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A view of solar panels at the green hydrogen proof-of-concept site in Vredendal, Western Cape, South Africa, in November 2022.


How to recharge Africa’s electrification dreams

Africa’s dreams of providing universal access to electricity by 2030 are in jeopardy thanks largely to a change in tune from China. The pandemic’s impact on the Chinese economy, years of debt-sustainability concerns, and plenty of bad press have zapped China’s ability and willingness to fund African power projects.

How did Africa come to rely on China? Over the past decade, some African leaders argued that conventional lenders and Western countries were not dependable partners. They urged countries to look instead to China to fill funding gaps to power the continent’s energy infrastructure goals.

As a result, China’s contribution to Africa’s power sector has been enormous: The International Energy Agency estimates that the amount of generation capacity from China’s 2010-2020 contracts in the region was around 17 gigawatts – projects mostly financed with Chinese loans and, to a lesser extent, equity, grants, and blended finance.

But today, Chinese investment in African power projects is declining sharply, leaving governments exposed to a potential shortfall in energy funding over the coming decade.

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