Oil boom in Angola: In a poor land, an exploration of the trickle-down effect

Kristin Reed

Profile of Kristin Reed

A few things about me: I'm a native of Chicago, Illinois (read: a rabid Cubs fan). I received a B.S. in Science, Technology and International Affairs and a certificate in African Studies from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in 1999. Now, I'm a Ph.D. student in Environmental Science, Policy and Management here at UC Berkeley.

After graduating from Georgetown, I flitted through a number of environmental jobs and internships, but most enjoyed a position as coordinator of WildAid's Cambodia Conservation Program. As coordinator, I spent five weeks with the program director in Cambodia planning and executing a conference on the enforcement of the Cambodian national wildlife laws. It was a great honor to work with the Cambodian government agencies involved in wildlife protection and to garner the support of the prime minister and several cabinet ministers.

My past research has mainly focused on resource-based development. My undergraduate work in Africa included analyses of the economic viability of a game ranching operation and an eco-tourism project during a semester of schooling in Kenya. The following semester, I conducted environmental assessments in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana.

In retrospect, I realize I learned more from the actual practice of fieldwork than from the scientific results of my work. I learned of generosity when my research team's car got stuck in a pit of thick, black soil during a Kenyan flash flood and the community women ushered us into the warmth of the one-room schoolhouse, wrapped us in scratchy wool blankets and supplied us with mugs of sweet, smoky chai. I learned how to tell time when I could predict by the position of the sun that the elephants would soon be passing through the floodplain to drink from the lagoon. The richness of these experiences among the beautiful people and stunning landscapes further fueled my interest in Africa.

Now, I'm in the second year of my doctoral program here at UC Berkeley and have a particular interest in Portuguese-speaking Africa. This began with my curiosity about a pattern of political evolution – from Portuguese mercantilism to colonialism and, then after independence, the transition from a Marxist-Leninist political tradition to a liberal-democratic state.

Through this political history, I learned of Angola's great wealth of ecological zones, peoples and cultures, and mineral resources. Angola's riches are juxtaposed with its seemingly endless wars and struggles and profound poverty. With the end of the war, the kind help of Ndola Prata (an Angolan professor of Public Health on the Berkeley campus), the sponsorship of the Angolan Research Institute and the financial support of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Andrew and Mary Thompson Rocca Pre-Dissertation Research Award in African Studies, and a summer fellowship from the Human Rights Center, my reverie has become reality. I am headed to Angola.