8 Summary of Session 4
The idea of political settlements that was introduced in Session 2 is useful for the reasons given there – it focuses attention on domestic politics, how institutions are formed and function, and how elite bargaining can affect the formal and informal politics of governing natural resources. But the potential weakness of political settlements is the focus on internal politics to the relative exclusion of external, international factors. This session has used the case of Sudan to show that it is the interplay of domestic and international, or internal and external, forces that shapes how actual oil politics is played out. You were introduced to the idea of political risk, which is a very real concern for oil companies making large and long-lasting investments, to explore how domestic politics interfaces with international forces. The session has also shown that the range of political actors is diverse and goes beyond those elites at the apex of the state. In addition to high-level political figures from Sudan, China and the USA you have seen that regional militias, secessionist politicians, British colonialists, United Nations bodies, international peacekeepers, Hollywood celebrities and international NGOs can all impact on events. Together this creates a complex and challenging environment for companies and governments to work in, but navigating it is essential if oil is to be produced. The Chinese NOCs are increasingly realising these complexities in their corporate strategies for Africa and elsewhere. This realisation that political reputation matters now shapes ongoing and future Chinese investments and could affect the impacts that China has on African and elsewhere. The final session now returns to the opening questions of the course around whether China’s presence in Africa is beneficial for development or not.
You can now go to Session 5.