West Africa's Oil Boom: Blessing or Curse

Oil does not necessarily produce stability or prosperity; Africa’s two largest producers, Nigeria and Angola, are far from being pillars of social stability. The recent reports of a coup plot in Nigeria do not inspire confidence.

The World Today Published 1 May 2004 Updated 16 October 2020 3 minute READ

Manuel Paulo

Junior Research Fellow, Africa Programme, Chatham House

Both countries have become brand leaders for corruption as a result of weak institutions, the absence of government procurement and auditing systems and a lack of transparency about revenue. Under such conditions, corruption and rent seeking can thrive. Now the west is taking a new interest in the region’s oil; this could either be a blessing or a curse.

In the last few years the united states has tried to develop alternative sources of oil supply to the Middle East. West Africa has increasingly become strategic, with countries such as Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, and perhaps Mauritania coming under the spotlight. Even US Vice-President Dick Cheney recognised this: ‘West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market.’

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