Chatham House released a new report today which provides a comparative study of the impact of Asian oil companies on Nigeria and Angola - the two leading oil-producing companies in sub-Saharan Africa. While the report considers Indian, South Korean and Japanese national oil companies, the primary focus is on Chinese oil strategy. Specifically, the report considers why Chinese oil strategy has been - and remains - so successful; how it is that Angola emerged as the second largest supplier of oil to China in 2008; how Chinese companies negotiate deals; and how such deals benefit Angola and Nigeria, respectively.
Among the more interesting findings emanating from the report is that which suggests that Angola does not fit the stereotype of a weak African state being exploited by the resource-hungry Chinese. Indeed, the Angolan government has been quite successful in managing its relationships with China and its oil companies, as well as handling its own version of the oil-for infrastructure scheme. The case of Angola is contrasted with Nigeria, where the Obasanjo government largely failed to manage the scheme:
While Nigeria was playing politics with its Asian partners, Angola was driven by economic necessity to quickly access funds to finance its reconstruction [...]
[...] The scale of corruption, mismanagement and non-execution of projects in the Obasanjo years has sent shockwaves through Nigeria. [...] His intentions were good but officials failed to spell out the full implications of the scheme. And many used the scheme for private profit.
The report further suggests that Western fears about an Asian takeover in the Nigerian and Angolan oil sectors are highly exaggerated:
Except for Japan, [Asian oil companies] only acquired equity participation in both countries in the last five years. More important, the [western] oil majors remain the leading players in both countries. They dominate production and hold the majority of reserves.
While Western oil companies do, indeed, still own much of Africa's oil reserves, the Chinese scramble for African soil should not be downplayed. As the report itself notes, Angola is now the second largest supplier of oil to China, with Nigeria, the Congo, Kenya, and other oil-producing states not too far behind. In 2005, China imported nearly 701,000 bpd of oil from Africa - approximately 30% of its total oil imports. This figure has been rising in recent years, and is estimated to reach some 40-50% in the next decade.
The full report - Thirst for African Oil: National Oil Companies in Nigeria and Angola - may be found here.