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Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Reprint edition (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023060532X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230605329
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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"

Book Description

How American oil companies are exploiting African countries

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Alex Wilks on 6 Oct. 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book introduces political and economic life in several West African countries. Each chapter focusses on a key individual - a top politician, a corruption busting judge, a top musician etc - and uses their tales to spell out why the relevant country has been held back rather than boosted by discovering oil.

With a light and engaging style (from having been a journalist) Shaxson lifts the lid on a heavy and disturbing subject - how oil revenues mess up the economics and politics of the countries where it is discovered. And not only those countries - the same money has oiled the wheels of dodgy political dealings in France and other countries.

The book ends with an analysis of the role of opaque offshore finance and some of the policy work and campaigning that is starting to tackle it. Highly recommended for people with an interest in international affairs.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Erik Cleves Kristensen on 20 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over the last years, as world oil prices increase and the quest for cheap energy is becoming more acute, there has been talk of the so-called "resource curse" or, in Thomas Friedmans' words, "the first law of petropolitics." This entails that with more money, leaders in oil-producing countries have the power to reifnorce themselves, suppress opposition, and disregard pressure for reform.
Mr. Shaxson is probably the most knowledgeable journalist on some of these subjects, and in this book, he gives an excellent insight to the practical causes and consequences of the resource curse in African countries. He writes passionately, and since he is not academic, the language is easily accessible; by his ways of explaining the situation in each country with use of a person (either the nepotist president of an African country, a corrupt oil-dealer, a French magistrate fighting corruption, or a human rights activist), he gives a more human face to the issue of oil that has damaged countries like Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Nigeria, Gabon, São Tomé & Principe, and whose globalised transatlantic tentacles has reached the highest offices in France and the US.
It is a book that shows the hipocrisies of the world when it comes to oil. Nevertheless, Mr. Shaxson has enough experience not to be preaching or naïve about it, and although he advocates for changes to the system that creates so much misery, and in his last lines of the book, he describes this well: "ExxonMobile likes to say that there is no resource curse, just a governance curse. This is like saying of a heroine addict with criminal tendencies that there is no drug problem, just a criminal problem. They are wrong: the heart of the matter is not rulers' corruption or companies' misbehavior but oil and gas itself.
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By S Wood on 2 April 2012
Format: Paperback
"Posioned Wells" is the first book by the author of that excellent exposition of Tax Havens - Treasure Islands. The subject of this book is the experience of West African oil producing countries, with particular focus on the question of why these repositories of vast mineral wealth have not been able to direct their wealth into meaningful and sustained development.

While there is certainly a degree of generalising on these countries experiences, the format the book takes is that of focusing on a particular individual, and relating the story of each country through their experiences. Shaxsons Motley crew are the flamboyant Nigerian musician and somewhat singular opposition figure Fela Kuti, and his fellow Nigerian Dokubo-Asari, a militia leader from the Niger Delta region; Equatorial Guinea's assasinated opposition politician Pedro Motu, and the same countries president Obiang Ngeuma; Angola's Abel Abraao, a journalist trapped for months in Kuito under UNITA seige; Gabons authoritarian dictator Omar Bongo; Andre Malongo, the Congo Republics former reform minded leader; Fradique da Menezes, the president of Sao Tome e Principe who talks the talk of reform, like so many modern politicians in and out of Africa, while walking the familiar path of corruption and wasted opportunities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Big A on 8 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book tremendously not only because I knew so little about west Africa and oil but also because it is so well written. Until I read this book I just had not fully grasped how debilitating the existence of oil can be to a society as a whole. What is so patently true for west Africa can be applied equally well to the Middle East - and that is one of the great things about this book. It is not specific to west Africa. The lessons learned there are applicable elsewhere. Highly recommended.
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