Africa received $175 billion in greenfield project announcements in 2023  

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African countries received $175 billion in greenfield project announcements in 2023.

According to the 2024 World Investment Report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the number of announced greenfield projects in 2023 increased by 7% to 830, from 775 in 2022.

However, the value of these proposed projects declined to $175 billion, from $196 billion in 2022.

Global greenfield projects increased by 2% to approximately 18,442, with 10,435 projects announced in developed economies and 8,007 in developing economies.

In the United States alone, the number of announced greenfield projects was 2,152 in 2023.

It was contained in the report that a $34 billion green hydrogen project announced in Mauritania was the largest greenfield project announced globally in 2023.

What are greenfield projects?  

Greenfield projects are initiatives that involve the development of new facilities, infrastructure, or operations on previously undeveloped land.

These projects start from scratch (“greenfield” implying untouched or undeveloped) and typically include building new plants, factories, data centres, or commercial buildings.

Greenfield projects contrast with brownfield projects, which involve upgrading or redeveloping existing facilities or properties.

According to the 2024 World Report, the growth in greenfield project announcements was majorly tied to projects in the renewable energy, power, and transportation sectors.

More details from the report 

According to the report, five of the 10 largest announced greenfield projects in developed countries were related to semiconductor and electronics production, while three of the projects were related to battery production.

In developing economies, most announced greenfield projects were in manufacturing.

Here are some of the high-profile greenfield projects announced in Africa in 2023

  • $6.4 billion electric vehicle production facility in Morocco. The deal was signed by the Moroccan government with a Chinese EV battery maker, Gotion High-Tech.
  • $34 billion green hydrogen plant in Mauritania.
  • Green hydrogen and green ammonia projects totalling $10.8 billion in Egypt. Finalized agreements have been signed with the Suez Canal Economic Zone.
  • $7.1 billion green hydrogen projects in South Africa.

Mauritania’s hydrogen plant hopes  

A consortium comprising German project developer Conjuncta, Egyptian energy provider, Infinity, and the United Arab Emirates’ Masdar has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mauritanian government for a planned hydrogen plant in Mauritania.

The agreement, signed in March 2023, outlines a plan for a plant with a production capacity of 8 million tonnes of green hydrogen or other hydrogen-based products annually, and an electrolyser capacity of up to 10 gigawatts.

The first phase of the plant, with a capacity Investment of 400 MW, is expected to become operational by 2028.

It also marks the second of such megaprojects to be carried out in Mauritania, as a $40 billion green hydrogen plant project announced in 2022, is presently under construction.

According to CWP Global, the company behind the $40 billion project, it is currently in the pre-FEED stage and aims for large-scale green hydrogen production with an initial annual capacity of 500,000 tonnes.

Mauritania currently has a GDP of approximately $10 billion, with the IMF projecting a GDP growth rate of 5.05% for 2024.

Greenfield and green hydrogen 

A review of globally announced greenfield projects reveals a shift towards renewable energy and its associated sectors.

While developed economies see announcements of new EV battery plants, Africa is emerging as a hotspot for green hydrogen projects.

Essentially, green hydrogen is hydrogen produced using renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, or hydropower, through a process called electrolysis.

The hydrogen produced can be used as a fuel for vehicles, an energy source for industrial processes, or a storage medium for excess renewable energy.

Hydrogen is being touted as a cleaner fuel replacement for methane (natural gas), now used as fuel for gas-powered power plants. It is noted that when used in fuel cells, hydrogen produces water, instead of carbon compounds produced by natural gas.

Countries like Germany are developing plans to transition from natural gas-powered power plants to hydrogen-powered facilities.

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