25 July, 2008

Africa and Oil

Africa's proven oil reserves are 7-9% of the World's total, and five countries: Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Angola - dominate the continent's oil production. How much oil Africa has, is not yet truly known; presently, thirty percent of the world's newly discovered oil reserves come from Africa's west coast. But in the serpentine creeks and boggy coast lie daunting obstacles to the promise of oil revenue -- pirates, corruption, violent youth militias, and environmental catastrophes. Corruption and environmental catastrophe, are not only a part of Nigeria, Angola, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, but it seems - is a part of the oil producing industry in all the African oil producing countries. Even Libya with its huge oil reserves, millions of barrels produced daily and a small population, hasn't advanced the quality of its populace as much as say: the U.A.E, Oman, Brunei or Qatar.

Oil is not always a boon; in Africa, it seems to have caused the opposite: creating great wealth for a very few and yet most in the same oil producing countries live in relative poverty; and some times oil, only creates instability, conflict and misery as in Sudan. For those running out of oil, like Gabon, it's very disturbing to think of what would happen when the wells dry up. Gabon has never had proper plans or vision for its people after oil runs out; its leaders have been more concerned with grabbing and looting earnings from oil and leaving most of its citizens poor, rather than planning for the future. The other African oil producing nations aren't doing any better; the Human Development Index, puts most African oil producing countries in the lowest ranks.

Interestingly, African countries that have comparatively been doing economically well - have no oil at all. But they have good governance and leaders with vision: Mauritius, Botswana and Seychelles - by using their resources well and by good governance, are highly ranked and regarded. As global demand for energy continues to rise and both Western countries and the East - China and India - scramble for Africa's oil, more oil will be discovered in Africa. Will that be a blessing or a curse?

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