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Untapped: The Scramble For Africa's Oil 20

Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil 20

Oil is one of the most valuable and sought-after commodities in the world. It fuels the global economy, shapes geopolitics, and affects the environment. But where does oil come from, and who controls it? In this article, we will explore the history and current situation of oil production in Africa, a continent that has long been known to be rich in oil, but has also faced many challenges and risks in extracting and managing it.

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The History of Oil Exploration in Africa

Oil exploration in Africa dates back to the late 19th century, when European colonial powers began to search for oil resources in their territories. The first commercial oil discovery in Africa was made in 1908 in Egypt, followed by Algeria in 1956, Libya in 1959, Nigeria in 1958, and Angola in 1966. These countries became major oil exporters and members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which was founded in 1960 to coordinate the policies and prices of oil-producing countries.

However, not all African countries were able to benefit from their oil wealth. Some faced political instability, civil wars, corruption, and environmental degradation that hampered their oil development. Others had limited or no access to international markets due to sanctions, isolation, or lack of infrastructure. Moreover, many African countries had to deal with the so-called "resource curse", a phenomenon that occurs when a country's dependence on natural resources leads to economic and social problems such as inequality, poverty, poor governance, and conflict.

The New Scramble for Africa's Oil

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the global demand for oil increased dramatically, driven by the economic growth of emerging powers such as China and India. At the same time, the supply of oil from traditional sources such as the Middle East became more uncertain and risky due to political turmoil, terrorism, and wars. These factors created a new opportunity and incentive for oil exploration in Africa, where new technologies and techniques made it possible to tap into previously inaccessible or unprofitable reserves.

As a result, Africa became the scene of a new scramble for oil, involving not only Western countries such as the United States, France, and Britain, but also new players such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Africa's share of global oil production rose from 9% in 1998 to 12% in 2018. Some of the most significant discoveries were made in countries such as Sudan, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Somalia.

But what does this giddy new oil boom mean for Africa and the world? On one hand, it offers a potential source of revenue, development, and empowerment for African countries and people. On the other hand, it poses a number of challenges and risks such as environmental damage, human rights violations, corruption, conflict, and dependency. Moreover, it raises questions about the sustainability and ethics of fossil fuel consumption in an era of climate change and energy transition.

The Future of Oil in Africa

The future of oil in Africa is uncertain and depends on many factors such as global demand and supply dynamics, technological innovation, political stability, governance quality, social justice, and environmental protection. Some experts argue that Africa has a unique opportunity to use its oil wealth wisely and responsibly to achieve inclusive growth and development. Others warn that Africa faces a looming crisis if it fails to diversify its economy and address its social and environmental problems.

One thing is clear: oil is not just a commodity; it is also a symbol of power, identity, and destiny. As John Ghazvinian, the author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, writes: "Oil is not just about money. It is about history. It is about who we are as Africans. It is about how we relate to each other as human beings. It is about how we see ourselves in the world."


  • [History of the petroleum industry in Africa]

  • [Africa Energy Outlook 2019]

  • [Africa's new oil powers]

  • [Somalia: The next oil superpower?]

  • [Oil exploration in Africa: the good, the bad and the ugly]

  • [Oil and human rights in Africa]

  • [Oil and corruption in Africa]

  • [Oil and conflict in Africa]

  • [Oil and dependency in Africa]

  • [The impact of COVID-19 on global oil demand and supply]

  • [The role of technology in enhancing oil production and efficiency in Africa]

  • [The importance of political stability and security for oil development in Africa]

  • [The challenges and opportunities of governance and transparency in the oil sector in Africa]

  • [The need for social justice and equity in the distribution and management of oil revenues in Africa]

  • [The urgency of environmental protection and sustainability in the oil industry in Africa]

  • [The potential of oil for development and empowerment in Africa]

  • [The risks of oil for crisis and disaster in Africa]

  • [John Ghazvinian - Wikipedia]

  • [Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil - Google Books]

  • [Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil - Bookshop]

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