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July 20, 1974 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-07-20

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Oil power: Boom in Black Africa

GIGANTIC OIL rush may turn 1000
miles of West African coastline into a
petroleum producing region second only
to the Middle East.
But, as Culf and others are hitting
gushers in any number of potential "new
Kuwaits." oil is mixing with national
ambition and revolution to create a new
politics in Black Africa. Nowhere is this
more evident than in Nigeria, Africa's
most populous state, and Portugal's co-
lony of Angola.
With reserves estimated at 20 billion
barrels of oil and 100 trillion cubic 'feet
of gas (sod more being discovered every
day), Nigeria could become Africa's
Saudi Arabia. The United States is the
country's best customer, taking some 35
percent of the 3 million barrel a day
production-even more during the Arab
oil boycott.
Oil price increases have brought real
benefits to Nigerians-their income trip-
led in 1973, and is expected to top $7
billion in 1974
Nigeria's importance on the continent
would be assured without oil. Its wealth
is vast compared to the rest of Black
Africa, and its population of 60 million
equals one-fourth of all Black Africans.
But the oil boom has put the country on
its feet again after the bloody war over
Biafra's secession, and oil revenues now
underwrite the efforts of Nigeria's presi-
dent General Yakubu Gowon to stop in-
ternal struggles and ensure Nigeria a
major role in African affairs.
WITH YEARLY OIL revenues e i g h t
times total World Bank grants to Africa,
Nigeria has begun its own foreign aid
program, and Gowon is pushing for de-
velopment of -a West African common
market, which Nigeria could be expected
to dominate.
Even more important, Nigeria has be-

gun to use its oil as a political weapon,
against the white-ruled colonies to the
south. It threatened Britain with an oil
boycott after that country gave heli-
copters to South Africa. It also com-
pelled Brazil, dependent on imports of
Nigerian oil, to reconsider its invest-
ments in Portu'gal's African colonies.
While the coup in Portugal has en-
hanced the possibility of independence
for its African colonies, the public is still
unaware of oil's role in this struggle-
particularly in Angola, where rebels have
continued fighting.
Late last year, two well known inter-
national journalists, Arslan Humbarachi
and Aquino de Braganca,ffirst reported
in the Observer that Gulf Oil had made
spectacular strikes in the waters off
Cabinda, a Portuguese enclave just north
of Angola. (Gulf Oil's magazine, Orange
Disc, later reported that some of these
wells "are among the most prolific south
of the Middle East.") Both Gulf and the
Portuguese have tried to keep the finds
secret because guerrillas are operating
only some 70 miles from the off-shore
'AT STAKE FOR Gulf is an investment
of over $200 million and 7.5 million tons
of oil a year. The company's contract
with Portugal calls for Portugal to "un-
dertake such measures as may be neces-
sary to insure that the Company may
carry out its operations freely and effic-
iently," and "to prevent third parties
from interfering with the Company's con-
tractual rights."
In practice, this has reinforced Portu-
guese attempts to suppress the forces of
the Popular Movement for the Liberation
of Angola (MPLA). To support this ef-
fort, Gulf pays taxes and supplies oil to
The Gulf agreement also provided that

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the Portuguese take 50 percent of the
company's production in normal times-
up to 100 percent in emergencies. Nor-
mally, both find it more profitable to
export the crude oil to refineries in the
United States, Canada, Trinidad and
Japan and to buy Middle East oil for
Portugal's needs. During last fall's Arab
oil boycott against Portugal, however,
oil from Cabinda was diverted to that
Gulf's Cabinda oil is also shipped to
the Sonarep refinery in Mozambique and
supplies, despite UN sanctions, 35 per-
cent of consumption in Rhodesia.
GULF IS NOT exclusively interested in
Angola. A thin slice off Zaire on the
coast is also rich in oil, and two of
Gulf's strikes are here.
Although Zaire's president, Mobutu
Seso Seko, takes the stance of a radical
nationalist, he has cooperated with both
Gulf and t- Portuguese According to
Humbaraci, Gulf has persuaded Mobutu
to allow construction of a pipeline to
link its two wells in Zaire and others
with its terminal in Cabinda.
Threatening Portuguese rule in An-
gola, and therefore Gulf, is the Popular
Movement for the Liberation of Angola
(MPLA), which is supported by the ra-
dical Congo Republic, north of Cabinda.
The MPLA is only one of two major
rebel forces which Portuguese leaders
must deal with in deciding the future of
Angola. The other, the National Libera-
tion Front of Angola, (FNLA), is headed
by Mobutu's protege, Holden Roberto,
and has been given full cooperation by
Mobutu-including free access to the 1250
mile long Zaire-Angola border. (Reports
before the coup indicated that FNLA

was often more inclined to fight its
rising competitor, the MPLA than, the
and Texaco, have been exploring large
areas of Zaire's interior and Zaire has
predicted, its total oil production will
soon reach some 16 million tons a year,
which should give it a start as an im-
portant oil exporter.
Two other adjacent oil-producing coun-
tries have contrasting oil policies. Ga-
bon-where 1973 production was 8 mil-
lion tons, slightly higher than Angola's-
takes only 10 percent of the companies'
earnings. The Congo Republic - which
produced only 2 million tons in 1973
(though production is expected to triple
within two years)-is determined to im-
pose government control on the oil com-
During the oil shortages last year, the
companies approached Congo president
Marien N'Gouabi two times for a price
increase. iV'Gouabi launched an investi-
gation and fotnd stocks sufficient for 16
months. Angered at "blackmail pure and
simple," the Congo government nation-
alized the holdings of six major com-
panies, including Shell, Mobil and Tex-
At present, while the oil boom has
proved a bonanza for independent states,
it has merely prolonged colonial rule in
contries like Angola. Just as oil mixed
with politics during the Middle Eastern
crisis, so now oil mixes with neocolonial,
nationalist and revolutionary politics to
determine the future of Black Africa.
, Barry Rubin, a New York-based free-
la-cve writer, has been working on the
politics of oil in Africa and the Middle
East for over a year.

Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by Students at the
University of Michigan
Saturday, July 20, 1974
News Phone: 764-0552

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