biofuel stations.

The firm has patented its biodiesel and makes all its fuel go through seven quality checks for purity. An in-house laboratory ensures adherence to international standards, and the company is certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (http://www.kebs.org/).

Mugenga is a passionate advocate of biodiesel’s advantages: he believes it is cheaper, and better for engines and for the environment. He admits it does have a disadvantage: it gels below 13 degrees Celsius and must be mixed 50-50 with conventional diesel to stay fluid.

Pure Fuels encourages others to use biofuels for business, throwing in a home training kit with the biodiesel processors it manufactures and sells, complete with DVDs, manuals and a business plan. The GXP-200 biodiesel processor was developed after years of experience, and Pure Fuels hopes it will be bought by people who then set up businesses – especially youth, women and the disabled. As a further incentive, Pure Fuels promises to buy the biodiesel produced. The GXP-200 was recently awarded “Most Innovative Product 2012” at a small and medium business entrepreneurs event in Nairobi.

In Israel, there are a number of pioneers working on further developing algae as a biofuel source too. Isaac Berzin of Seambiotic (seambiotic.com) sees algae as a good source for biofuel because it does not compete with food crops like other biofuel sources (sugar, potatoes, corn etc.). Algae is among a group of so-called second-generation biofuels that includes jatropha, wood and castor plants.

The disadvantage of plant-based fuel sources is they need arable land and water. This seriously holds back their ability to meet the world’s demand for fuel since they would just take up too much land and water. Algae takes up less space and produces a higher yield per acre than conventional crops.

Seambiotic makes marine microalgae using the CO2 from electric power plant flue gas. It pioneered making large quantities of fuel algae in the United States, creating the first gallons of bio-diesel and bio-ethanol from marine microalgae.

Seambiotic is also working on a US $10 million commercial microalgae farm in China, partnering with China Guodian (http://www.cgdc.com.cn/), one of the country’s largest power companies. Another Israeli company in this field is UniVerve (http://www.univervebiofuel.com/). Its CEO, Ohad Zuckerman, runs the10-person company in Tel Aviv, Israel. It is developing a new biofuel from a special strain of algae that can grow quickly in a wider range of temperatures.

Published: July 2012

Resources

1) A website with all the details on biodiesel and how to make it. Website: http://www.biodiesel.org/

2) How to make your own biodiesel. Website: http://journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_make.html

3) Oilgae is the global information support resource for the algae fuels industry. Website: http://www.oilgae.com/

4) Algae as a superfood and cancer-fighter: Chlorella. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorella

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