December 2, 2020
Coal’s Future in Africa is Dim
By Jacob Kincer, Todd Moss

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/RegionPower Stations (#)Capacity (MW)
Of which:
South Africa1945,408
Rest of Africa*41,002
United States263246,187
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.


ProjectCountryCapacity (MW)StatusAssessment
Keita Niger100LikelyUnder construction, due to open end 2020
Mabesekwa Export Independent Power Botswana600UnclearIncomplete financing, pre-construction, partially licensed
Sese Integrated PowerBotswana450UnclearPartially licensed, unfunded
Imaloto Coal Madagascar60UnclearPre-construction planning
RukuruMalawi100UnclearPre-construction, no recent info
Tete Mozambique200UnclearNo recent info, pre-permit stage
Mbeya Coal to PowerTanzania300UnclearPre-construction
Binga Unit 1A + 1BZimbabwe700UnclearNo recent info
Sengwa Zimbabwe700UnclearPre-construction, faces opposition
YayuEthiopia90No/UnlikelyCancelled but could revive
San Pedro Port Ivory Coast700No/UnlikelyNo progress, likely dead
Lamu Power Kenya1050No/UnlikelyLicenses revoked
Pamodzi Unit 1Malawi120No/UnlikelyShelved
Benga (Kibo Energy) Mozambique300No/UnlikelyOnly announced
Cahora BassaMozambique120No/UnlikelyShelved
Ncondezi Mozambique300No/UnlikelyDelayed
Musina-MakhadoSouth Africa3000No/UnlikelyShelved
Khanyisa South Africa300No/UnlikelyFunders withdrew, licenses revoked
Transalloy South Africa150No/UnlikelyNo developments
Ngaka Tanzania270No/UnlikelyShelved
Rukwa Coal to PowerTanzania120No/UnlikelyShelved
Chipata Zambia300No/UnlikelyShelved
Bulawayo Zimbabwe90No/UnlikelyNon-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.
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