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.
While all eyes focus on the oil-rich Middle East as the nexus of conflict in a world addicted to crude, the future belongs to Africa, writes British journalist Shaxson in this page-turning, character-driven narrative. Illuminating African postcolonial (and neocolonial) history through the prism of oil, he reveals the central and dangerous role that Africa's oil states now play, casting the precious fuel as a poison not only for the continent but "to liberty, democracy, and free markets around the globe." An acute observer of the vast and secretive industry, Shaxson draws on his own reporting in key areas like Nigeria, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola as well as the work of experts like the late Fran ois-Xavier Verschave. In this stark portrait, the paradox of African oil is that, time and again, enormous wealth for a few translates into increasing poverty and political and economic insecurity for the majority. Shaxson sketches a system largely outside the purview of international law involving the highest levels of French, U.S. and other Western governments, financial institutions and elites. Although he proposes practical legislative steps, Shaxson makes clear that the grievous mix of politics, mafia-style operations and endless oil profits not only subverts democratic reforms, but in places like the Niger Delta gives rise to exactly the kind of conditions that produced September 11.