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Last Updated: Friday, 5 March 2004, 17:04 GMT
Africa's oil: A blessing or a curse?

Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing oil exploration and production zone in the world, according to oil experts.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that the region currently earns nearly $30 billion per year from oil exports.

Demand for Africa's oil is also high as the United States, the world's largest consumer of oil products, intends to double its imports from the region by 2015.

The BBC's Africa Live programme asks, what impact has oil had on people's lives in Africa?

Why do many people in African countries that sell millions of barrels of oil every year remain stuck in poverty?

And why is the 'black gold' a catalyst for conflict or even civil war in parts of Africa?

This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments appears below.

Your comments:

Without oil, how are countries like Equatorial Guinea or Sao Tome and Principe ever going to develop into prosperous countries? Revenues from oil account for billions and could be used to improve education, reduce crime, alleviate poverty, and build infrastucture. Instead, these funds are often abused and wasted by inept governments. It is unreasonable and unintelligent to place the blame for this on western powers or the oil companies - Africans have to take full responsibility for how they are spending the billions of dollars that their governments are receiving.
Don, USA

Tourism is a blessing. It brings stability and wealth. Oil brings corruption, war and an unbalanced economy.
Christopher Ludwig, Angola

The main reason for the lack of economic growth in oil-producing countries is what analysts call "the paradox of plenty". Oil revenue creates a buffer between the government and the population, fosters corruption, lack of transparency and accountability. Africa is not an exception nor above the regular pattern observed elsewhere (Middle East or Latin America). The mix between an oil-based economy and the lack of democracy is the root cause of the problems observed so far.
Calixte Tayoro, EU

Oil is neither the blessing nor curse, it's simply a resource. The nations without oil but with commercial endowment of gold and or diamonds have same problems as those with oil. The problem of persistent poverty can be partly attributed to lack of visionary leadership coupled with inept management of state resources. Sub-saharan Africa must solve its leadership problems and improve the management capabilities of its administrators; only then would we effectively reduce poverty.
Nuesiri Emmanuel, Oxford, UK

Developed countries have created a network that causes third world countries to get poorer while the developed get richer. They are always willing to pay the amont they want, the least amount that will not help Afican countries in anyway, and since Africa has no alternative it keeps selling its oil together with other natural resources at insignificant prices. It would be fair if African countries are allowed to sell their oil, gold, diamond and cocoa at prices that would help African countries develop.
Samuel Hammond, Ghana

I work in Africa for a major oil company. What I see are the locals in power siphoning off the oil revenues for themselves and keeping a massive underclass of people penniless. We have a saying here: "you cannot feed an African's greed'. There is no shame here where it could be a wonderfully rich & beautiful country.
Johnny, UK

I think this is a very good thing, as more oil from sub-Saharan Africa means less oil from the Gulf states, which means we can now finally crack down on rogue nations in that part of the world, as they have avoided any kind of pressure over their human rights records as a result of our fear of an oil embargo.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany

Africa's Oil is neither a blessing nor a curse it's just a wasted resource. Algeria for example is the richest country in Africa and the second largest exporter of Oil in the EU (claims the BBC) yet a lot of Algerians still suffer poverty and unemployment. It is blessing for all the Foreign Oil companies and expatriates working there though, at least they have jobs and they earn a living thanks to our Oil. But they are not to blame, Our governments are!
Rachida, London

Perhaps emerging oil countries like The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania and Guinea should be open to debates to sensitize people regardless of political affliation. Corruption should be dealt with without fear or favour like the current "operation no compromise" in The Gambia. No one should be above the law in modern Africa. I hope these newly found oil countries will give it a good shot as an example for others to emulate.
Ousman Cham, Gambian ,U.S.A.

Your question is directed at the wrong audience - Shell, CIA and Harlliburton have the answer. Africa is endowed with the land, but the oil belongs to the listed above. Through divide-and-conquer they have dictated and positioned their fat-belly despots to steal and sign-away. What makes it a curse is the environmental disaster they leave behind. This is repugnant and merits trials at the Hague for Crimes Against Humanity.
S. Ike, USA/Nigeria

The problem of oil in Africa and in Nigeria is simple as arithmetic and the solution is fight corruption.
Denola, Nigeria

I come from the Sudan, a country where discovery of oil is increasingly year after year. Yes, oil a curse in the way I have seen it in our country and in my home area in particular Upper Nile, South Sudan. Due to the presence of oil and as result of it, the war has created serious consequences in the living standards of the people.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota,USA

Oil is a blessing, but it should not be taken for granted. It's a means not an end when you consider what can lead to a nation's economic progress. Note that Japan and South Korea do not have oil yet they are economic giants. African countries with oil should aim at good plans rather than sitting and watching crude oil revenues without even taking on multipliers and accelerator principles across the mineral sector and the economy as a whole. Without the human resource factor the oil base will not be strong enough to sustain the economy.
Elias Mutungi, Uganda/USA

