The politics of governing oil in Africa: rupture and continuity?

Sam Hickey (University of Manchester)
Economy and Development
50 George Square, G.03
Session slots:
Thursday 13 June, 10:45 - 12:30
Thursday 13 June, 16:15 - 18:00

Short abstract:

New discoveries of commercial quantities of oil and gas in Africa in the early C21 have brought both rupture and continuity. We explore this in relation to modes of governance and state capacity, transnational connections, development trajectories and state-society relations.

Long abstract:

The discovery of commercial quantities of oil and gas in several African countries during the early Twenty First Century was greeted as a rupture that brought with it very mixed blessings. Hopes of a boost to development were countered by fears that a new generation of countries would now undergo the so-called 'resource curse'. Over a decade in, now is a good time to assess how far the discovery of oil and gas has proved to herald a new era and how far such finds have helped to embed continuity at multiple levels, both in terms of development and governance. Is there any evidence of a political resource curse, with new natural resource finds helping to embed undemocratic and patronage-based forms of politics? Have 'democracies' proved more or less capable of governing oil and gas effectively as compared to countries with more 'semi-authoritarian' leaders? What shapes the commitment and capacity of ruling elites to govern oil in the national interest? How have far have oil and gas finds transformed the transnational connections that African countries are entwined in, particularly in terms of the growing involvement of China and the introduction of a new range of commercial players? To what extent have the kinds of institutional arrangements promoted by international actors (e.g. the Norway model) helped or hindered countries in their efforts to govern natural resources effectively? We welcome papers that examine the political economy of natural resource governance in Africa in relation to these and other questions.