May 21, 2021
Update: Coal’s Future in Africa is (Still) Dim
By Jacob Kincer, Todd Moss

This memo uses updated project information since our December 2020 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.

Country/RegionPower Stations (#)Capacity (MW)
Of which:
South Africa1946,672*
United States252233,621

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.
  • Eight plants are already shelved or very unlikely. A further 13 projects of 9.7 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 over one-third of the capacity we rate as still unclear.

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


ProjectCountryCapacity (MW)StatusAssessment
ZhongXinZimbabwe300LikelyUnder construction, but delayed due to COVID
Mabesekwa Export Independent Power Botswana600UnclearIncomplete financing, pre-construction, partially licensed
Morupule IPPBotswana600UnclearUnfunded, pre-construction
Sese Integrated PowerBotswana450UnclearPartially licensed, unfunded
LubhukuEswatini300UnclearOnly announced
Imaloto Coal Madagascar60UnclearPre-construction planning
RukuruMalawi100UnclearPre-construction, no recent info
Benga (Kibo Energy) Mozambique300UnclearPre-construction, submitted draft PPA
Ncondezi Mozambique300UnclearDelayed, but submitted revised plans
TeteMozambique200UnclearNo recent info, pre-permit stage
Musina-MakhadoSouth Africa3000UnclearPre-permit, no recent news
Mbeya Coal to PowerTanzania300UnclearPre-construction
Binga Unit 1A + 1BZimbabwe700UnclearPre-construction, planning
Sengwa Zimbabwe2800UnclearPre-construction, faces opposition, new Phase 2
YayuEthiopia90No/UnlikelyCancelled but could revive
San Pedro Port Ivory Coast700No/UnlikelyNo progress, likely dead
Lamu Power Kenya1050No/UnlikelyLicenses revoked, likely dead
KamwambaMalawi300No/UnlikelyDelayed pre-construction
Pamodzi Unit 1Malawi120No/UnlikelyShelved
Khanyisa South Africa300No/UnlikelyFunders withdrew, licenses revoked
Transalloy South Africa150No/UnlikelyComplex under force majeure
Western Coal and EnergyZimbabwe600No/UnlikelyExtremely 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.

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