Natural ressources have never made a country rich. What really makes a country powerful and respected are its men and women, the human ressources.
Ino Djiwonou Djogbessi, UK

This sounds like a joke, "Blessing or a Curse". It's obvious that this always leads to the exploitation of our people by greedy and corupt leaders. Look at Angola, Nigeria and all the others. What good is it ever when the suffering always far exceeds the gain for the average African

It's no surprise that these countries will remain poor. It is delibrately designed and supported that way by big western oil companies with the help of the US government.
Dama Gideon, Cameroonain in USA

Africa's oil and other mineral deposits are like gold given to a fool! The fool uses the gold to destroy himself.
Uchenna Osigwe, Canada/Nigeria

African oil is the property of Africans ,but due to the white man's greed, they own the oil. This has been possible through puppet leaders, and an intricate mechanism to render Africans ever poor. But things will change one day. YOU the WHITE MAN will pay for the damages done to this continent, like it or not.
Fidelis, Cameroon

Having oil in a country is always blessing. Utilization of the oil revenues is the real problem. Look at Gabon which uses its oil revenue comperatively wisely, and look at Nigeria and Angola, which despite having huge revenues remain poor because of corruption and internal conflict.
Mahesh Sharma, India/Canada

It might not be an overstatement to state that a gift from God has been turned into a curse all from our making - bad leadership. Only good leadership can move a country forward and not the resources.
Ezeokeke Gregory Ekene, Nigeria

As poverty has grown in Afeica during the 80s and 90s, I think the UN, IMF, World Bank, EU and the African Union should join their efforts to put in place a credible mechanism which will make sure that a substantial part of the oil wealth goes to the infrastructures, and to health.
Anumu Ketoglo, Togo

If oil money is used like Qatar and UAE, Africa will do ok.
Sam Rupani, USA

Poor leadership, mismanagement, greed and selfcentredness is responsible for non-development with oil money in sub-saharan Africa. The bottom line is wanton corruption.
Levi Ozoemena, U.K

Do you think if Zimbabwe had oil the US and UK would have treated Mugabe as they have Sadam? There is no oil so they don' care if people are tortured, ethnic cleansed, etc
Peter Ross, London, UK

It's a problem of not getting a suitable formular for the equitable distribution of national wealth. This has been the problem in many African oil-producing countries. The oil wealth is concentrated in about 5% of the population while the rest wallows in abject poverty. We should not too much blame the oil multinationals, after all they are operating under agreements they entered into with national governments.
Daniel Mensah Brande , Ghana

I say both a gift and a curse. Truth is North Korea has no oil. Iraq did, as does Africa. Oil brings an aspect of international (albeit mostly American) involvement. In some ways this petro resource can bring war, and corruption, yet in another way it can be viewed as ultimately leading to humanitarian aid and foreign investors.
Sean Torres, United States

Africa's oil is a "double-edged sword." It is a blessing because it has helped most African countries develop their infrastructure and to a large extent, provided money for education and economic development around the continent. Without oil, most countries would have died a natural death relying only on their archaic agricultural systems. On the other hand, it is a curse because those who control the market (Western world) have committed a number of atrocities against humanity. They have used the wealth realized from African countries to oppress the people. They have ruined the ecosystem and the livelihood of people on the continent.
Yinka , US

Africa's oil is a blessing. However, her leaders and multinational oil companies have turned it into a curse. Take Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, for instance, and the developement they have achieved, all thanks to the revenue that accrue to them from oil. However, African leaders view revenue from oil as their personal money to use for self enrichment, and Multinational oil companies do not hesitate to collude with them in defrauding the nation of revenue that accrues from oil.
Stanley Duru, USA

If oil-exporting African countries were to truly engage all their citizens in open and constructive debates as pertaining the use of oil revenues, and if these countries were to act in accordance with the majority will as pertaining the use of the revenues reaped from oil exploitation; Africa's oil exploitation would result in comprehensive blessings for a great number of Africa's citizens. Transparency is the key.
G. Mutaya Msisha, Blantyre, Malawi

Oil, wherever it has been found, has not done the area any good. In Africa it will be just another reason for the Africans to kill each other.
Benson Magaba, Zimbabwe

It's supposed to be a blessing, but has turned into a spiralling curse. I guess this is one advice for countries with oil trying to explore it, "shut the ground if you want peace and progress for your citizenry."
Obi, U.S.A/ Nigeria

I wish Africa had found sensible, dedicated, concerned leaders first and then the oil.
Rodney Lobo, Norway

People are stil poor in Africa even if they are making millions of dollars from oil and other natural resources, because the their leaders are corrupt and greedy. When a burget is made for a particular project, the president will keep some of the money for himself before sending it to the state; when the state receive their money, the governor will also keep some money for himself before putting it towards the project.
Henry Nordee, Nigeria/ USA

