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The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth
The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth
By Tom Burgis
352 pp, PublicAffairs, 2015
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Discussions about the fate of Africa have long had a cyclical quality. That is especially the case when it comes to the question of how to explain the region’s persistent underdevelopment. At times, the dominant view has stressed the importance of centuries of exploitation by outsiders, from the distant past all the way to the present. Scholars such as the economist William Easterly, for example, have argued that even now, the effects of the African slave trade can be measured on the continent, with areas that experienced intensive slaving still showing greater instability, a lack of social trust, and lower growth. Others observers have focused on different external factors, such as the support that powerful countries offered corrupt African dictatorships during the Cold War and the structural-adjustment policies imposed by Western-led institutions in the 1980s—which, some argue, favored disinvestment in national education, health care, and other vital services.

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  • HOWARD W. FRENCH is an Associate Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His most recent book is China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. Follow him on Twitter @hofrench.
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