Douglas A. Yates: The Scramble for African Oil: Oppression, Corruption and War for Control of Africa's Natural Resources.

Author:Akanya, Esther
Position:Book review

The Scramble for African Oil: Oppression, Corruption and War for Control of Africa's Natural Resources, Pluto Press: London, 2012; 272 pp: 9780745330457, 19.99 [pounds sterling] (pbk)

In The Scramble for African Oil, Douglas Yates follows the tradition of Duncan Clarke and John Ghazvinian by providing an exposition into the complexities and realities of the oppression, corruption, and war that pervade Africa as a continent, linking them to the scramble for Africa's black gold. This provocative and engaging book is divided into two sections. The first section is dedicated to interrogating the true nature of the 'oil curse', while the second section provides potential solutions to the unpleasant realities that materialise from the curse. Methodologically, Yates adopts a case-study approach that supports the overall aim of the book, since the case studies examined provide a nuanced approach to the testing and probing of his theory, whilst simultaneously providing a cross-analysis of the oil curse in various African states, thereby enabling some measure of generalisations. Yates provides intricate and expository discussions of the scramble through a narrative pattern depicting the harsh realities in a manner that keeps its reader engaged from its introduction to its conclusion

Implicit within the sections of the book are three different levels of analysis: the international, the national and the local. Yates ascribes some form of responsibility for the outbreak of the curse, the perpetuation of the curse, and the solutions to the curse at each level. The first section, entitled 'Power from Above', maps out the geopolitical forces that shape the oil business in Africa (p. 3). This section runs from Chapters 1 to 5, and exposes foreign domination of African oil enclaves since the end of colonialism. Yates acknowledges a new form of domination in neocolonialism, which keeps colonial patterns of collaboration through rentier states, kleptocracy, and praetorian regimes. He also recognises the foreign assistance through international organisations (IOs) and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), but concedes the inability of IOs and NGOs to systematically end the oil curse through aid or good governance practices.

The main contribution of the book is offered in Section 2, entitled 'Power from Below.' In this section, Yates shifts focus from the international to the national and the local, by discussing the important roles of individuals in...

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