Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Assessing opportunities and constraints for biofuel development in sub-Saharan Africa

Graham von Maltitz
William Stafford
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 66
  • Cite this Item

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    Until the mid-2000s, biofuel feedstock production was little developed in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)¹. Although Malawi and Zimbabwe produced ethanol that was blended with petroleum, this was largely from molasses, a byproduct of the already established sugar industry, and the blended fuel was only used in relatively small domestic markets (von Maltitz and Brent 2009, Chamdimba 2009). Then from 2004 to 2008, interest in biofuels underwent a huge revival, largely attributed to the movement toward mandatory fuel blends in Europe and other developed nations (von Maltitz et al. 2009). SSA’s biofuel production potential was highlighted in several studies, helping to drive...

  2. (pp. 3-9)

    The approach adopted in this study consists primarily of 3 steps. The first is to determine the desirable outcomes from biofuel development in 4 main themes (livelihoods and development; energy poverty and security; attracting appropriate investment; and sustainable land use). The second is to explore the main production and business models that are being implemented to produce biofuel feedstocks by linking scales of production and intended markets. The third is to adopt criteria for assessing the opportunities and constraints of these different production and business models, to understand how they can achieve the desirable outcomes and what policy approaches could...

  3. (pp. 10-15)

    The SSA region has a unique set of socio-economic and environmental conditions. It is one of the poorest and least developed areas in the world (UNESC 2007, IFAD 2011) and despite relatively good agronomic conditions over large sections of SSA, the level of food insecurity remains high and rural poverty is rife (World Bank 2010). Based on a perception of large tracts of available land coupled with available labour and good agronomic conditions, a number of studies have suggested that Africa has high biofuel feedstock production potential (Smeets et al. 2007, Batidzirai cet al. 2006, Johnson and Matsika 2006, Watson...

  4. (pp. 16-32)

    Each of the 4 project types identified in section 2 is considered individually in terms of the opportunities presented for biofuel expansion, establishment constraints and policy options for enhanced benefits.

    Many of Africa’s biofuel projects are linked to investors who have acquired, or are attempting to acquire, large tracts of land for dedicated biofuel plantations (Schut et al. 2010, GEXSI 2008, Friends of the Earth Europe 2010, Oakland Institute 2009, Graham et al. 2010) (Figure 2). Although actual land allocations have been smaller than what investors applied for, there are documented examples of requests for land for single plantations in...

  5. (pp. 33-42)

    The preceding section investigated opportunities for enhancing benefits within specific feedstock production models. It is, however, very likely that, based on national priorities such as enhanced rural development, national economic benefits can be enhanced by changing the ratio of projects within different feedstock production models. Market forces and financial viability are likely to favour a specific feedstock production model. This model may not be the most optimum model from a national development perspective. In such instances, legislation and economic incentives and disincentives are needed to shift investors into different (more nationally beneficial) biofuel feedstock production models.

    Large-scale plantations are likely...

  6. (pp. 43-45)

    The preceding sections have focused on the feedstock production side of the biofuel chain, as this is where the most extensive land use change will take place and where the greatest number of job opportunities will be created. In addition, the feedstock production aspect of biofuels is where the greatest activity in SSA has taken place to date, with many projects having no processing facility, or in some cases the feedstock being directly exported in unprocessed or partly processed form (e.g. as plant oil). This means that there is very limited SSA experience in biofuel production that can be drawn...

  7. (pp. 46-48)

    Biofuel expansion in Africa is relatively new, and with a few exceptions, is still in its infancy. This makes it difficult to provide a detailed assessment of the opportunities and constraints based on specific data on operational projects; when available, most case study data applies more to the piloting and establishment phase of projects rather than to operational phases. Some conclusions can, however, be inferred from well-established agricultural production of feedstock crops that might be considered for the biofuel sector, thus not constraining the analysis to biofuel projects. Our analysis provides an overall assessment of these opportunities and constraints based...