I think in many ways it is a blessing and a curse. The goverment of any African country won't use the money they get from the oil exports to help & uplift their fellow country men. They will used to buy for example houses in Europe and import expensive cars for their own private use. Instead it could be used for improving their country's infrastructure, like building schools and hospitals.
Francois, South Africa

Africa, always a primary producer of its resources will never cease to be victimized by its former colonial masters. It's not just oil that is at the centre of Africa's woes when it comes to resources. Diamonds, coaltan, just to name a few, have fuelled the worst wars on the continent. One needs not be a rocket scientist to fathom the instigators of these wars. Roughly 60 to 75 percent of Africa's export earnings would be spent to sustain the world's biggest military complexes.
Dr. Manson Sesay, USA

It is funny, asking what impact oil has had on people's lives in Africa. This is the same as asking what impact drug trafficking has on people's lives in South America countries.

Oil is a curse of monumental proportions but of course one cant blame an inanimate substance. It really comes down to the human resources that come with the oil. For every barrel pumped, the more anarchy it brings.
James Stewart, USA

Many Africans will continue to live in poverty regardless of whether their country is rich in oil or not. Africa's problem is the people's mentality. Many African leaders always rule their countries as if those countries were their personal property, so any oil will certainly be for them and their families while the others languish in poverty. It will take a long time for Africans and their leaders to know that a country belongs to all those who live in it and that sharing is an idea whose time has come. Most of Africa's wars have been motivated by greed. Yet history has not taught these leaders any lessons.
Joachim Arrey, Ossing, Cameroon

Oil in itself is a neutral resource, neither good nor evil. However, like in the case of diamonds and gold, oil money brings the greedy out of the woodworks. The key is to educate Africans on the necessity of having clear laws and structures on the distribution of resources, enforced by severe penalties for violators.
Wangeshi Gatheru, Kenya

Before the discovery of oil in Nigeria, the country relied heavily on the production of agricultural products, which made it possible for many young men and women to be gainfully employed. And, unlike now, people were able to feed themselves! But immediately after the discovery of oil, most political office holders decided to feed fat on the peoples' resources. Coups upon coups were the order of the day. Niger delta region, the main oil producing part of Nigeria, has not known peace. All these are the "blessings" of the discovery of black gold in Nigeria.
Jude Odinkonigbo, Enugu, Nigeria

West Africa should use her oil wealth to unite the region into one nation. United West Africa will enhance political stability, common comprehensive educational and health programs, and economic prosperity. If our leaders fail to do this, we will remain in perpetuity, the permanent economic underdog of the world.
Lamin PF Manneh, Gambian in Seattle, USA

There is no simple and way to answer. I'm going to use this famous saying of "It's not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" meaning those who sell, in this case African government who have no plan for what they can do for their country/people but instead make themselves profit from it. I would in addition hold responsible those who buy oil despite knowing who will profit but still do business with them.
Kamal, Somalia/USA

Nationals of African countries must commit to cultivating a sense of nationhood and national identity. It is when the majority of a Africa's populace have a synoptic understanding of their ravaging state of poverty that a viable solution could be developed.
Adakole Emaikwu, USA

Quite frankly, I view all African natural resources as a curse on a poor continent run by thugs galore.
Mubarak Salah, England

I can't speak for other countries in Africa, but being born and raised in eastern Nigeria, I would challenge anybody to say, without the flimsiest fear of contradiction, that oil has been more of a blessing than otherwise. A good number of us went to school almost free of charge. Our parents didn't pay a cent, additional teachers were hired from Ghana and India and textbooks were imported and supplied. All with the oil money. Today, in certain states, to mention Rivers State, transportaion is free for school children. Any denial of the benefits derived so far from the oil wealth is, to say the very least, criminal!
Tony Izuogu, Nigerian

Thanks to IMF, people in Africas oil belt live in poverty. Right now America is spending $1 billion dollars a week occupying Iraq which they are trying to create democracy with the barrel of the gun. This is a case of penny wise pound foolish. America and its allies could leave the Arab oil alone, see the Africans as human beings, write off the African debt, which is making life hard for the people on the continent and get all the oil they need without the fear of extreme Islam.
Akim, Nigeria

I come from the Gambia and I hope that after 100 years this tiny country will discover oil when honest and deeply loving patriots are born. When a black African country has got oil the people turn their back to the ancient profession of farming. The country then becomes a net importer of food resulting in high prices with the silent majority being unable to purchase and to feed themselves. Now what happens to the oil revenue? It goes straight to the bank accounts of the president, PM and cronies.
Momodou Ousman Ceesay, England

