Energy for Growth Hub
Memo Jul 20, 2021

Update July 2021: Coal’s Future in Africa is (Still) Dim

Shaping Energy Transitions

This memo uses updated project information since our December 2020 and May 2021 analysis.

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

Using the latest data, 36 coal-fired power plants totaling ~54 GW of installed capacity provide about a third of all electricity produced on the African continent (Table 1). Yet, 86% of this capacity is in one country, South Africa.

Table 1: Coal Power

Country/Region Power Stations (#) Capacity (MW) Percent of World
World 2,449 2,059,358 100
China 1,082 1,042,947 51
United States 252 233,621 11
India 281 229,247 11
Africa 36 54,266* 2.64
Of which:
South Africa 19 46,672* 2.21
Morocco 4 4,257 .21
Zimbabwe 3 1,810* .09
Botswana 2 732 .04
Zambia 2 330 .01
Mauritius 3 195 .01
Madagascar 1 120 .01
Namibia 1 120 .01
Senegal 1 30 .001

Source: Global Energy Monitor (2021). *Includes existing projects where additional units are under refurbishment or construction.

What about new coal?

Africa’s current coal capacity is a fraction of the global total, but many fear a potential boom on the continent, especially in countries with domestic coal resources. As of 2021, the Global Coal Plant Tracker lists 22 potential new coal plants (excluding refurbishments and existing complexes) across Africa with a total capacity of 13 GW. To assess how many of these projects will actually happen, we analyzed publicly-available information for each project and rated the likelihood of completion (see Table 2). Here’s what we found:

  • Only one coal plant with just 0.3 GW appears likely to commission anytime soon.
  • Nine plants are already shelved or very unlikely. A further 12 projects of 6.9 GW are unclear; progress is possible, but they are all in a very early phase.
  • Zimbabwe, a country notorious for announcing projects that rarely reach fruition, is the main outlier. It is home to the only project rated as likely and a quarter of total pipeline capacity. The 2.8 GW Sengwa project (previously rated Unclear) lost its financial backing in June 2021 and has been downgraded to No/Unlikely.

Conclusion: We remain confident that the future of coal in Africa is dead.

Table 2: New Coal Projects in Africa

Project Country Capacity (MW) Status Assessment
ZhongXin Zimbabwe 300 Likely Under construction, but delayed due to COVID
Mabesekwa Export Independent Power Botswana 600 Unclear Incomplete financing, pre-construction, partially licensed
Morupule IPP Botswana 600 Unclear Unfunded, pre-construction
Sese Integrated Power Botswana 450 Unclear Partially licensed, unfunded
Lubhuku Eswatini 300 Unclear Only announced
Imaloto Coal Madagascar 60 Unclear Pre-construction planning
Rukuru Malawi 100 Unclear Pre-construction, no recent info
Benga (Kibo Energy) Mozambique 300 Unclear Pre-construction, submitted draft PPA
Ncondezi Mozambique 300 Unclear Delayed, but submitted revised plans
Tete Mozambique 200 Unclear No recent info, pre-permit stage
Musina-Makhado South Africa 3000 Unclear Pre-permit, no recent news
Mbeya Coal to Power Tanzania 300 Unclear Pre-construction
Binga Unit 1A + 1B Zimbabwe 700 Unclear Pre-construction, planning
Yayu Ethiopia 90 No/Unlikely Cancelled but could revive
San Pedro Port Ivory Coast 700 No/Unlikely No progress, likely dead
Lamu Power Kenya 1050 No/Unlikely Licenses revoked, likely dead
Kamwamba Malawi 300 No/Unlikely Delayed pre-construction
Pamodzi Unit 1 Malawi 120 No/Unlikely Shelved
Khanyisa South Africa 300 No/Unlikely Funders withdrew, licenses revoked
Transalloy South Africa 150 No/Unlikely Complex under force majeure
Sengwa Zimbabwe 2800 No/Unlikely Pre-construction, faces opposition, new Phase 2, Funders withdrew June 2021
Western Coal and Energy Zimbabwe 600 No/Unlikely Extremely Preliminary

Source: Global Energy Monitor (2021) 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.