The Looting Machine

Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 11 hrs and 5 mins
Categories: History, Africa
4.5 out of 5 stars (187 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 percent of the world's reserves of hydrocarbons and minerals and 14 percent 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.

©2015 Tom Burgis (P)2015 Gildan Media LLC

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Frightening, Fascinating, Fatiguing

When Tom Burgis tells us, at the start of this book, how he suffered a nervous breakdown, it's easy to see why. The sheer magnitude and hopelessness of the problem in Africa is almost beyond imagining.
This is an important book. One with which college students should be familiar. The wealth we enjoy is purchased on the misery of millions of Africans, and most of us remain blissfully unaware, if not totally unfeeling.
I had to take this book in pieces, it's so powerfully overwhelming. It has left me hating a system over which it seems I have no control whatever. Still, I'm glad to know the truth of it.
Listen to this book. Grover Gardner is the best narrator one can imagine, and the subject matter is of the utmost importance.

5 people found this helpful

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Indispensable reading

This is one of those rare books that can change so much about how you think about a topic as complex as Africa. Burgis did an excellent job of covering a broad swath of the continent without falling in to the usual traps of stereotypes and overs simplification that plague so many other authors. His insights on Sam Pa and the growing Chinese role in the "Looting Machine" was particularly interesting.

4 people found this helpful

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Great book

This is an outline of the countries discussed. You'll have to dive a bit deeper to learn about all the legal crime that's robbing so many Africans of their own wealth. Very sobering.

1. Angola
2. DR Congo
3. Nigeria
4. China
5. Guinea
6. Niger
7. Ghana
8. Niger Delta (Nigerian oil province)
9. South Africa
10. Zimbabwe

1 person found this helpful

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Insightful But...

Fairly insightful as to the connections between warlords, cleptocracts, and corporations, but I don't think you can get the full perspective on the problems of Africa without going deeper, ie colonialism. It does help to rationalize much of today's news about the continent however. Check it out as I did but I'm definitely looking for more.

1 person found this helpful

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The history of corruption.

This books appears to explain many of the problems of developing nations. Well written and narrated.

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Very, very good

The content of the book was very well researched and it was written with good clarity and conciseness.
I was really surprised with the author's sharing in the beginning of the book of the emotional toll his time in Africa took on him.
I looked up many facts he describes here and they are accurately used.
The reader is also very nice. Good quality audio with clear speech and precise dictation.

1 person found this helpful

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great book hard to read cuz it's so heartbreaking

Facebook shows where the wealth of the western world come from and why Africa is poor it shows why it will continue to be poor

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One of the best I’ve listened to

Narrative was fantastic, and the book moves along at a very nice pace. While the content was troubling, it was an entertaining read nonetheless.

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Economic nightmare!

This book makes my skin crawl! It provides the best account I have read in almost 50 years of loving and following Africa of how and why the continent does not seem to get ahead!

Written an easy to listen forum, with window pictures into interviews and events on the African continent and in Europe, it is a combination of stunningly methodical research from Burgis, an experienced, thorough financial writer for the London Financial Times with the frightening history of resource states in Africa. Country-by-country the author details the way in which energy corporations outside of Africa have looted and plundered the continent collaborating with these countries' corrupt rulers. This has left the people of these nations poor and lacking in even basic services while the elite who run the looting machine amass not million not tens of millions not hundreds of millions but billions of dollars for themselves, hidden from view. The network of exploitation, especially involving the China International Fund (CIF) and the Queensway Group with their emissary Sam Pah, is on that is almost too hard to believe. It sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie.
"Truth IS apparently stranger than fiction!!" Most of us on the streets have no idea of the shadow states and the extent to which corruption has infected this situation. The looting of Africa has not changed, beginning as far back as King Leopold then Cecil Rhodes and handed it off like "an inheritance through DNA" to the corrupt African leaders of independent Africa. Burgis talks of Sese Seko, Mugabe, and Dos Santos. What seems to be a common thread through virtually ALL of these accounts, and the one which makes my skin crawl, is the way China has become the chief antagonist during the past 20 years, supplanting traditional economic imperialists and virtually invisible exploitation. The money they invest is simply unbelievable! Burgis gives the details! It seems the machine is unstoppable. My heart breaks for the results.

This book Is long and dense. But for those with a real heart for Africa and a desire to understand why it seems that Africa never seems to live up to its HUGE potential based on the largest concentrations of natural resources on earth, I think this books puts a finger in the right place. It is primarily a problem of greed and corruption; large Western energy corporations, those who run the looting machine through devious legal and hidden businesses and cover-ups. The key reason it works, is that when wealth is in a resource rather than in production, there is no one held accountable. Resource "renting" occurs putting a huge pot of revenue available to a very small number of leaders who can do with it what they please without accountability.

Read this book, be patient, and then end weeping!!!

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A good overview of african continent history

The book start after the independence of most african countries and describe how corporate and warlord control africa's wealth and destiny.