In his 13 years of working, Richard Seshie had been troubled by the sight of fish waste in Côte d’Ivoire when small-scale fish farmers brought their produce to the market. Inaccessible and unaffordable cooling storage facilities allowed tonnes of fish to spoil every day.
“In January 2021, I decided I needed to do something about the problem. So first, I spent six months talking to the fish farmers to figure out how best to help them. My focus was on the small-scale fish farmers because a large number of those around me were in that specific sector,” he said.
Seshie was one of 15 entrepreneurs selected from an application pool of nearly 700 start-ups who participated in the Africa ClimAccelerator – first pan-African accelerator focused on scaling the most promising climate-focused innovations.
He came up with the concept of Cool Lion, a company that develops refrigerated containers powered by the sun. The product not only reduces energy consumption but also makes it easy to deploy in locations that are off the main grid, such as in rural areas.
The solar-powered portable cold rooms range in size from 3-12 metres, which means they can be used in farms or for large commercial properties. They can store produce for one week and can hold up between 1 to 5 metric tonnes depending on the volume of food. The varying sizes allow Cool Lion to cater to different customer needs.
The cost of the refrigerated containers range from $ 8,000 to $ 45,000 depending on the technical specifications and size.
Cool Lion offers two payment schemes to acquire its refrigerated containers. There is the traditional direct purchasing model, which provides the containers under a single payment or the pay-as-you-go leasing model, which provides an affordable mechanism for underserved businesses.
“We chose to create a pay-as-you-go model as it is favourable for small and medium enterprises and co-operatives that might not be able to pay for the refrigerators upfront,” explained the social entrepreneur.
Financial support is also offered under a leasing model, also known as rent-to-own, in which the final customer (co-operative or SME) pays for the container through weekly or daily instalments for a maximum period of 24 months. Once the payment is complete the customers become full owners. The payment terms are flexible as the co-operatives first pay a deposit of $ 1,000 and then $ 33 a day until the full amount is paid.
Richard is regarded as a leading start-up ecosystem builder and catalyst in Cote d’Ivoire and Francophone Africa. His company’s cold rooms have greatly improved the livelihoods of farmers who were previously losing up to 40 per cent of their produce.
But these benefits extend beyond just farmers.
“All the materials for putting the refrigerated containers come from abroad, but local technicians have been empowered to assemble them, which further creates jobs for more locals,” he added.
Cool Lion has also partnered with the National Union of Women in Côte d’Ivoire – one of the largest co-operatives in the fish business – to deploy 30 of the cold rooms.
Over the next five years, the start-up aims to continue contributing to the decarbonisation of the small-scale fisheries sector, to promote access to clean energy, and empower and increase income earnings for women through low-carbon infrastructure.
The Africa ClimAccelerator was designed to enhance the development and deployment of innovative technology to accelerate climate-positive business solutions for a net-zero Africa. From January to June 2022, programme was delivered by partner organisations GrowthAfrica and the Carbon Trust, supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (‘GIZ’) exclusively on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘BMZ’).
An original version of this article was published here on 12 April.