What happened when Chad found oil?: “Quel Souvenir”, a new documentary
The objective of oil companies is not to be socially-responsible – that costs money; it is to make as much money as possible. It’s the government’s job to be socially-responsible, and to ensure that oil companies adhere to practices that don’t harm anyone. This is often where the problem lies, but Chad was supposed to be different.
Chad, a landlocked country in north-central Africa, is one of the world’s poorest nations; its HDI ranking is 7th from the bottom.
About 85% of its population works in agriculture. Oil was discovered in Chad in the 1960s, but political instability was a deterrent to investment, so the oil stayed where it was. That changed in 1999 when the World Bank proposed a plan that was supposed to be a test case for transparency and poverty-reduction in resource-rich developing countries. Put simply, the oil would be extracted profitably, proceeds would be shared equitably between the parties involved, the environment would be protected and most of the government’s share of the profits would be spent on reducing poverty. And pigs would fly. This being a landlocked country you need, also, to somehow transport it to the nearest port for delivery to the world. So, the plan, a joint-venture between the World Bank, the Chadian government and an ExxonMobil-led consortium of oil production companies, agreed on the proposal for a 650-mile pipeline project running from Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea.
This $4.2 billion Chad-Cameroon Oil Development and Pipeline Project is the largest private sector investment in sub-Saharan Africa, and is one of the most controversial World Bank Group projects in the institution’s history.
Local and international environmental and human rights NGOs and activists called for a two-year moratorium on the grounds that nobody was ready for it—not the government nor civil society nor the farmers who would be most affected. The project went ahead, anyway.
Chad ‘s first petroleum exports departed for the international market in October 2003. The forecast was for $2-$3 billion in revenues for Chad over next 25 years.
So, what happened when Chad found oil? Quite simply, the people it was meant to benefit the most got shafted. The government is coining it – so are the oil companies, of course – and the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, which is happily collecting on its $200 million commercial loan (although not the World Bank’s public sector lending arms which withdrew from the project in 2008). Everyone else is wondering where all the money is going, particularly the displaced who lost more in land than they got in compensation. For the full story of this sorry story read the piece AlterNet published in December 2009; It’s still very much up to date.
Quel Souvenir, a new film by Danya Abt, follows the pipeline through the many communities it touches, communities filled with people who ask ‘If the land is rich, why are we so poor?,’ and frames the project within a larger context of growing oil exploitation in Africa.
To find out how to arrange a screening or support the film, contact Danya at Danya.Abt@gmail.com
Source: This is Africa