January 17, 2003
In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the ensuing war against terrorism, the vulnerability of U.S. over-dependence on Middle East oil has become more apparent. The uncertainty over steady oil supplies has further been aggravated by the never-ending conflict in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as continuing turmoil in Venezuela, which supplies as much as 20 percent of U.S. oil imports. In view of these developments, the West African region is beginning to look more and more attractive to the U.S. as an alternate source of oil. Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola are already important oil exporters. However, new discoveries of vast oil deposits, especially in Sao Tome & Principe, Cameroon and Chad have further increased the strategic importance of the Gulf of Guinea. To be sure, West Africa is not the most stable region in Africa. In recent years, it has been wracked by civil wars, political, ethnic, religious and sectarian violence and destruction. Yet, in spite of its apparent record of political instability and violence, West Africa has distinctive advantages over the Middle East as an important source of oil for the U.S. However, the development of West Africa's oil potential must ensure mutual benefit to both the U.S. and Africa, including the improvement of living conditions of the local people.
Dr. George Ayittey a native of Ghana, is a Distinguished Economist at American University and President of the Free Africa Foundation, both in Washington. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada in 1981. In 1988, he accepted a National Fellowship at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University in California and in 1989 he joined the Heritage Foundation as a Bradley Resident Scholar -- one of 5 professors chosen across the US for the 1989-1990 academic year. He has published four books on Africa: Indigenous African Institutions (Transnational Publishers, 1991); Africa Betrayed (St. Martin's Press, 1992); The Blueprint For Ghana's Economic Recovery (Africana Publishers, 1997); and Africa In Chaos (St. Martin's Press, 1998). Africa Betrayed won the 1993 H.L. Mencken Award for "Best Book for 1992." (The award is named after the American journalist who championed personal freedom). His forthcoming book is The Blueprint For Africa's Future (Sept 2003). Dr. Ayittey has written numerous articles on Africa and the Third World, which have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail (Canada), The Times of London, USA TODAY, The CATO Journal, World Development, Humane Studies Review, Journal of Defense and Diplomacy, Journal of Economic Affairs, Journal of Economic Growth, The World & I, Crisis, and Foreign Trade Review. Many of his articles have been syndicated for worldwide distribution and some have been reprinted in Reader's Digest, International Herald and Tribune, Jeune Afrique Economie, and papers in Africa -- in The Sowetan (South Africa), The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe), The Nation (Kenya), and Daily Observer (The Gambia). Dr. Ayittey has also appeared on several radio talk shows, and TV programs (Canada AM, CBS "Nightwatch," ABC "Nightline," Christian Science Monitor TV, MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, C-SPAN, and CNN "Crossfire" with Rev. Jesse Jackson). He has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, VOICE OF AMERICA, and BBC World Service. He has testified several times before US Congressional committees about the Third World Debt Crisis, foreign aid to Africa, apartheid in South Africa, the World Bank, and debt forgiveness. He has served as a consultant to several organizations, including the World Bank, US AID, and International Council on Metals and the Environment (ICME).