Substantial potential exists to scale up sustainable production of bioenergy from sugarcane cultivation in southern Africa. This study evaluates the potential for seven sugar-producing countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC): Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The potential for both liquid biofuel and electricity production is evaluated, as surplus to current and projected sugar demand for domestic consumption and export.
Sugarcane is currently grown on some 554 000 hectares of land in the seven countries studied. Prospectively, sugarcane cultivation could expand as much as nine-fold, to some 5.1 million hectares (Mha) of rainfed land without irrigation, or 99-fold, to some 54.9 Mha of land if irrigation were introduced. If irrigation were introduced to only the 3.7 Mha of very suitable land, implying overall expansion to 8.8 Mha of rainfed and irrigated land, bioenergy output could expand to some 72 billion litres of ethanol and 156 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per annum.