Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil

By Lloyd, Richmond M. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2007 | Go to article overview

Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil


Lloyd, Richmond M., Naval War College Review


Ghazvinian, John. Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil. New York: Harcourt, 2007. 320pp. $25

John Ghazvinian, who has a doctorate in history from Oxford University and currently is a visiting fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in Iran and raised in Los Angeles and London. He is a skilled journalist who takes the reader on an extensive journey in Africa to better know "more about where our oil will be coming from." His bottom line is that "oil, far from being a blessing to African countries, is a curse. Without exception, every developing country where oil has been discovered has seen its standard of living decline and its people suffer."

Why the scramble for African oil? Because African oil is of high quality and therefore relatively cheap to refine. Africa is surrounded by water, so access to the sea and less expensive maritime transport further reduces costs (in comparison to Central Asia, which must ship by pipeline), and there is increasing global demand, in which Africa represents a larger percentage of new discoveries and production. In addition, newly discovered offshore reserves coupled with new ultra-deepwater drilling technology and transshipment directly from oil platforms avoids the usual onshore problems.

Ghazvinian's field work is based on wide-ranging interviews with politicians, economists, warlords, diplomats, aid workers, oil-company executives, activists, priests, crude-oil bandits, soldiers, bureaucrats, technocrats, scientists, historians, oil-rig workers, lawyers, bankers, old men, and boys, among others. He provides comprehensive assessments on Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Chad, and Sudan. …

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