In Africa, oil seems to be a source of conflict more than it is a blessing. Not any single country in Africa has been transformed economically for the betterment of every individual because of oil. Instead, oil has brought more troubles for the African countries which possess it.
Majority of people in countries with oil still live in abject poverty with no signs of improvement in near sight.
Oil is a global commodity that essentially runs the world. The bulk of the daily activities we engage in require oil at some point. And because of this, having oil, or having access to it means big money. It means the political and business elite aspire to own the means of production that extract oil and distribute it to other parts of the world.
Oil is such a lucrative trade for politicians. They are the ones who have all the control over it. Because of this, citizens in African countries with oil have no say in the extraction and distribution of oil. It implies that citizens have no say in the oil trade, it means that they remain dis-empowered and stuck in vicious cycles of poverty.
In Africa, the existence of oil has failed to enrich people. The product is creating opportunities for the elite while the citizens are subjected to unending economic troubles.
In countries like Sudan, oil has been a huge source of conflict. There is fighting among rebel groups over the control of oil resources. Such wars have caused untold suffering to Sudan and damage that will take many years to fix.
In the whole of Africa, there is no any single country that has the capacity to refine its own oil. It is a deplorable state of affairs, but an existing and pressing reality. African countries that produce oil have to refine it in other countries. This means they can not make diesel, petrol, or any other fuel from oil for daily living.
As such, there should not be a situation where there is a fuel crisis in countries that produces oil. But countries like Angola and Nigeria are in the headlines for fuel queues.
Oil returns end up in the hands of a narrow elite. For the majority, it is struggle after struggle.
Recently, there were oil discoveries in Kenya. It is hoped that oil will be transformative towards Kenya's economy and lift the majority of citizens from the doldrums of poverty and suffering. The country made it's first sale, but the long-term plans should include capacity to refine oil. There are now growing demands in Kenya for inclusive revenue sharing.
Oil should cease to be a source of conflict, poverty and suffering in Africa. Oil should start changing people's lives. But this cannot happen when the same political institutions that are prevalent in most African countries are still there.
These political institutions are stop looting State resources to sustain their ambitions. For oil to benefit the mass, political institutions must promote inclusive economic activities, where the goal is to make sure that everyone benefits from oil income. Where the goal is to use oil to end poverty.
Africa still has a long way in making sure oil is for everyone's benefit.
Header image credit - CGTN Africa