NPR logo The Oil Curse, Cont'd

The Oil Curse, Cont'd

The scene on the ground in Equatorial Guinea:

Eventually you pass the conference centre, a concrete edifice built to host a recent African Union summit. Beside it is a complex of 52 identical mansions, one for every African leader attending the week-long event. It has its own heliport, of course. The houses are all empty. ...

Welcome to Sipopo. This Orwellian complex, grafted on to the capital, Malabo, is the face Equatorial Guinea wishes to present to the world. Obiang, now the longest-serving ruler in Africa and a man accused of presiding over one of the world's most corrupt, kleptocratic and repressive governments, spent more than half a billion pounds creating it as part of his drive to rebrand his regime. It is small change for a man alleged to pocket £40m a day in energy revenues; his tiny country is sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer. ...

Sipopo cost four times the annual education budget in what is perhaps the planet's most unequal society, a country where per-capita wealth exceeds Britain but three-quarters of its 675,000 citizens live on less than a dollar a day. Infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world, but that spanking-new hospital, said one doctor, has no patients most of the time.

Read full story in The Observer.

This is a particularly dramatic instance of what economists call the natural resource curse — the fact that resource-rich countries often end up being ruled by dictators and autocrats. For more, see our story, "How To Avoid The Oil Curse."

Hat tip: The Browser