Rwanda based sustainable cooling centre ACES receives US$3.5m funding to spearhead operations

RWANDA – The Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain (ACES) in Rwanda has received US$3.5 million funding boost from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of UK.

ACES was established in 2020 by the Governments of Rwanda (GoR) and the United Kingdom (UK), UNEP’s United for Efficiency initiative, the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, and a range of academic institutions i.e., University of Rwanda, University of Birmingham, Cranfield University, London South Bank University and Heriot Watt University.

The cooling centre aims to help get African farmers’ produce to market quickly and efficiently, reducing food waste, increasing profits and creating jobs.

In addition, ACES is looking to improve cold-chains for vaccines and health, now recognised globally as a key challenge for COVID-19 immunisation.

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The centre is bringing together energy, technology, finance and policy expertise from the UK and in-country.

“After over three years of strategic planning and development, we are delighted to have a permanent home and world-class team coming into place at the ACES headquarters in Kigali.

UNEP’s ACES lead and U4E cooling portfolio manager – Brian Holuj

It offers an opportunity for commercial partners to develop and demonstrate pathways to delivering affordable, lowest carbon emissions cooling and cold-chain systems while meeting Africa’s social and economic cooling needs.

It will provide teaching and industrial collaboration to put into action integrated sustainable cooling solutions into action.

Defra’s investment will be used to support the centre’s design and technology kit-out, the work of its British university partners, the University of Rwanda and its hiring of the first-ACES dedicated academics as host of the centre.

“After over three years of strategic planning and development, we are delighted to have a permanent home and world-class team coming into place at the ACES headquarters in Kigali.

“The first Living Laboratory is being prepared to set the stage for similar collaborative efforts with showcase communities throughout Africa,” UNEP’s ACES lead and U4E cooling portfolio manager, Brian Holuj, said.

Associated ‘Living Labs’ will conduct research and offer technical assistance to the ACES hub.

The first Living Lab in rural Rwanda is anticipated for launch in 2022, with additional ones being explored by African governments to scale up the reach of ACES.

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According to the press release by Cranfield University, 73% of Rwanda workforce is employed in agriculture, dominated by six million small and marginal farmers.

The project supports Rwanda’s strategy to double agricultural exports by 2024-25 and significantly increase exports of aqua-culture, beef and other temperature-sensitive products.

“Improving the cool and cold supply chain in Africa could be a major boost to both the environment and the economy through reduced food loss and waste.

“We are delighted to be adding Cranfield’s expertise in postharvest management and food science to this vital project,” Dr Natalia Falagán, Lecturer in Food Science and Technology in the Plant Science Laboratory at Cranfield University and co-designer of this initiative, said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in sub-Saharan Africa, between 40 percent and 50 percent of produce go to waste before reaching the end customer, largely due to a lack of viable cold chain solutions.

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