Arwa’s background in Biochemistry propelled his interest into bio-ethanol fuel manufacturing. It began as a classroom experiment and transformed into a business centred on providing low income households with affordable clean cooking energy by converting invasive water hyacinth into ethanol fuel.

While ethanol is traditionally made by adding yeast to products like sorghum, barley and sugar cane, CIST Ethanol Fuel uses water hyacinth, an invasive plant found in abundance in Lake Victoria. Unlike other materials used to produce ethanol, water hyacinth contains strong cellulose bonds. Arwa manufactured an enzyme which breaks these bonds through fermentation, which takes place once the hyacinth has been cleaned and shredded. Laboratory tests found that CIST Ethanol has a low sulphur content and releases minimal emissions when burnt, making it safe for cooking.

Kenyans living in rural areas and informal settlements mostly use firewood, kerosene and wick stoves to cook, all of which are costly, pose fire hazards, and have severe health and environmental implications. CIST Ethanol is nearly 40% cheaper than kerosene, and sold to entrepreneurs in refugee camps, where they resell it to make an income. Arwa has built his own equipment to separate and distil the ethanol after finding that commercially available equipment, which produces 2,000 litres of ethanol per day, is unaffordable. He plans to manufacture and sell the equipment to other small businesses.

Cist Ethanol Fuel website


What are your plans or what do you hope to achieve with your innovation in the next few years?

“We plan to increase bio-ethanol production to 3000 litres per day which is enough to supply 9000 households with clean cooking energy and 10 schools with alcohol based hand sanitisers. We plan to install 20 Automatic Ethanol fuel dispenser machines in low income communities which is expected to reduce the cost of ethanol fuel by 50% by eliminating the cost of packaging and branding. We also plan to market 9000 single burner ethanol cook stoves.”

What kind of support would you like to grow your innovation from other stakeholders such government, international organisations and the business community?

“We need financial support to purchase machinery to upscale bio-ethanol fuel production and to purchase and market dispenser machines and ethanol cook-stoves. We need technical support to leverage Cloud and IoT technology and provide CIST bio-ethanol fuel using a dense network of cloud connected ethanol Automatic Dispenser Machines. These will primarily be used as automatic ethanol fuel dispenser machines as well as digital media machines with video and radio for advertisement purposes.”