Energy for Growth Hub
Memo Dec 02, 2020

Coal’s Future in Africa is Dim

Shaping Energy Transitions

As all regions transition to a cleaner energy future, coal-fired power is in the spotlight. As the region with the greatest shortages of energy, might Africa have a coal future?

Coal-to-power today is very modest outside South Africa

As of 2020, 34 coal-fired power plants totaling ~53GW of installed capacity provide about a third of all electricity produced on the African continent (see Table 1). Yet, 86% of this capacity is in one country, South Africa. Even so, the region’s coal capacity is a fraction of the global total:

Country/Region Power Stations (#) Capacity (MW)
Africa 34 52,812
Of which:
South Africa 19 45,408
Morocco 4 4,257
Zimbabwe 2 1,620
Zambia 2 330
Mauritius 3 195
Rest of Africa* 4 1,002
China 1,077 1,004,948
United States 263 246,187
India 281 228,964
Source: Global Energy Monitor (2020). *One plant each in Senegal, Namibia, Madagascar, and Botswana.

But what about new coal?

The rest of the world dwarfs Africa’s current coal-to-power industry, but many fear a potential coal boom on the continent, especially in countries with domestic coal resources. As of 2020, the Global Coal Plant Tracker lists 25 potential new coal plants (excluding refurbishments) across Africa. Even though these projects are still relatively minor in global context, we analyzed publicly-available information for each project and assessed the likelihood of actually reaching completion (see Table 2).

Conclusion. Only one (relatively small) of the 25 potential coal projects appears likely to commission soon. Nine further projects, with a combined proposed capacity of 3,410 MW, appear possible, although they are all in a very early pre-construction phase. Fifteen are already cancelled or appear unlikely to reach completion. In short, the future of coal power in Africa is dead.


Project Country Capacity (MW) Status Assessment
Keita Niger 100 Likely Under construction, due to open end 2020
Mabesekwa Export Independent Power Botswana 600 Unclear Incomplete financing, pre-construction, partially licensed
Sese Integrated Power Botswana 450 Unclear Partially licensed, unfunded
Imaloto Coal Madagascar 60 Unclear Pre-construction planning
Kamwamba Malawi 300 Unclear Stalled
Rukuru Malawi 100 Unclear Pre-construction, no recent info
Tete Mozambique 200 Unclear No recent info, pre-permit stage
Mbeya Coal to Power Tanzania 300 Unclear Pre-construction
Binga Unit 1A + 1B Zimbabwe 700 Unclear No recent info
Sengwa Zimbabwe 700 Unclear Pre-construction, faces opposition
Yayu Ethiopia 90 No/Unlikely Cancelled but could revive
San Pedro Port Ivory Coast 700 No/Unlikely No progress, likely dead
Kitui Kenya 960 No/Unlikely Paused
Lamu Power Kenya 1050 No/Unlikely Licenses revoked
Pamodzi Unit 1 Malawi 120 No/Unlikely Shelved
Benga (Kibo Energy) Mozambique 300 No/Unlikely Only announced
Cahora Bassa Mozambique 120 No/Unlikely Shelved
Ncondezi Mozambique 300 No/Unlikely Delayed
Musina-Makhado South Africa 3000 No/Unlikely Shelved
Khanyisa South Africa 300 No/Unlikely Funders withdrew, licenses revoked
Transalloy South Africa 150 No/Unlikely No developments
Ngaka Tanzania 270 No/Unlikely Shelved
Rukwa Coal to Power Tanzania 120 No/Unlikely Shelved
Chipata Zambia 300 No/Unlikely Shelved
Bulawayo Zimbabwe 90 No/Unlikely Non-operational
Source: Global Energy Monitor (2020) and other publicly available data.


Likely: Project at an advanced stage of development and expected to commission soon.
Unclear: Project at an early stage of development or lacking any clear signs of significant recent progress.
No/Unlikely: Project has been shelved, suffered major setbacks, or has shown no progress for multiple years.