The Forgotten Coal: Charcoal Demand in Sub-Saharan Africa
Charcoal is an important cooking fuel in urban Africa. In this paper, we estimate the current number of charcoal users and project trends for the coming decades. Charcoal production is often not effectively regulated, and it hence contributes to forest degradation. Moreover, charcoal has adverse health effects for its users. At the same time, charcoal constitutes an important income source in deprived rural areas, while the current alternative, gas, is a mostly imported fossil fuel. We find that 195 million people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on charcoal as their primary cooking fuel and gauge that another 200 million use charcoal as secondary fuel. Our scenarios suggest that clean cooking initiatives are outweighed by strong urban population growth and hence charcoal usage is expected to remain high over the coming decades. Policies should therefore target end-users, forest management, and regulation of charcoal production to enable sustainable production and use of charcoal.