Summary of The Looting Machine

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9 Overall

9 Importance

9 Innovation

8 Style


Africa sends a wealth of industrial raw materials – bauxite, iron, copper – as well as fossil fuels, uranium, gold and diamonds out into the world. Despite this natural wealth, desperate poverty besets many African states. Tom Burgis, a veteran investigative journalist, has covered natural resources, conflict and corruption in Africa for more than a decade. He shines a light on the “shadow states,” criminal networks and unscrupulous corporate parties that impoverished the continent while extracting vast profits. Burgis’s investigations take him to the slums of Luanda, the markets of Kaduna, the diamond fields of Zimbabwe, and the offices of kleptocrats and modern robber barons who bankrupt entire nations. At times, Burgis bogs down in financial facts and figures or in the intricacies of byzantine business deals that might tax readers’ patience. But those who seek an understanding of the causes of Africa’s suffering – and of who benefits from that suffering – will find truth, outrage and compassion in this unflinching account.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What natural resources Africa exports and who benefits;
  • How the “resource curse” and the “Dutch disease” drained money from resource-laden African nations that remain impoverished, violent and autocratic; and
  • How Africa can combat corruption.

About the Author

Investigations correspondent at the Financial Times Tom Burgis focuses on the natural resource industries and its attendant corruption and conflict.



African Resources

Sub-Saharan Africa provides treasures for the world’s industries and energy systems. The continent boasts about one-third of Earth’s mineral and fossil fuel stores, including nearly one-eighth of global crude oil reserves. A typical 14-gallon tank of gas contains one gallon refined from African oil. Angola pumps more than 2% of the world’s oil and contributes one-seventh of China’s oil imports. Only Saudi Arabia sells more oil to China. Nigeria, Africa’s leading oil producer, pumps even more, and has enormous stores of natural gas. Recent natural gas discoveries may be larger than the United Arab Emirates’ reserves.

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