Kirkus Star


Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth
Email this review


A brave, excoriating exposé of the systematic ruination of resource-rich countries of Africa, leaving “penury and strife” for its millions of inhabitants.

Financial Times journalist based at various points in Africa since 2008 (Johannesburg, Lagos), Burgis makes some astonishing assertions and revelations about the ongoing kleptocracy in the most resource-rich countries of Africa—e.g., Angola, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. In many cases, China has been the dark force behind the extraction. The author examines the much-debated “resource curse” for countries in which “extractive industries” such as oil and mining dominate: These richest African countries also rank at the top of the world’s extreme poverty rates. The pot of resources is rife for the taking by those who control the state (“big man” politics), and because the rulers do not need to tax the people to fund government, there is no need for their consent. Burgis explains how this inversion of “no taxation without representation” ruptures the social contract between the rulers and the people, who have no ability to hold them accountable. Specifically, the author delves into Angola’s shadowy Futungo cartel, by which the family of leader José Eduardo dos Santos has amassed a “war chest” from the country’s oil industry. Burgis also looks at the destruction of Nigeria’s textile industry by Chinese imitators and smugglers, thrusting millions of Nigerians into horrendous poverty, as well as the Chinese middlemen who prey on African industries and the massive investment provided by the Chinese to spur development, mining and drilling. The author destroys the argument that a commodity boom actually creates economic growth and better lives for people—indeed, the opposite is true when one considers the human development index. Moreover, Burgis strenuously blames the West for its “complicity” in encouraging the commodity rape of Africa.

An earnest, eye-opening, important account for Western readers.

Pub Date: March 24th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61039-439-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


NonfictionTHE RISE AND FALL OF NATIONS by Ruchir Sharma
by Ruchir Sharma
NonfictionAFRICA by John Reader
by John Reader
NonfictionAFRICA by Richard Dowden
by Richard Dowden