Why is the Resource Curse an Obstacle to National Prosperity? (Worksheet)

Gates of an Oil Refinery in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. CREDIT: Wish for Africa

Why do some countries that are rich with natural resources have so many impoverished people? This phenomenon is known as the resource curse (sometimes called the resource trap) and can be attributed to the mismanagement of extractive industries and their profits. Former Carnegie Council Fellow Leif Wenar explains that countries with vast natural resources are "[1] more prone to authoritarian governments, [2] they are at a higher risk for civil war and coup attempts, [3] they exhibit lower rates of growth."

Why does the resource curse occur? How can we identify countries that are susceptible to it? The excerpt on the top right sidebar answers these questions and more. Although the original piece was written over a decade ago, its information concerning the resource curse still holds true, particularly for the countries given as examples: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Equatorial Guinea.

After learning more about where these countries were in 2007 and thinking about them today, students can hypothesize: Is there any way for these countries to escape the resource curse? Could the resource curse have been prevented? How do developed countries contribute to the resource curse and how could they be part of the solution?

For the full article, please click here. Leif Wenar is the author of Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World (2016).

This activity works well in a comparative government class.