The Looting Machine: Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa's Wealth
A shocking investigative journey into the way the resource trade wreaks havoc on Africa, ‘The Looting Machine’ explores the dark underbelly of the global economy.
Africa: the world’s poorest continent and, arguably, its richest. While accounting for just 2 percent of global GDP, it is home to 15 per cent of the planet’s crude oil, 40 per cent of its gold and 80 per cent of its platinum. A third of the earth’s mineral deposits lie beneath its soil. But far from being a salvation, this buried treasure has been a curse.
‘The Looting Machine’ takes you on a gripping and shocking journey through anonymous boardrooms and glittering headquarters to expose a new form of financialized colonialism. Africa’s booming growth is driven by the voracious hunger for natural resources from rapidly emerging economics such as China. But in the shadows a network of traders, bankers and corporate raiders has sprung up to grease the palms of venal local political elites. What is happening in Africa’s resource states is systematic looting. In country after country across the continent, the resource industry is tearing at the very fabric of society. But, like its victims, the beneficiaries of this looting machine have names.
For six years Tom Burgis has been on a mission to expose corruption and give voice to the millions of Africans who suffer the consequences of living under this curse. Combining deep reporting with an action-packed narrative, he travels to the heart of Africa’s resource states, meeting a warlord in Nigeria’s oil-soaked Niger Delta and crossing a warzone to reach a remote mineral mine in eastern Congo. The result is a blistering investigation that throws a completely fresh light on the workings of the global economy and will make you think twice about what goes into the mobile phone in your pocket and the tank of your car.
authorities before, notably when the police dispersed their demos. This was not the first time the house had been raided. But the band of fifteen men who turned up at just after ten that night wanted to teach the dissidents a more serious lesson.29 Elections at which dos Santos planned to ensure a thumping victory were three months away, and the deployment of oil money alone would not be enough to neutralize public displays of opposition to his rule. Bursting through the door, the men bore down
Laura Rena Murray, Beth Morrissey, Himanshu Ojha and Patrick Martin-Menard, ‘African Safari: CIF’s Grab for Oil and Minerals’, Caixin, 17 October 2011, http://english.caixin.com/2011-10-17/100314766.html, and ‘Top Salesman for China Sonangol’, Africa Energy Intelligence, 12 January 2011, www.africaintelligence.com/AEM/oil/2011/01/12/top-salesman-for-china-sonangol,87388022-ART. 40. The Tsimoro oil field potentially held a billion barrels of crude. It already had a proprietor, a London-listed
supply the economic growth that helps lift millions, if not billions, out of poverty.’15 To mine is not necessarily to loot; there are miners, oilmen and entire companies whose ethos and conduct run counter to the looters’. Many of the hundreds of resource executives, geologists and financiers I have met believe they are indeed serving a noble cause – and plenty of them can make a justifiable case that, without their efforts, things would be much worse. The same goes for those African
pursuit of African resources that replicate the old tricks of the traditional lords of African resources. Beneath the rhetoric of universal progress Beijing has proved just as willing as its European predecessors in Africa to use middlemen to cultivate personal ties to the most influential members of the ruling classes who control access to the continent’s oil and minerals. The search for one of those middlemen led me to Niamey’s zoo. It lies in the centre of Niger’s sand-blown capital, close to
once much of the missing money had been traced to Sonangol’s web of financial dealings, $4.2 billion was still completely unaccounted for. Angola’s government had not been strapped for cash merely because of the turmoil in the global economy; the Futungo’s shadow state had looted its treasury. But the IMF continued to hand over its loan, bit by bit, and to repeat assurances it received from the government that reforms were at hand. Sonangol did start disclosing more information about its