A new African Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold Chain

A new African Centre of Excellence for sustainable cooling and cold chain (ACES) based in Rwanda, will help African farmers get their produce to market quickly and efficiently, thus reducing food waste, boosting profits and creating jobs.

African farmers often lack effective ways to manage the distribution of produce after harvest and get it to market. For example, tomatoes are widely produced and consumed in Rwanda, but because of their high perishability and short shelf life, 25% of the production is lost after harvest. This is due to lack of temperature management, as tomatoes are stored on the ground covered with canvas and transported in poor quality containers. [1]


The new African Centre of Excellence for sustainable cooling and cold chain (ACES) is a collaboration between the Governments of Rwanda and the United Kingdom, UNEP’s United for Efficiency (U4E) initiative, the University of Birmingham and the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, and academics in both countries. It is being pursued through the Rwanda Cooling Initiative (R-COOL), a joint programme of U4E and Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) aimed at advancing the country’s sustainable development priorities and ambitions for enhanced collaboration on sustainable cooling across the continent.


Based in Kigali and inspired by the existing African Centre of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development at the University of Rwanda, the new Centre is operational and already conducting feasibility studies. The new Centre aims to link farmers, logistics providers and agri-food businesses with a range of experts and investors.


The Centre will be a boost for Rwanda, where farming accounts for about 30% of the country’s GDP and 73% of the workforce is directly employed in agriculture. [1] The project supports the five-year strategy of Rwanda’s National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), which aims to double agricultural exports by 2024-25 and significantly increase exports of aqua-culture, beef and other temperature-sensitive products. In future phases, the scope will be expanded to cover interested partners in Africa.


The success of the Centre will be measured in terms of: [2]

  • Increase in the value of production and “waste”.
  • Reduction of post-harvest losses.
  • Increased throughput to new markets and food exports.
  • Increased rural employment.
  • Improved diets.
  • Minimisation of CO2 impact


Upcoming projects in Q3 2020 - Q2 2021 include primary and secondary research to: [2]

  • Understand and collate the drivers of cold chain service demands, localising down to farms  (‘’first mile’’) and consumers (‘’last mile’’).
  • Identify deployment opportunities and barriers: socio-economic, e-commerce, cultural specificities, energy and infrastructure proximity.
  • Prepare a full definition of economic, technical, systems, policy, and social considerations and impact wins to feed into the design.



[1] https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/press-release/centre-excellence-rwanda-aims-support-african-farmers-and-rural

[2] https://united4efficiency.org/resources/african-centre-of-excellence-for-sustainable-cooling-and-cold-chain/