Untapped The Scramble For Africa's Oil

  "I bless the rains down in Africa…"


John Ghazvinian, who is currently serving as a Fellow in History at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, has penned a remarkable book which for me served as much as an introduction to the current day geopolitical realities in a part of the world I’m ashamed to admit I know very little about, beyond having seen the movie Born Free as a child umpteen years ago and the vaguely romantic lyrics of a song that was popular when I was in college in the 1980’s.


Beginning with Nigeria, Africa’s most experienced oil producing nation, Ghazvinian relates a tale to be often repeated as he travels about the continent, one of great oil wealth greatly enrighing a powerful few "leaders" while quite failing to lift developing nations out of desperate poverty and destructive civil wars. Ghazvinian writes of "rentier" economies– which are focused on extractive industries to the exclusion of supporting and developing a sustainable industrial base so that, as will ineveitably happen the oil runs out, the nation is much worse off than before the oil boom arrived. This has already happened in some of Africa’s oil producing countries and is the inevitable future for other countries as Ghazvinian makes clear.

Ghazvinian’s writing is very much that of the seasoned journalist rather than the dry academic and Untapped draws on his extensive interviews across Africa as well as with sources in Europe and the United States. For me this book brought to life a part of the world I, like most in the "First World" know precious little about. It also makes clear that whatever the propoganda out of Washington or Luanda, Africa will not be a magic bullet for America’s energy security, although the Chinese are investing heavily in Africa and are successfully drawing a growing proportion of their oil needs from this region.

In all, a fascinating introduction to Africa and its oil industry. Untapped The Scramble For Africa’s Oil Highly Recommended.