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African Geographical Review
Volume 29, Issue 1, June 2010

 

Research Article

Oil and Armed Conflicts in Africa

Philippe Le Billon (University of British Columbia, Canada)

 

Abstract:


Popular geopolitical representations of oil in Africa conjure up images of corrupt politicians, disgruntled populations, and predatory foreign oil companies: a volatile mix often held up as the cause of the armed conflicts in which African ‘petrostates’ are supposedly locked. This article queries these geopolitical narratives, and offers a different perspective: while several countries--such as Algeria, Angola, Nigeria and Sudan--have indeed experienced long and deadly conflicts, African oil-producing countries have not, on average, been more frequently at war than non-oil producers. The article explores this perspective by reviewing the main arguments linking oil and armed conflicts, providing a brief overview of conflict trends, and identifying some of the major conflict risk factors. These factors should inform future risk assessments for African oil-producing countries, while motivating further research considering broader forms of violence and their geographies.

Key words: Africa, oil, war, violence