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History and Applications

Illuminating Paraffin remains one of the cheapest sources of energy for millions of people in Southern Africa including Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa.

Although a large percentage of paraffin is for used for domestic purposes such as cooking, lighting and heating, there is also a small percentage of paraffin sold for industrial use e.g. in boilers.  End consumers have a lot of energy sources to choose from (e.g. Coal, Wood, Electricity, Gas and Solar), but Paraffin remains a much cheaper source due to its price and the prices of the appliances.

According to the Energy Development and research centre in the University of Cape Town paraffin usage will still continue in the new millennium despite electrification programs.  The research is supported by the consumption patterns of electrified households that continue to use paraffin for cooking while using electricity for lighting.

Shell is the second biggest supplier of Paraffin in Southern Africa, and has prides itself in having served this market for well over 100 years.

Paraffin Supply-Value Chain

Agents, Wholesalers and Distributors have been the main suppliers of paraffin to the domestic market for a number of years.  They serve as intermediaries between the oil company and the end consumers.  The supply of paraffin follows a long chain before it reaches the end consumer.  The long supply chain affects the price that the end consumer pays due to the margin build up. (See graphic below):

ip organigram

Communities are starting to work on initiatives that will allow them to shorten the supply chain of paraffin by establishing energy centres thereby enabling them to deal directly with an agent or with an oil company.

These projects are aimed at ensuring that the end consumer does not pay an inflated price and is also guaranteed a clean and pure product.  Research has shown the following characteristics of the paraffin market :

  • Key buying times are month ends and first week of the month.
  • Energy Use peaks on weekends when most household members are present.
  • Children from ages of 5-13 are used as fuel assistants - purchase of paraffin
  • Paraffin usage displays seasonal characteristics, with winter resulting in an increase in energy intensive activities such as heating.