The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Oil Giants Poison Africa

Aug 6, 2018

The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

According to an official Dutch report, the fuel sold in Africa has very high levels of chemicals that are dangerous to human health.

Oil brokers even have a term for this: “African quality,” which refers to low-quality petroleum products. These products have sulfur levels 200 to 1000 times higher than what is normally authorized in Europe, along with manganese and benzene, highly carcinogenic substances, and other chemicals that are banned in most of the world.

This scandal was already denounced in September of 2016 by a Swiss NGO, Public Eye. It is today confirmed by the Dutch Inspection for the Human Environment, that investigated the cargo of 44 tankers heading for West Africa. The toxic mix was made in the port refineries of cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or Anvers, where a big part of the petroleum products destined for Africa are produced. Or maybe it was made in the open sea, to be more discreet.

The big oil companies like Shell and Total, along with the big European oil brokers like Glencore or Trafiura that export very toxic fuels, willingly poison the big African cities, which are the most polluted in the world mostly because of the fine particulates emitted by vehicles. These fuels also interfere with the functioning of catalytic converters and filters. The health consequences are catastrophic. In Accra, Ghana, for example, respiratory problems are one of the main causes of hospitalizations and doctor visits.

Before July of 2017, many African countries were trying to reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in fuel. But only Ghana actually did so, because the others gave in to the pressure of the oil giants.

These companies are not ready to abandon the super-profits they make from selling this hypertoxic fuel.