Les pétro-élites africaines/ African petro-elites

Les “pétro-élites”. C’est un terme intéressant utilisé par Thorsten Benner et Ricardo Soares de Oliveira dans leur article du International Herald Tribune. Pour ces auteurs, les consommateurs de pétrole, c’est-à-dire nous, sont un élément clef qui permettra de forcer les élites des États africains producteurs de pétrole à partager les bénéfices de cette industrie. Ces élites mènent des trains de vie fastueux dans les capitales européennes (les auteurs ne mentionnent pas les “capitales américaines”, mais des membres de cette élite se pavanent aussi à New-York, Los Angeles ou même Montréal). Les auteurs proposent des mesures pour limiter la liberté d’action des pétro-élites comme imposer des mesures de transparence dans les activités économiques et fermer l’accès au banques offshores (Zurich, îles Cayman. Londres…), mais un des moyens prôné serait la prise de conscience des consommateurs. Mais, contrairement aux “diamants du sang”, une campagne contre le “pétrole du sang” semble avoir moins d’impacts. Notons au passage l’absence de références à un acteur primordial dans cette situation déplorable: les entreprises pétrolières étrangères qui viennent extraire la ressource sur le continent africain et qui s’accommodent très bien des pétro-élites (voir Corpwatch, un bon site qui surveillent les entreprises).

The petro-elites. It is a term used by Thorsten Benner and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira in their article from the International Herald Tribune. For these authors, the oil consumers, meaning us, are a key element for the enforcement of good practises among the elites of oil producing African countries:

The world’s fastest growing source of oil is West Africa. The United States imports more crude from West Africa than from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined; Angola has become China’s biggest supplier; the European Union imports almost one fifth of its oil from Africa.

The African petrodollars, however, benefit only kleptocratic elites. Angola is a case in point. Five years after the end of the civil war, people are still waiting for a development dividend from the country’s oil riches while Luanda’s elite is awash in oil cash.

The word is out on the “oil curse.” But there is nothing (super)natural about the mismanagement of Africa’s oil revenues. It is the direct result of the longstanding partnership between oil producing states, oil companies and consumers. As long as Africa supplies the oil, no further questions asked.


The West has significant market and consumer power that it has not even tried to leverage. If we are serious about promoting good governance, we should not count only on voluntary initiatives. We should base an enhanced strategy based on four key pillars:

First, move good governance to the center of the discussion on energy security, alongside security of supply, price stability and environmental sustainability. Good governance in African producer states should be a cornerstone of EU energy policies.

Second, impose travel bans on the corrupt elite. The elite in African petro-states like to indulge their consumerism in Paris, Lisbon, Brussels and London.

Third, promote transparency of financial flows not just within the producer countries but throughout the global financial system.

Offshore and onshore banking centers and tax havens (not just on the Cayman Islands but also in London, Zurich and elsewhere) allow the corrupt elite to move around and invest the stolen money at will.

A broad civil society campaign against dirty money that finds its way into the global financial system is long overdue. It is also time to change the law in all OECD countries so that holding and handling stolen funds becomes illegal.

Fourth, mobilize consumer power. It is easy for conscience-stricken Western consumers to turn against “blood diamonds,” for gems are the ultimate expendable luxury good. With oil, the lifeline of our civilization, it is a different story.

Campaigns against “blood oil” have been a non-starter thus far. As long as the majority of Western consumers do not demand “development oil” at the pump, the agenda promoting transparency and good governance lacks a critical driving force.

If we treasure the security of supply and the price of oil more than good governance and development in the countries of origin, we should say so openly.

But if we want to help African populations secure the development dividend from oil, we should not shy away from using our market power and living up to our responsibilities as consumers.

This article doesn’t talk much about another major actor: the foreign oil companies. They exploit the oil resources and seems to make the best of the presence of the petro-elites (Corpwatch is a good website surveying corporations activities).


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