Credit: marianne muegenburg via fickr CC License

New Research Shows How Countries Can Avoid the “Resource Curse”

The riddle of how to avoid the so-called “resource curse” has bedeviled a generation of policy makers, economists and academics.

“Resource curse” refers to the negative consequences that befall a country when it discovers a valuable natural resource, like oil. Often times the discovery of oil does not propel a country’s economic development. Rather, it sets back the political and economic development of the place where oil was discovered.

My guest today is engaging in ground-breaking research that suggests some ways that a government may avoid the resource curse. Sam Hickey is a professor of the politics and development at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. He is engaged in some long-term research into how governments in Africa are approaching their oil sectors. This includes a fascinating study comparing how democratic Ghana and authoritarian Uganda have approached their relatively recent oil discoveries.

Responsible resource extraction is a key element in the development of many countries around the world.  This conversation offers a very useful explanation about how the resource curse manifests itself in various contexts, and how the conventional approach to avoiding the curse has fallen short over the years. Finally, we discuss what emerging academic research says about what works–and what does not — in avoiding the resource curse.

If you have 20 minutes and want a better understanding of how natural resources can help or hinder economic development, have a listen.

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About Sam Hickey

Sam Hickey is Professor of Politics and Development at the University of Manchester, and Joint Director of Research at the ESID research centre. He is also Research Director at the Global Development Institute, where ESID is based.


Sam’s research interests include the links between politics and development, including issues of state capacity and elite commitment; natural resource governance; social exclusion and adverse incorporation; citizenship participation and NGOs; the politics of social protection and social justice.

Within ESID, Sam is coordinating and researching on a project that will investigate the implications of oil for governance and inclusive development in Ghana and Uganda. He is also working on a project exploring the politics of securing higher levels of capacity and commitment to delivering improved quality schooling, through a comparison of Bangladesh and Ghana. Finally, he is providing support for a project on women’s political empowerment exploring the link between women’s political inclusion in developing countries and the successful adoption and implementation of policies aimed at gender equity.