The New York Times reports on the growing importance of Angola’s oil industry as it attends its first OPEC meeting.

Angola may be corrupt and “one of the poorest lands on earth. But ask any energy executive these days and another picture emerges: a place of immense riches, solicitous of foreign investors and among the three fastest-growing oil exporters in the world today”.

Angola’s “promise” stems from a series of big discoveries some 100 miles offshore, which have increased the country’s oil production tenfold since the mid-1970s, to 1.5 million barrels a day in 2006. Next year, Angola is expected to reach two million barrels daily and by 2011, 2.6 million barrels, the equivalent of Kuwait’s output.

Angola is caught in the huge geo-political cross-fire between Western, Russian and Chinese oil companies. This year, it joined the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has been paring global supplies to keep prices from falling below $50 a barrel.

But the country has shown little interest in improving transparency of the oil industry despite external pressure. Last month, Sarah Wykes of Global Witness, who was visiting the northern oil region of Cabinda was arrested and accused of being a spy. She finally returned to the UK this week.

But the Times piece ends with a warning “There is no guarantee that African producers will end up being more stable suppliers than many in the Middle East have been …. For consumers, relying on such volatile parts of the world where democratic institutions are weak and oversight of oil revenue is limited, could spell trouble”.

If Nigeria is anything to go by – the huge gap between huge oil wealth and brutal overriding poverty is a recipe for disaster.