The Petro-Developmental State in Africa

Making Oil Work in Angola, Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea

February 2016 9781849044769 288pp


Focusing on local content in the oil and oil service sectors and the changing accumulation strategies of the domestic elite, this book questions what kinds of development are possible through natural resource extraction and argues that a new form of developmental state—the ‘petro-developmental state’—may now be emerging in the Gulf of Guinea, allowing states to capitalise on a resource that has traditionally been thought of as a ‘curse’. In a new moment for the extraction of oil created by a changed domestic context in Angola and Nigeria and changed geopolitical realities, new possibilities exist for state-led economic and social development and capitalist transformation.

Ovadia contends that ultimately whether development or underdevelopment results from the transformation depends not only on historical conditions, but also on power relations and struggles at the level of civil society. Local content is perhaps the single most important innovation in energy policy in the Global South in recent decades. Expanding debates about state-led development and the developmental state, the concept of a petro-developmental state offers an explanation for how some of the most strategically significant countries in Africa can achieve meaningful economic and social progress


A masterly overview … this brilliant book opens up new vistas … and extends the frontiers of existing knowledge on Africa’s political economy of oil … [The Petro-Developmental State in Africa] will alter the way in which the natural resources-development nexus in Africa is debated for some time to come.’ — Africa

This informed, nuanced monograph adds to the emerging “Africa Rising” discourses. The “petro-developmental state” advances notions of African capitalism and developmentalism with a focus on local content, entrepreneurs and civil society with original case studies of indigenous companies and NGOs. Ovadia anticipates post-2015 development in the energy region of the Gulf of Guinea.’ —Timothy M Shaw, Visiting Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston

‘This study takes an innovative approach to the question of how local content policies in Angola, Nigeria and other oil producing states in the Gulf of Guinea target specific developmental needs. Based on extensive fieldwork and a careful reading of the secondary literature, Ovadia provides a refreshing perspective that contrasts sharply with the rather tired determinism of “resource curse” hypotheses, arguing that local content policies are elements intrinsic to the emergence of a petro-developmental state.’ — John R. Heilbrunn, Associate Professor, Colorado School of Mines, and author of Oil, Democracy, and Development in Africa

‘In this comprehensive study, Ovadia makes a compelling case for state-led, oil-driven development in the Gulf of Guinea. A “must read” for anyone interested in the political economy of petroleum or the renewed potential of the “petro-developmental state”.’ — Dan Danielsen, Professor of Law, Northeastern University


Jesse Salah Ovadia is a Lecturer in International Political Economy at Newcastle University.

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