At the road, the water was not boiled. We had been falling sick from typhoid fever. I’m now able to provide water that is clean...we can confidently trust that it’s safe. Proscovia Namugga
A women opening a refrigerator

A widow with ten children and many grandchildren, Proscovia Namugga is used to finding ways to make her family’s life just a little easier. In 2018, Namugga invested in a solar-powered, Global LEAP Awards-winning refrigerator which enabled her to start a booming business providing her community with cool, clean drinking water. Until Namugga bought hers, the nearest refrigerators her community could access were six kilometers away. Read the full story

In sub-Saharan Africa, only 17% of households have a refrigerator, and appliance ownership among off-grid households is substantially lower.

A line-drawing of a person and child in front of a solar powered refrigerator

4% of off-grid African households have a refrigerator.

With the system costs included, a typical 200-liter off-grid refrigerator costs at least USD 1000, which is not affordable for most households in developing countries. However, appliance affordability increases if the purchase unlocks additional income.

9x The size of the solar panel required to power a best-in-class off-grid refrigerator is nine times smaller than that of a conventional refrigerator. Read Efficiency for Access’s analysis on fridge use cases and costs.

Cumulative Market Potential

A bar chart relating to Cumulative Market Potential.

Driven by greater affordability, the market for off-grid refrigerators could see a yearly increase of up to 10%, from USD 4.4 billion in 2018 to USD 14.3 billion in 2030.

Read the 2019 State of the Off-Grid Market report.

Off-Grid Refrigerator Efficiency Trends

A bar chart relating to Off-Grid Refrigerator Efficiency Trends

The 2019 Global LEAP Awards Off-Grid Refrigerator Competition identified 21 innovative early-movers and best-in-class products.

On average, winning fridges are 28% more efficient than those just two years earlier, unlocking even higher levels of energy service and lower costs to consumers.

Improving Off-Grid Refrigerator Efficiency and Affordability

Refrigeration provides a wide range of benefits, from improving human health and productivity to reducing the domestic burden on women and children, who are usually responsible for food gathering and preparation. Outside of home use, refrigeration is indispensable in hospitals and clinics – especially for vaccine storage – and enables income-generating activities for small retailers through the sale and storage of drinks and perishable items.

The Low Energy Inclusive Appliances (LEIA) programme, the flagship initiative of Efficiency for Access, selected refrigerators as a focus technology due to an increasing demand for off-grid cooling in the household, commercial, and agricultural sectors and the potential to drive significant economic growth. Efficiency for Access helps build healthy markets for off-grid refrigerators by driving innovation and sales in early stage product markets and financing pilots and demonstration projects for nascent technologies.

If refrigerators become more efficient and affordable, food and healthcare systems would be strengthened.


Mr. Fozle Rabbi
1 of 3Mr. Fozle Rabbi, the owner of a weak-grid household located in Cumilla, Bangladesh enjoying his afternoon reading while cooling down with an off-grid fan.
An appliance seller
2 of 3An appliance seller (standing, right) from Cumilla, Bangladesh selling an off-grid fan that was procured through the Global LEAP Awards, results-based financing facility.
A retail shop
3 of 3A retail shop in the Barisal District in Bangladesh. The shop owner sells off-grid fans along with other appliances.

Cost-efficient, life-saving cooling for all

Children in front of a fan
Our lifestyle is better Parvin Akther

With their fan, Pravin and her family can now enjoy a much needed break from the summer heat. Inside Parvin’s home, temperatures can easily climb to 31°C (88°F). As Parvin and her family sipped on coconut water, they were thankful to be in close proximity to their fan. Learn more about the benefits of fans.

In a survey of 1,600+ off-grid customers, 81% said their family's quality of life had improved because of their fan.

A chart

Off-grid fans extended customers’ productive work time by 2.3 hours each day on average. 92% observed a general improvement in their family’s health. Read more.

Men in fan shop

670,000 fans were sold in 2019-the majority on a cash basis

Most fans are sold in South Asia, but sales in sub-Saharan Africa doubled in 2019. Their relatively low cost enables many customers to purchase without financing.

