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X-Posted from H-Net Discussion List on Portuguese-speaking African Countries <H-LUSO-AFRICA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> From: Jeremy Ball <ballj@DICKINSON.EDU> -------- From: Saleem H. Ali Date: 2 May 2008 Dear colleagues Many thanks for sending contacts regarding Sao Tome and EG oil. There was one suggestion regarding a book that came out recently on African oil called "Untapped" by John Ghazvinian that I wanted to comment on. I find this book quite troubling and wrote a review on Amazon.com that I wanted to share with the group below. Please also note the link from an article in Science this week which counters the resource curse crowd regarding African oil: Link is: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/320/5876/616.pdf Review of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil Reviewer, Saleem H. Ali, University of Vermont, for Amazon.com This racy yet rather trite book joins a growing genre of volumes about the oil industry and its global influence. The overall tone is reminiscent of Michael Klare or Thomas Friedman's work, though with less literary or academic polish. The narrative reads like a series of capers by the author as he traveled across Africa's oil countries that convinced him that the oil industry is a menace and not a messiah. Even though the author has a doctorate in history from Oxford, this book has little analysis or guidance for Africa's oil economies and joins a sorry list of itinerant gloom-mongering polemics. If there is any doubt about the author's strong normative positions on the matter, consider the following quotations from the introduction (p. 6): "By the end of the five-day congress, only a red-assed baboon could have failed to appreciate the take-home message to the international oil industry: Africa: come get it!" Such rhetoric is likely to generate more heat than light on the matter. Clearly Africa's oil economies have serious challenges but they deserve careful analysis and solutions. Ghazvanian book does not consider for example, that Equatorial Guinea was a basket case of poor governance and corruption even before oil was found. If anything, there is now greater scrutiny over what is going on in Malabo. The author's brief sojourn in Gabon does not consider the fact that the country has more preserved forests per unit area than any other central African country because the oil sector reduced the need for large-scale timber harvesting. The oil industry certainly needs to be held accountable for its past follies but we need to consider development for communities in its entirety and approach the matter with nuance and care. Narratives such as this throw the baby out with the bathwater. Clearly the author has the credentials to be a fine writer - unfortunately, he has not done justice to this vital topic and was more concerned with literary amusement and shock-value than in real reform. -------------------------------------------- Saleem H. Ali, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning and Associate Dean for Graduate Education (2007-2008) Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources University of Vermont 153 S. Prospect St., Burlington VT 05401, USA Ph: 802-656-0173 Fx: 802-656-8015 --------------------------------------------- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.uvm.edu/~shali Latest publication: Peace Parks: Conservation and Conflict Resolution http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11250