The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth

Written by:
Tom Burgis
Narrated by:
Grover Gardner

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2015
11 hours 8 minutes
The trade in oil, gas, gems, metals and rare earth minerals wreaks havoc in Africa. During the years when Brazil, India, China and the other “emerging markets” have transformed their economies, Africa's resource states remained tethered to the bottom of the industrial supply chain. While Africa accounts for about 30 per cent of the world's reserves of hydrocarbons and minerals and 14 per cent of the world's population, its share of global manufacturing stood in 2011 exactly where it stood in 2000: at 1 percent.

In his first book, The Looting Machine, Tom Burgis exposes the truth about the African development miracle: for the resource states, it's a mirage. The oil, copper, diamonds, gold and coltan deposits attract a global network of traders, bankers, corporate extractors and investors who combine with venal political cabals to loot the states' value. And the vagaries of resource-dependent economies could pitch Africa's new middle class back into destitution just as quickly as they climbed out of it. The ground beneath their feet is as precarious as a Congolese mine shaft; their prosperity could spill away like crude from a busted pipeline.

This catastrophic social disintegration is not merely a continuation of Africa's past as a colonial victim. The looting now is accelerating as never before. As global demand for Africa's resources rises, a handful of Africans are becoming legitimately rich but the vast majority, like the continent as a whole, is being fleeced. Outsiders tend to think of Africa as a great drain of philanthropy. But look more closely at the resource industry and the relationship between Africa and the rest of the world looks rather different. In 2010, fuel and mineral exports from Africa were worth $333 billion, more than seven times the value of the aid that went in the opposite direction. But who received the money? For every Frenchwoman who dies in childbirth, 100 die in Niger alone, the former French colony whose uranium fuels France's nuclear reactors. In petro-states like Angola three-quarters of government revenue comes from oil. The government is not funded by the people, and as result it is not beholden to them. A score of African countries whose economies depend on resources are rentier states; their people are largely serfs. The resource curse is not merely some unfortunate economic phenomenon, the product of an intangible force. What is happening in Africa's resource states is systematic looting.
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Gitane S.

Really interesting and informative but way outdated Nothing more current than 2014 How about a follow up or a revised edition?

African mining laid bare, interesting details

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great book about the past and current state of Africa, and the flow on effects from colonialism and discusses the violent lengths corporations will go to, to keep shareholders happy.

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Bob W.


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Guy F.

I wish he had touched more on the South African problems, but perhaps they are less appealing given the value of the oil economy, and the humanitarian cost of cobalt and diamond mining in the countries to the north. The picture he paints is that it is still a scramble for Africa, with European monarchs simply replaced by ruthless business people from across the globe (Isreal, China, Switzerland, and the UK stand out, it must be said) who get in by simply backing the right warlord...

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Niall Roper

This book provides a coherent explanation of how and why African countries remain poor. Despite the grim subject it's a compelling narrative full of engaging anecdotal detail of the author’s investigation, and it is well narrated. I feel much better informed more outraged. In my business and personal life I will seek not to contribute to the exploitation of African countries, and look for ways to help.

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Stephen R.

I love reporting that is dense with research. Burgis is across his brief. Every chapter is packed with stories with major players in a complex network of skulduggery. The interconnectedness of rich non Africans, wealth in the African ground, corporate aspiration for unaccountable tax free exploitation of Africation resources and the various interesting African players creates a fascinating narrative. Not a book with many heroes or hope filled stories.

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