Learn more about the market for off-grid fans.

The 2019 State of the Off-Grid Market report estimates the cumulative market potential for fans will grow to USD 1.4 billion by 2030. The obtainable households for the off-grid fan market is predicted to reach 48 million. Read the full report.

Driving Quality of Life and Productivity Improvements Through Off-Grid Fans

For many off-grid households, air conditioning is far too expensive to own and power. Fans are the only means of making cooling accessible. As temperatures climb, the need to expand access to life-saving cooling grows, particularly in hot and humid climates like South Asia and West Africa.

Off- and weak-grid fans consume as much as 10x the amount of energy as lighting in the same setting. Driven by urgency to provide sustainable and reliable cooling solutions, Efficiency for Access is working to improve of off-grid fan efficiency and better understand the vital role fans play in the lives of off-grid consumers. Efficiency for Access programmes like LEIA and VeraSol aim to double the energy-efficiency fans and make vital product performance data accessible.

For many off-grid households and bottom of the pyramid consumers, fans are the only means of affordable and reliable cooling

We want to deploy up to a million cold chain units all across Africa within the coming years, and we know we can achieve it. The need is there and the solution is here. Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu
Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu

A man of boundless drive and infectious enthusiasm, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu spent years traveling through rural areas across Nigeria, talking to farmers about the challenges they faced. Now, through his cold storage company ColdHubs, Ikegwuonu helps Nigerian farmers, retailers and wholesalers reduce food spoilage, boost their incomes and ensure that fresh food is available across the country. In 2019, ColdHubs was the first-place winner of the Global LEAP Awards Off-Grid Cold Chain Challenge. Read the full story

Establishing cold chains as extensive and reliable as those in industrialised countries would raise food supply by 15% in developing countries – about 250 million tonnes.

Agricultural cold chains can advance global food security and improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers by reducing post-harvest losses of high-value crops, increasing profits through greater bargaining power at the marketplace, and enabling better commercialisation of agricultural produce in regional and international markets.

In 2019, Efficiency for Access announced the winners of the inaugural Global LEAP Awards Off-Grid Cold Chain Challenge (OGCCC). The OGCCC was a global competition to encourage innovation and identify the most energy-efficient, sustainable, and affordable technologies that can meet the diverse cold storage requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, flowers and fish. After nearly six months of field testing and subsequent evaluation by a panel of expert judges, ColdHubs, EcoZen, FreshBox, and Ecolife were identified as the winners. Read the full story

Types of Cold Chain in Off-Grid Areas

Fresh Fruits,
Vegetables, and
Meat and Fish
Milk Chilling
and Storage

The product categories above have significantly different requirements for cold storage, from -21°C for fish to 15°C for certain fruits. By evaluating the performance of different system and product pairings, the OGCCC surfaced information about how well these systems faired against expected cold storage requirements.

Modern Cold Chain Technology is Crucial To Developing Agriculture-Based Markets and Food Security

Cold chains manage the temperature of perishable products from farm to table and play a critical role in developing countries, where post-harvest and processing food losses for farmers can be as high as 40%. However, cold storage technology is inaccessible for many farmers due to cost, availability and lack of access to reliable electricity. The commercial market for solar-powered, off- and weak-grid appropriate agricultural solutions remains nascent; very few companies have been able to address the cost barrier or navigate the complex set of stakeholders across the agricultural cold storage value chain.

Efficiency for Access is working to stimulate cold storage innovation and advance markets for smallholders and retailers around the globe. In 2020, with support from the IKEA Foundation and UK aid, the Efficiency for Access Research & Development Fund provided grant funding to three companies developing cold chain technologies and products in India, Tanzania, and the DRC. Read more.

As global temperatures rise, cooling technologies like refrigerators, fans, and cold chain are essential for health, productivity, and survival. Appropriately designed, high performing technologies promise cooling services at minimal cost and the most potential for scale.