Oil has made us billions
and fuelled our economic stability, but oil has also become
the bane of our existence. For some, it is a curse that has
caused poverty and corruption, but for others it is an essential
source of untold wealth and power. But as the gap between rich
and poor countries continues to expand, it is clear that intellectual
capital and technology rule the world, and those natural resources
such as oil, gold, and diamonds are no longer the primary determinants
Surprisingly, nations with few natural resources demonstrate
greater economic growth rates than OPEC countries. Japan’s
economic growth, driven by technological superiority, outpaces
that of Saudi Arabia; South Korea is growing faster than oil-rich
Nigeria; and Taiwan’s economy has moved well beyond that
of oil-rich Venezuela. The United States and Norway are also
rich in oil, yet their staggering economic growth comes from
In reality, it is not money but intellectual capital that drives
prosperity. More important, perhaps, is the reality that poverty
is driven and sustained by a lack of intellectual capital. The
intimate relationship between intellectual capital and economic
growth is as old as humanity itself, and is well illustrated
by this parable from ancient Babylon (modern-day Iraq). A man
asked his children:
If you had a choice between the clay of wisdom and a bag of gold,
which would you choose?”
The bag of gold, the bag of gold,” the naïve children
cried, not realizing that wisdom had the potential to earn them
many more bags of gold in the future.
Seven thousand years later, Iraq —the cradle of civilization —has
its own private bag of gold as it sits perched atop the world’s
third largest oil reserves. Meanwhile, Israel, tucked away in
the hostile terrain of a barren desert, has the clay of wisdom —the
weightless wealth of intellectual capital embodied in the collective
mind of its people.
The striking economic gap that persists between rich and poor
nations has increased sevenfold over the past century to what
is now an all-time high. The accumulation of intellectual capital
by rich nations has helped broaden this gap because it has enabled
them to control technology and collect hidden taxes from less
affluent nations. For instance, Nigeria pays a 40-percent “royalty” tax
on its petroleum revenues to foreign oil companies that are ripping
out its family jewels —the huge store of wealth in its
oilfields. These oilfields started forming when prehistoric,
dog-sized humans —our common ancestor with the apes —walked
African grasslands on four legs.
It’s a shocking reality, but the deep oil reserves laid
down by Mother Nature millions of years ago and nurtured through
the millennia in Africa have been whittled away within decades.
And, for the dubious privilege of surrendering its natural resources
forever, Nigeria is required to pay half its petroleum revenue
in the form of “royalties” to the rich kids on the
global block, the United States and the Netherlands. That oilfield
has been exchanged for a bowl of porridge, and the black gold
that should serve the underserved in Nigeria is helping wealthy
Westerners get wealthier.
Today, half the world’s population —three billion people —live
on an average of $500 a year. In contrast, Bill Gates earns $500 every second.
By controlling technology and taxing computer users, Gates has become wealthier
than each of the 70 poorest nations on earth and using his financial might has
conquered more territory than Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the
While Bill Gates is the new millennium’s Prince of Technology, he is by
no means the first to have taken on the huge potential offered by the realm of
technology. The Romans used roads and military technology to expand their empire.
And, for centuries, Britain ruled a quarter of the Earth due to its unparalleled
ability to command maritime technology and conquer the seven seas.
Britain undoubtedly established itself as the world’s first superpower
through its rapid and ruthless colonial expansion program. The British raised
the Union Jack over Canada and Australia, India and Hong Kong, Egypt and Kenya,
and countless other countries — even the United States. The Union Jack
cast its shadow in every global time zone, giving rise to the saying, “The
sun never sets on the British Empire,” a fact that was cold comfort to
the colonized nations.
In the same way, the United States has embraced its technological supremacy,
both offensively and defensively, to build its own global empire without a physical
presence in any of its “colonies.” The sole remaining superpower
is at the forefront of every major technological advancement, which it has used
to become deeply embedded in three-quarters of the globe. The U.S. has accomplished
a virtual economic colonization manifesting its presence throughout the globe
by harnessing the power of technology and capitalizing on its clay of wisdom.
Africa’s inability to realize its potential and embrace technology has
left it at the mercy of the West. The time has come for Africa to seize the day
and resist the efforts of America and others to leave their imprint and plunder
its natural resources.
Numerous examples throughout history support the idea that technology can be
used as a tool of oppression. And there’s little doubt that America’s
technological advancement has allowed it to exploit natural resources around
the world. This is particularly evident in Africa, where the U.S. is exploiting
oilfields beneath the pristine rainforest —and being rewarded with a 40-percent
tax at the expense of the African people. This lends credence to history’s
assertion that those who control technology oppress those who do not, eventually
enslaving them and, finally, wielding power around the globe.