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Untapped: The Scramble For Africa's Oil    by John Ghazvinian order for
by John Ghazvinian
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

This is a well-researched first hand report on the impact of oil in Africa. The author's experiences covering twelve countries are engrossing and make for great reading. The style is very accessible and although the book is full of facts, the personal challenges to get the information in it often read like adventure fiction at its best. There is a map reference of Africa inside the front cover - however references would be enhanced by additional maps throughout the text. Also, pictures would greatly improve the reading pleasure and understanding.

The economics of oil in new postcolonial Africa have in most cases a devastating impact. While newfound riches should benefit some of the world's poorest countries, it has done little else to date than line the pockets of the corrupt. There is a phenomenon labeled the Dutch disease that has demonstrated that, while oil brings new money to a country, the overall impact of people leaving the countryside for supposed urban affluence leaves local crops unattended. The net effect is a lowering of the country's standard of living.

But as with most things in Africa, there are two faces: one sees oil riches bring in much needed foreign currencies, while the other reflects the reality of areas where cars are still filled from plastic bottles as service station infrastructure is absent.

This is an ongoing journey as upwards to 30% of all new multinational exploration budgets are spent in Africa. China and America are intensely interested in reducing their dependence on Middle East supplies. As such, this is a very timely book that greatly improves the reader's understanding of the complexities of world oil supplies. One hopes that somewhere here there can be a happy ending, and that as we better understand the implications of this vast African resource, it can turn into improved living conditions for the vast majority versus the privileged few. Untapped is a must read for those who can influence the outcome.

Listen to a podcast interview with the author at

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