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This is easily the best book I have read in recent times. In fact, I bought This US in 2015 and read it twice. When I came back to India I wanted to buy a personal copy and lend it to my friends to share the pleasure of reading it, but then the price was prohibitive. Now that Amazon helped me to buy it in affordable price, I have no hesitation to give it 5 stars
With a personal interest and involvement in the oil industry in the Nigerian delta I found those parts of the book about Nigeria enlightening and informative. It is clearly a heavily researched book by a well informed journalist but the detail with which he investigates the corruption and the warring factions in the oil industry in Angola or Equatorial Guinea or the mineral industry in the Congo induced me to skip complete sections.
His thesis is that the resource curse of oil, gas and mineral riches leads to corruption, ethnic violence and extreme poverty rates. The economies of any country with resource riches become distorted as their overvalued currencies emasculate other industries in the country. It is called the Dutch Disease, as experienced by Holland in 1977. As the value of local currency goes up, imports become cheaper undercutting homegrown enterprises. For example the strength of the Nigerian currency due to its oil wealth led to the undercutting and demise of the Nigerian textile industry by cheap imported Chinese garments.
Tom Burgis argues that the resource industry is hardwired for corruption. Kleptocracy, or government by theft, thrives. The revenues from licensing oil and minerals are called economic rent and do not make for good management. Pots of money are at the disposal of those who control the state. The contract between rulers and ruled breaks down because the ruling class does not need to tax the people to fund the government so has no need for their consent.
Tom Burgis is particularly enlightening about the approach and role of the Chinese. Good guanxi requires cultivation of personal ties that carry as much force as any written contract. Not to return a personal favour is a grave social transgression. When applied to politics and business guanxi can become indistinguishable from corruption or nepotism. Tom Burgis’s description of Sam Pa, a Chinese businessman, spy, arms trader who was instrumental in huge Chinese investment in China’s trade with Africa with cheap loans to fund infrastructure repaid in oil or minerals is an example of the grey area between investment and corruption.
But Tom Burgis is fair about the dilemma of the African business men and politicians. There are obligations on successful people for their family and community and the lines between, nepotism, corruption and survival are close. Fall off the looting machine and the consequences can be dire – your house can burn and you and your family can be crushed.
A thought provoking read. It does not make me stop supplying spill control equipment to the Nigerian delta even though I can be accused of complicity in the corruption. Isolation from the issues by European companies is not the solution.
I read this book a few years ago but I remember a lot. The analysis is supported by many case studies. It keeps away from the easy trap to blame all the issues of African countries on the former colonial country. It shows the corruption at the head of most states and describes it as the main reason why despite considerable mineral resources most countries are poverty ridden. I recently ordered this book for the son a a friend who is a young journalist, because I think it is a compulsory read to understand Africa. Congratulations to the author.
The subject matter is of huge significance, the author's passion is matched by his meticulous research. But... The author ain't no writer. The narrative is incredibly dense and poorly structured. It's like being harrangued by an academic.
A big shame as the author has attempted to bring the story of Africa's ongoing exploitation up to date in the 21st century describing the latest rapacious plunderer of Africa's resources into focus; China.
Unfortunately that focus is not particularly sharp!
I think we all know that Africa’s resources are being exploited by large multinational corporations and a select few of African leaders. We know that billions are made in oil and other natural resources every year and that very little, if any of this money filters down to the man on the streets of Africa. In this way, the book teaches us very little. However, what this book does do is provide specific details of HOW this is happening- naming key people and corporations and explaining shady business deals that have taken place over the years. This can seem overwhelming to read as these deals are purposely made complicated to ensure that the people involved can make vast sums of money either illegally and/or unethically and their wrongdoings cannot be traced backed to them. The chapters are quite long, but it is an interesting read. Well worth it if you want to better understand how corruption works in Africa.
There is something for everyone in this book: from the post colonial theorists blaming slow and uneven development in Africa on the evil empires (old and new) through to the other end of the ideological spectrum blaming slow development on African 'politicians' (with overtones of Fanonist Les Damnes de la Terre), all told in a way that remains of interest to the general reader. The book contributes to an emerging literature about what is happenning in Africa in this era of globalisation that also includes books like Blue Dahlia Black Gold which looks specifically at Angola and Meredith's 'The State of Africa'. An interesting question remains - what can be done about all this looting, corruption and expoliotation by the few of the many? If there is one weakness it is that Burgis is (like many other journalists) a bit soft in his critique of developments in South Africa where by time of writing it was patently clear that the looting machine did not only plunder physical resources but also the intellectual capital resources that had built the effective paratstatal economy: including the national electricity siupplier, the airlines, the water board, the land bank, the railways and harbours, etc. etc. in the name of 'cadre deployment' by the ruling alliance. This already started while Mandela was running the show and wasled by comrade Mbeki under the name of 'BEE'. Some useful books that have dealt with the topic of 'State Capture' inSouth Africa (developing a parallel state to steal the country's resources as in Angola) include 'The President's Keepers' (dealing with Zuma), Gangster State (Ace Magashule) and How to Steal a City (Port Elizabeth, recently renamed Gqeberha,in Nelson Mandela Bay). The mining sector had also already been attacked through new legislation that Burgis could have mentioned. The point is that it is not only physical resources that have been looted. But overall, a really good and useful book that will I am sure help many, like myself, to join up the dots of what we see happennin in the world today. Certainly would welcome more books like this.
Fantastic book that gives you a remarkably detailed look into the looting machine (literally the mechanisms, events and individuals that enable the systematic, kleptocratic theft of wealth).
If you live in a rich, stable country thinking that this does not affect you, you are mistaken. Kleptocrats around the world are the reason why your western quality of life is decreasing. They are the reason that asset values are escaping the realms of what your own income can provide you with. The stolen money is spent in stable democracies is for example one of several reasons why London real estate is unaffordable for the masses. I wish Tom Burgis touched on that but there was already too much to explain about the looting machine itself. Fantastic book and I will probably read it again soon.
I recently went to Nigeria and this helped me to understand the current and ongoing state of affairs much better.
stunning and eye opening book that rips open the belly of corruption in resource rich SSA countries. The Chinese are late comers to the game but have managed to catch up and in a lot of cases bypass the incumbent "old" colonial powers. Would have liked to seen a little more on the corruption taking place in the Francophone SSA countries as this really does (did?) go to Presidential level and would have balanced out some of the Anglo detail. End of the day it is thievery and the countries involved will all have hell to pay come the day of reckoning and that day hopefully is on the horizon for the poor who pay the cost. A fine and readable book .
Read about 30 pages and found it boring. You get the point very soon that rich countries are looting African countries. And then you are given this same view in every paragraph till you are bored to death.
This is a must read for all those people who say "we have given millions to Africa and nothing has changed". Read this and u will understand how the west has looted all of Africa's resources for cheap goods for us.