The Scramble for African Oil, by Douglas Yates

Douglas Yates' The Scramble for African Oil, Pluto Press, London: 2012

Professor Douglas Yates's fifth book: The Scramble for African Oil: Oppression, Corruption and War for Control of Africa's Natural Resources(Pluto Press, London: 2012) demonstrates how the international demand for oil contributes to the chronic political, economic and security problems plaguing Africa.

Douglas Yates explains: "What I am trying to do in this book is cover all of the different kinds of problems that African oil producers face, and then show how the solutions being proposed by the international community don't solve those problems. For example, some international organizations are trying to push for more transparency, but they don't have the power to change deeply corrupt regimes. Or some people think that democracy is the answer, but as Nigeria and Sao Tome show, it is not enough. Something must be done to get leaders to serve the interests of their people rather than those of the members of their ethnicity or clan. I look, therefore, not at power from above to change these countries, but at power from below. The success stories are in South Sudan or the Niger Delta. Those are examples of Africans taking their destinies into their own hands. What can we do outside of Africa? Some of the solutions include boycotting African oil, directly distributing oil revenues to ordinary African citizens, and even trying to save oil revenues for the future generations. But all of these require that African governments be changed. Instead, we should get our own house in order and change our own behavior: we should stop consuming oil. There are many reasons for this, environmental, as well as political. In the end, the African Oil Curse may seem may seem like something of an afterthought. One day, the oil will run out so it is better to start now than to wait for that day to come."

Yates breaks the topic down into ten discussions, each describing a theoretical approach current in the "resource curse" literature, illustrated by an applied country case study. Chapters on foreign states and trade relations, multinational corporations and nationalization, international organizations and governance, rentier states and kleptocracy, praetorian regimes and terror are illustrated by case studies of Gabon, Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Congo-Brazzaville. Chapters on journalists and intellectuals, political parties and elections, armed struggles for independence, popular resistance and people power are illustrated by case studies of Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, and Nigeria.

Professor Michael Watts of UC Berkeley said: “Yates brilliantly scales the walls of the oil fortress in Africa and shines a light into the complex politics - local, national and global - of the oil and gas industry and offers some insight into possible routes out of the swamp of failed oil development."

The Scramble for African Oil is also described by Professor Michael Klare of Hampshire College in Massachusetts, author of Resource Wars, as "Essential reading for anyone seeking an understanding of the 'resource curse', the global exploitation of Africa's resources and the troubled state of African politics. Drawing on a detailed knowledge of the region, Douglas Yates does a remarkable job of exposing the predatory forces responsible for the continuing impoverishment of Africa's oil states - while also celebrating those heroic figures who have resisted the onslaught."


For the past twenty years, Professor Yates has been researching, writing, publishing and doing activism on the politics of the international oil industry, and more specifically on the question of oil dependency on the African continent. He has been a consultant for governmental and non-governmental organizations including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Catholic Relief Services, the International Political Science Association, the South African Institute of International Affairs, the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the South African Governance of African Resources Project, and the British Chatham House, among others.

See The Scramble for African Oil on the Pluto Press website

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