In recent years, vending machines have been popping up across Nairobi’s numerous informal settlements – selling milk, cooking oil, clean renewable cooking fuel and sanitary pads. Although operating vending machines in deprived areas of Africa comes with challenges.
Often, shop owners can only afford the very cheapest machines, which might not be suitable for food. Power cuts, which are very common in Kenya and neighbouring countries, are an added disruption.
Zaidi Technologies has developed a different business model to counter some of these issues: it owns and installs the vending machines, the shopkeeper then pays for the electricity and provides water for cleaning. In return they receive a commission of 4 shillings for every litre of milk they sell.
Technology company, KOKO Networks, has developed its own vending machine system specifically for the African market, to supply its bioethanol cooking fuel. The company was launched in Nairobi in partnership with Shell in 2019 and now runs more than 750 bioethanol vending machines in Kenya and will enter other East African countries in the coming year.