Thursday, July 5, 2018
The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth Paperback – May 3, 2016 by Tom Burgis (PublicAffairs)
Tom Burgis thoroughly describes how the Dutch disease or resource curse has undermined many Africa’s “resource-rich” countries that often are disproportionately dependent on the extraction and export of oil, gas, and minerals for their revenue mix. Mr. Burgis adds that both corruption and ethnic violence can compound the misery that the Dutch disease generates in these “resource-rich” countries.
In a nutshell, the resource curse sets in a cycle of economic addiction through an upward revaluation of the currency in “resource-rich” countries. The decay of the local manufacturing and agriculture sectors that results from their non-competitiveness in the global economy increases the dependency of the “addicted” countries on natural resources. The well-connected local elite monopolizes the “economic rent” that the resources business generates, creating an apartheid between them and the rest of the population. This looting machine cannot work properly without the well-understood complicity of foreign governments and companies eager to put their hands on this bounty, preferably on the cheap. China has not many lessons of morality to receive from the West that too often shines through both its hypocrisy and cynicism. Furthermore, while the resources business is capital-intensive, it is not labor-intensive. Finally, any infrastructure that pre-existed the extraction and export of these raw materials gets neglected in the process.
To his credit, Mr. Burgis is not all gloom and doom about the future of Africa. The author highlights that for all their shortcomings, South Africa and Botswana have developed a viable manufacturing sector within their borders. These exceptions prove the rule that the Dutch disease blocks the path to industrialization across Africa, resulting in the specialization of many Africa’s “resource-rich” countries in remaining poor.