POISONED WELLS: the Dirty Politics of African Oil

by Nicholas Shaxson

In March 2014 H3A’s non-fiction reading group discussed Nicholas Shaxson’s narrative based on his personal experiences as a journalist in Africa.

According to one reader the book’s core message could be summarized as follows: discovering oil in your backyard can be more of a curse than a blessing. Having said that this reader thought that Nicholas Shaxson’s review of the problems that the discovery of oil brought to the nations of West Africa ran into each other given those at the bottom of the social order were impoverished by the relentless cynicism of local politicians and generals with whom oil companies and Western politicians alike colluded, each for their own benefit. The book is reminiscent of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 in which the Bush family’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is laid bare to devastating effect. It also raised the question of Niall Ferguson’s six Killer Apps, none of which appear to flourish in any shape or form in west Africa’s ‘oil rich soil’, bringing to mind Ferguson’s conclusion that all is not yet lost for the West particularly as his apps do not seem to be taking root in the so-called BRICS countries either.

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