My country, is blessed, but our leaders are cursed
Nasiru Z, Nigeria

The issue is not whether oil is a blessing or a curse on Africa. The issue is that African leaders have demonstrated times and times over that they are irresponsible, reckless and insensitive in their running of affairs on the continent
Oluwole Franklyn-Ayeni, USA/Nigeria

Africa would become instantly rich if it would trade all its oil reserves for education and information! As long as the masses remain clueless, it will continue to be exploited from within and without, just like in the slave trade. For now, oil equals an endless supply of guns for an endless supply of airheads and perpetual civil war. And we're not yet in the crosshairs for possible WMD possession!
Ndirangu Githaiga, Kenya/USA

Africa's oil, like most other minerals, belong to the government and not individuals. Since African governments are in the hands of a few, the money from the oil is in the hands of the corrupt government leaders and the foreign companies that drill the oil. The government leaders do not care about the welfare of the people. The money is never used in developing the countries. The leaders simply put the money in their own pockets. By taking over the government leadership one assumes control of this oil money and it is therefore not surprising to find that wars are fought over control of this oil money.
Jomo K, USA/Malawi

Mismanagement, Mismanagement, Mismanagement and a pinch of greediness which boarders on stupidity.
Osuprupu De Kwame Anantey, Ghana

The main problem is the non-transparency of oil earnings and payments made by the oil company to the producing country to make them accountable for the budget and spending. I hope the West learns their lesson in the Middle East where the same lack of transparency was practised and it cause destabilisation. Western governments and bankers should set up a code of conduct regarding overseas depositors to ensure that the money deposited with them are earned legally.
Adams Dauda, Nigerian in UK

It does not matter what resources Africa has, it will always remain poor because of selfish and greedy leaders that suck our economy to fill the coffers of Western states. It's time for Africans to wake up.
Shukry, Zanzibar

A rational African mind can never say that oil in Africa is a curse. Oil is essential for africa to fund itself and prosper. It's a gift that needs to be exploited to serve Africa .
Jamal, Canada

I was born during the oil boom era in Nigeria. Since then Nigeria has made over $200 billion and I can say for a fact that oil is a curse. No good has happened to other sectors of the economy since then. Throughout my life standards of living have dropped continually every year.
Adrian G, USA

As a Nigerian student abroad, I feel sad each time I think of Nigeria's oil. Incidentally I come from the south of Nigeria where this oil is coming from, but up to this point in my life, I have neither received free healthcare or free education. Thanks to my poorly paid dad and mum that I am able to write on the computer. This year, last summer I was on holidays and all what I saw was decadence of Nigerian roads, universities on perennial strikes, an epileptic telecommunication system, inhuman degradation of the environment and lives of the very areas which produce the petroleum. For most Nigerian youths and children, Nigeria's oil has more worse than a curse, it has been a blazing hell fire, for it has killed all the other industries which existed and gave our people jobs before the oil boom of the 1970s.
Chidi Nwamadi, Nigeria/France

The reason that makes many African nations poor regardless of selling oil is because the companies that exploit the oil are mostly foreign and they bank the proceeds in their Western countries. Secondly, corruption also makes African owners of these companies externalise proceeds. Thirdly, lack of transparency and good governance makes companies forget corporate social responsibility needs. Oil is not only an economic resource but it also has political connotations and accountability as a political necessity is lacking in many African institutions.
Albert Edgar Manyuchi, UK

GREED, CORRUPTION, lack of knowledge and civil war will keep oil rich countries in Africa poor, unfortunately. Nigeria the 6th oil producing country in the world is still considered a poor nation. WHY!!!
Biniyam, Eritrean/USA

Poverty, no hospital and children dying every day because of the Angola government which is exploiting Cabinda oil. Please help!
Lucas Franque, Cabinda

Impact of oil? See it by yourselves: Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Congo. Do they sound like developed, stable, or rich countries? Far from that, they probably are some of the darkest spots for human development in the whole world. Not only Africa: Take Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or Iraq. There must be something in oil. Oil countries have a pipe right in the office of the Head of State. That pipe carries royalties. The powerful have a tap from which money just flows. Politics are reduced to gain control over the tap.
Carlos Dominguez, Spain

The West is also very responsible for Africa's woes when it comes to management of Africa's resources. Take the case of Equatorial Guinea. Not only are the big oil companies paying peanuts to the country, but all the oil revenues are deposited with a bank in the US. Anyone with half a brain can of course predict the future of Equatorial Guinea. War, civil strife and anarchy. Do the oil companies, Washington DC, 10 Downing Street, Paris etc... care?
Benjamin Stoppes, USA

It is a fact that Africa is rich in oil but it is important for us to realise that this oil is controlled by Americans and Europeans who exploit, sell and take most of the money back to their countries. It is a shame but the day of Africa will come where all this will not happen again.
John Ansah, Ghanaian in Norway


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