Who Finances Energy Projects in Africa?

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Energy infrastructure facilitates economic growth, generates jobs, increases productivity and reduces the cost of doing business. Yet, many African countries experience a wide range of energy deficits, including low rates of electricity access and a lack of clean cooking fuels and technologies. About 600 million people—43 percent of Africa’s population—lacked access to electricity in 2021.

However, Africa has an abundance of energy potential. The continent uses only 11 percent of its hydropower potential and 0.01 percent of its wind potential; it also holds 60 percent of the world’s solar resources. The desire among African leaders and policymakers to harness the opportunities of the continent’s energy resource potential has led to high demands for energy finance. Africa requires between $35 billion and $50 billion in energy finance to reach the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Seven: access to affordable and clean energy for all. However, the continent attracts less than 5 percent of global energy investment.

In a new working paper published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Oyintarelado (Tarela) Moses tracks committed public and private energy finance to Africa from Group of Twenty (G20) countries and multilateral development banks (MDBs) from 2012-2021. She finds that while the amount of energy finance supplied to African countries over the past decade was enough to address the continent’s energy finance gap, unequal distribution has left many countries behind.

Main findings:

  • Public and private energy finance to Africa from G20 countries and MDBs from 2012-2021 totaled $345.76 billion. Amounting to an average of about $35 billion per year, this finance was within the estimated $31.5 billion to $45 billion range necessary to address Africa’s annual energy finance gap, but 77 percent of all finance over the ten-year period went to just 10 countries: Egypt, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Morocco, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
  • China, France, Italy, the United States and the World Bank Group supplied the majority of energy finance to Africa between 2012-2021.
  • A near-total reduction of funding for coal projects began around 2018, reflecting the policy priority among these major funders to stop financing overseas coal projects.
  • Most of the $345.76 billion in energy finance for African countries went to projects with gas/liquefied natural gas (LNG), mixed fossil fuels and solar energy sources.


Overall, the average amount of energy finance commitments that flowed to Africa from 2012-2021 may have been within the range of estimated need, but the unequal distribution risked leaving many countries behind. Moses suggests that policymakers in financing countries could prioritize finance distribution based on annual demands from historically low-level recipients, diversify financiers by redirecting financing to African regional banks and investors and use public finance to crowd in private finance to projects with high potential for energy access in Africa.


Download the full document.