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KIU BOOK CLUB: The Looting Machine by Tom Burgis


By Rogers Wanambwa

KIU Main Campus - Have you ever wondered why countries, especially African countries with so much resource wealth, continue to feature on the poorest countries list? Well that is what Financial Times' correspondent, Tom Burgis, reveals in this captivating book, “The Looting Machine: Warlords, tycoons, smugglers and the systematic theft of Africa's wealth.”

Burgis tackles what has come to be known as “the resource curse” in great detail using well researched examples, and he shows how these countries have been exploited at the expense of their nationals.

From the oil-rich Angola and Nigeria, to the mineral rich Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire), to the deals that happen in Israel, and even as far as China.

He is relentless on his evidence gathering following the money trails and showing how the layman is never considered in this cycle.

Perhaps, to show how grave the situation has become, Burgis tells that “When the International Monetary Fund examined Angola’s national accounts in 2011, it found that between 2007 and 2010, $32 billion had gone missing, a sum greater than the gross domestic product of each of forty-three African countries and equivalent to one in every four dollars that the Angolan economy generates annually. Most of the missing money could be traced to off-the-books spending by Sonangol; $4.2 billion was completely unaccounted for.”

Along the way, Burgis explains that all this is so because, “that looting machine has been modernized. Where once treaties signed at gunpoint dispossessed Africa’s inhabitants of their land, gold, and diamonds, today phalanxes of lawyers representing oil and mineral companies with annual revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars impose miserly terms on African governments and employ tax dodges to bleed profit from destitute nations. They are aligned to no nation and belong instead to the transnational elites that have flourished in the era of globalization. Above all, they serve their own enrichment.”