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Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil [Paperback]

Nicholas Shaxson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 July 2008
Each week the oil and gas fields of sub-Saharan Africa produce well over a billion dollars' worth of oil, an amount that far exceeds development aid to the entire African continent. Yet the rising tide of oil money is not promoting stability and development, but is instead causing violence, poverty, and stagnation. It is also generating vast corruption that reaches deep into American and European economies. In Poisoned Wells, Nicholas Shaxson exposes the root causes of this paradox of poverty from plenty, and explores the mechanisms by which oil causes grave instabilities and corruption around the globe. Shaxson is the only journalist who has had access to the key players in African oil, and is willing to make the connections between the problems of the developing world and the involvement of leading global corporations and governments.

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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: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,298 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

Book Description

How American oil companies are exploiting African countries

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Customer Reviews

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neither crude nor heavy - well worth a read. 6 Oct 2007
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
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, So 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 nave 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 8 Jan 2013
By Big A
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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