From Publishers Weekly
While all eyes focus on the oil-rich Middle East as the nexus of conflict in a world addicted to crude, the future belongs to Africa, writes British journalist Shaxson in this page-turning, character-driven narrative. Illuminating African postcolonial (and neocolonial) history through the prism of oil, he reveals the central and dangerous role that Africa's oil states now play, casting the precious fuel as a poison not only for the continent but "to liberty, democracy, and free markets around the globe." An acute observer of the vast and secretive industry, Shaxson draws on his own reporting in key areas like Nigeria, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola as well as the work of experts like the late François-Xavier Verschave. In this stark portrait, the paradox of African oil is that, time and again, enormous wealth for a few translates into increasing poverty and political and economic insecurity for the majority. Shaxson sketches a system largely outside the purview of international law involving the highest levels of French, U.S. and other Western governments, financial institutions and elites. Although he proposes practical legislative steps, Shaxson makes clear that the grievous mix of politics, mafia-style operations and endless oil profits not only subverts democratic reforms, but in places like the Niger Delta gives rise to exactly the kind of conditions that produced September 11. (Apr.)
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Shaxson argues convincingly that the failed oil states of Africa will be the next Great Game in a world still addicted to oil and increasingly willing to fight for it. This book is a must read for anyone concerned about Africa and Big Oil. Shaxson's obvious love for the continent and its people comes clearly through in his writing but does not temper his revulsion at the complex and bloody mess he found there. He digs deeply to uncover the real story beneath the headlines and to eloquently explain an Alice in Wonderland world of money, corruption, war and intrigue. It is a story well told that has the power to stun even the most hardened observer of Africa's tragedy. Yet at the same time Shaxson powerfully describes people who have battled against the corrupt, the venal and the just plain evil, making a book that is often as inspiring as it is horrifying. Mixing the personal and political, he has written a compelling story that explains one of the most baffling riddles of the modern world: why has oil become a curse for Africa, not a blessing? (Paul Harris, US Correspondent, The Observer
Nicholas Shaxson has traveled to some of the most dangerous and dysfunctional nations on the planet, delved into the murky depths of the African oil business and emerged with a grisly but compelling tale of greed, corruption, and violence. There are still some who believe that oil can rescue Africa from poverty at the same time as saving America from its fatal dependence on suppliers in the Middle East. In this remarkable book, the fruit of years of painstaking research, Shaxson exposes oil as a destroyer, not a savior, of all that is best in Africa. (Victor Mallet, Asia editor, Financial Times, and author of The Trouble with Tigers: The Rise and Fall of South-East Asia)
This is a splendid book about a crucial subject. We need oil. We want the countries that sell it to us to be stable. But oil itself destabilizes them, unless they were mature democracies before they discovered it. Nicholas Shaxson has put in more legwork in wrecked African petro-states than any other reporter I can think of. The result is a cracking tale of blood, champagne and the 'Devil's excrement.' (Robert Guest, former Africa editor, The Economist, and author of The Shackled Continent)
This book will be unsettling for those with preconceived ideas about the oil industry, international business or African politics. Shaxson shows that there are no easy answers to questions on the role of multinational oil giants in Africa, or how to tackle the corruption that is often the result of their oil deals. He shows there are many, many complicated shades of grey--but he does so, thankfully, using such a colorful style and language that the book comes to life and is a pleasure to read. (Hugh Williamson, Berlin correspondent, Financial Times)
[A] highly readable and provocative book... Devoid of social science jargon, the narrative in this engaging, informative book reads like a novel, making it accessible to a wide audience... Highly recommended. (CHOICE