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Economics

A Review of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil

John Ghazvinian’s Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil looks at one aspect of the economic and social impacts of this resource abundance, namely oil.  To explain the economic forces at work in Africa this paper is divided into four parts.  The first section provides an overview of the book itself.  The goal was not to rehash Ghazvinian’s trek but to provide one who had not read the book with an understanding Ghazvinian’s main points.  The second and third sections provide opposing views by accomplished economists on “resource curse” veracity.  The final section looks at another possible economic factor: globalization.  It will consider the rise of the African Union as a result of globalization and the potential for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to leverage it.

Introduction

Basil Enwegbara provides critical insight into the vast economic potential of Africa when considering, relative to world supply, it has the bulk of diamonds, over 90% of the cobalt, 70% of the cocoa, 64% of the manganese, 60% of the coffee, 50% of the phosphates, 50% of gold production, 40% of the platinum, 30% of the uranium, and 20% of the petroleum.1

John Ghazvinian’s Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil looks at one aspect of the economic and social impacts of this resource abundance, namely oil. To explain the economic forces at work in Africa this paper is divided into four parts. The first section provides an overview of the book itself. The goal was not to rehash Ghazvinian’s trek but to provide one who had not read the book with an understanding Ghazvinian’s main points. The second and third sections provide opposing views by accomplished economists on “resource curse” veracity. The final section looks at another possible economic factor: globalization. It will consider the rise of the African Union as a result of globalization and the potential for Africa Command (AFRICOM) to leverage it.

Untapped Overview

John Ghazvinian’s Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil provides an engaging account of his travels through twelve African nations. His work reads like a combined journal,  James Bond adventure, and commentary on Africa’s economic and social condition resulting from the unintended consequences of oil abundance.

Given the world’s increasing energy demands and undeniable oil dependency, oil discovery and extraction in Africa is big business. Instability in the Middle East only increases Africa’s strategic importance. Ghazvinian describes the “oil curse” from the bottom up, sometimes through imprudent adventures such as a trip deep inside the dangerous Niger Delta.

Two key examples of his bottom up look include illegal bunkering and local bunkering. Bunkering, controlled by expansive criminal networks, is the systematic theft of oil by tapping into oil pipelines and selling stolen crude on the black market.2 Millions are spent bribing local officials, police, and even ship’s captains. Bunkering syndicates invest heavily in weaponry to protect their networks, adding to the areas dangerous instability. Local bunkering, by contrast, is the poor man’s version of bunkering.3 In Nigeria, for example, laid off Shell workers were paid to tap natural gas lines in riverbeds. Local criminals steel the gas to create highly volatile kerosene, which they sell to other locals. The kerosene is significantly cheaper than its commercial counterpart – a veritable win-win if you are not one of those burned or killed when it explodes.

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  • basil enwegbara

    I have not read his book, so it will improper for me to comment about it. Having said that as a scholar myself let me make it clear that AFRICOM is an imperial military being forcefully stationed in Africa. Africans don’t need it because African countries are increasingly proving capable of defending the continent. Basil Enwegbara