Times: UK) ALTHOUGH billed as an attempt to extend the
hand of friendship to a neglected continent, President
Bush’s five nation African safari is widely being seen
as an effort to ensure US access to Africa’s burgeoning
pot of black gold.
Sub-Saharan Africa is enjoying an unprecedented oil
exploration and production boom that is expected to
transform the region from a modest producer to a key
supplier over the next decade.
US attention has focused on the Atlantic waters of the
Gulf of Guinea states — Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea,
Chad, Cameroon, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Angola and São
As head of a task force on future oil supplies, Dick
Cheney, the US Vice-President, predicted two years ago
that the region would become the fastest-growing source of
energy for America. But the scale of the region’s
untapped resources has taken everyone by surprise.
The US already imports about 15 per cent of its annual
oil requirements from the Gulf of Guinea. This is expected
to exceed 25 per cent by 2015, significantly reducing
America’s dependence on the volatile Middle East.
US imports from Angola alone rose to $3.2 billion (£1.9
billion) in 2002, up from $2.3 billion in 1998. Angola
produces 900,000 barrels of oil a day and is expected to
exceed 1.6 million barrels a day at its peak. Some
analysts predict that the Gulf of Guinea states are likely
to earn about $200 billion while the boom lasts.
Foreign oil companies are pouring billions of dollars
into new exploration and production projects, which will
see oil extraction double. More than $50 billion has been
earmarked for new development schemes, making it the
single largest investment in the continent’s history.
But there is mounting concern that America’s scramble
for Africa’s resources will lead to an increase in the
corruption and mismanagement that has afflicted the
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a Baltimore think-tank,
has issed a blunt warning that the Bush Administration’s
new-found interest in Africa is far from charitable.
In its report, Bottom of the Barrel, CRS said
that petro- dollars had not helped developing countries in
“Angola used them to fight a three-decade-long civil
war, and in Nigeria they supported one military dictator
after another,” Ian Gary, the report’s author, said.
CRS has been campaigning for greater transparency in
the international oil industry in an effort to stamp out
corruption and ensure that oil revenues are used to
improve the lives of impoverished Africans, the bulk of
whom live on less than $1 a day.
During his visit, Mr Bush is expected to emphasise
American support for good governance and respect for human
rights. But CRS doubts that such values will be allowed to
get in the way of US strategic issues.
“The US has identified increasing African oil imports
as an issue of national security and has used diplomacy to
court African producers regardless of their record on
transparency, democracy, or human rights,” Mr Gary said