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Africa's Next Petrostate

Liberia, founded as a home for freed American slaves, is best known for devastating civil wars and brutally cruel dictators.  It now has a new problem on its hands: oil.  Nearby Nigeria and Ghana already enjoy the proceeds of the Cretaceous Trend, the 1,000 kilometer-long, oil-rich geological feature off the coast of west Africa.  To put it nicely, Nigeria struggles to use its oil riches in ways that benefit its people.  Will Liberia be any different?  Almost certainly not, but we shall soon see — Chevron begins exploration off the coast later this year.  Expect more  new BMWs than health clinics in Liberia as the money flows in — but we can hope.

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  • vanderleun

    For a riveting photoessay of what happens when an African state gets oil money, see Alan Taylor’s “Nigeria: The Cost of Oil” from The Atlantic.

    Fascinating and chilling.

  • Toni

    This has long been known as the Oil Curse. The MidEast has theocracies run on petrodollars. Africa has revolutions and corruption fueled by same. Ditto Venezuela. I believe Sudan’s genocide was inspired not only by religious differences but by the northern Muslims wanting to drive Christians out of the oil-rich south.

    The key in all cases is that oil revenue and taxes let the countries get by without developing industry or any sort of other economic base. When oil prices sink, as they inevitably do, these states have nothing else to fall back on.

    In recent decades, of course, the Oil Curse in Africa has been joined by the Diamond Curse.

  • David Hoffman

    When God wishes to curse a nation, he puts oil under its soil.

  • srp

    I’m not sure oil-subsidized health clinics would be a good sign for Liberia. Widespread ownership of BMW dealerships would be a much more positive indicator.

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