A Second Hand Conjecture has a nice interview of John Ghazvinian author of Untapped: The Scramble For Africa’s Oil. I usually stay away from most discussions on oil in Africa because most are not about oil or Africa but really about Bush or China, but I liked this one. Here’s one interesting quote:
Oil, as I keep trying to say to people, is not by itself something evil. It’s just a black substance that comes out of the ground. It’s what we do with it. What I try to point out in this book is that there are a lot of reasons why it makes life more difficult in struggling African countries. The first step is awareness of what some of those issues are. How we actually resolve those? I’ll be the first to throw up my hands and say I don’t know.
One of the things I’ve been talking about a lot as I talk about with the book, is the importance of job creation and the importance of creating stakeholder economies in the same way we have in the West around the oil boom. The real tragedy of oil exploration is that it’s capital intensive and skills intensive, but it’s not labor intensive. It doesn’t create a lot of jobs. Even the few jobs it does create are generally done by expats.
I don’t understand why the multinational oil companies –at least the Western ones that claim to want to help– don’t come together and create something like an African oil university somewhere in Nigeria or Angola, where they can train locals to become petroleum engineers. One of the really interesting things about the oil industry is that they are constantly complaining about a shortage of skilled petroleum engineers. This is an aging industry, most petroleum engineers are now in their fifties, they’re not being replaced quickly. They desperately need skilled labor and it seems like a very obvious place to try to train some of that labor would be in Africa.
Hat Tip Omodudu