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Working Paper 184 - Does Oil Wealth Affect Democracy in Africa?


Oil wealth can be a political curse when oil-rich dictators oppose democratic development because they will have more to give up from losing power. In Africa, many of the poorest and most troubled states have, paradoxically, high levels of natural resource wealth. Most of these countries are oil producers and have become what the literature calls "rentier states," because a great portion of their national wealth comes from the export of oil and a few political elite collects the revenues from the oil export and use the money for cementing their political, economic and social power by controlling government and its bureaucracy. Thus, there is a growing body of evidence that resource wealth itself may harm a country's prospects for democracy. Oil is not the main reason for the lack of democracy in resourcerich states in Africa. Many factors – economic, cultural and political tradition, religion, geography, colonial past and others - impede development of democracy and democratic institutions. While it is clear that democracy is always a result of these different factors, it is interesting to find out how important the abundance of oil wealth is for democratic development in Africa.

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