Africa now supplies more oil to the United States than Saudi Arabia. Investment of US$50 billion in the next three years is expected. John Ghaviznian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, talks to Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Before we talk about Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan — and what’s not often talked about is oil there — let’s talk about the latest news out of Nigeria, out of the Niger Delta. What is happening there, John?
JOHN GHAZVINIAN: Yeah, as you say quite rightly, it’s actually more of the same, to be honest. The situation in Nigeria is now as bad as I think anyone can remember it. Many of your listeners and viewers will be aware of the struggles of the Ogoni in the 1990s against Shell, and so on. That was really child's play compared to what’s been going on in the last couple years in Nigeria, and ironically we hear less about it.
But, you know, I was just there a couple weeks ago. Just in the sort of four or five days I spent in the Delta, there were twenty-nine foreigners taken hostage, kidnapped by militants. You know, it’s the same story, basically. It’s a battle over access to oil money and for resource control, and it hasn’t gone away, and it’s not about to go away.
AMY GOODMAN: The fact that the United States gets more oil from Africa — now, that’s a continent versus Saudi Arabia, which is a country. That’s not often recognized by our leaders, the continent versus country issue, but that’s still extremely significant. Give us the picture of Africa, where the oil is and where many are hoping it will be.
JOHN GHAZVINIAN: Yeah, actually, you know, the US, as you say, gets as much oil now from — as we do from Saudi Arabia, but actually we’re going to be getting about — you know, much more in the next few years. This is what’s significant is that by 2015, we’re going to be getting 25% of our imported oil from Africa. And, you know, this is why I wrote the book, really, because I feel like this is something we don't pay a lot of attention to. When we think of oil, we tend to think of the Middle East or other parts or Venezuela or other parts of the world. But Africa is becoming increasingly important for our way of life and our energy needs, and I think it’s important for people to have some idea what some of the issues are in some of these countries.
To answer your question, the big kind of African oil boom at the moment, or at least in recent years, has been along the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, what some people like to call the armpit of Africa — if you sort of picture a map of Africa, that sort of ninety-degree bend along the ocean there. You know, it’s a lot of deep water offshore discoveries that have really been coming on stream recently at places like Angola that are really up and coming. Angola has just joined OPEC a couple months ago. It’s the first new member of OPEC in more than thirty years, and it’s an African country, and it’s rapidly catching up with Nigeria. People are now talking about East Africa, that was possibly the next big margin, you know, the next kind of big oil boom for Africa. That’s much closer to China, so it has some obvious benefits there.
But the bottom line is that Africa, as a whole, is really deeply under-explored and kind of under — it’s not really looked at as much as it could be. I mean, there’s exploration blocks the size of France that still haven’t been given away, and it’s a very hot and very exciting destination for the oil industry right now.