South Africa: Eskom's Coal Addiction, Medupi Way, Brought to You By the World Bank


In April 2010, the World Bank voted to loan South Africa $3.75-billion to build Medupi in a deal that overlooked the Chancellor House scam, exposed the Global North's climate change hypocrisies, and -- most important -- helped to derail a renewables drive that should have begun in earnest after Eskom's rolling blackout crisis of 2008. Should we #paybackthemoney?

I. Broken eggs

"Coal is a difficult issue," said Jim Yong Kim, then-president of the World Bank, at a press conference in Pretoria in September 2012. "There was a very strong sense that this clean coal project was the way to go."

By which the Korean-American banker meant Medupi, a venture well on its way to becoming the world's fourth largest coal-fired power plant, at a cost that was already barrelling towards R150-billion -- a price tag that would make it the most expensive piece of infrastructure of its type on earth.

Kim, who was just nine weeks into his job, had been touring South Africa to do some campaigning at the small businesses funded by the local office of the International Finance Corporation, but mostly he was here to visit the people to whom the bank had just awarded its biggest-ever...

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