Today’s low oil prices are probably not the result, even in part, of elderly men ruling over the world’s major energy-exporting nations. Still, it may be worth noting that the sons of Saudi Arabia’s modern founder, Abdulaziz bin Saud, are finally nearing the end of their long royal lifespans, while the leaders of energy-endowed countries like Iran, Algeria, Angola, Oman, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan have now reached old age too, after multiple decades in office. Even Vladimir Putin is 63 years old, long past his judo prime. He was just 47 when he first came to power.
As Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi arguably showed in 2011, longtime aging rulers can sometimes give way to political upheaval that causes domestic oil and gas production to fall. Uncertainty over the vigour of some of the following leaders might indeed cause global energy exports to fall, and thus, perhaps, prices to rise:
Kuwait – Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah – 86 years old – In power since 2006
Sabah’s presumed successor, Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, is 78 years old. As recently as 2012 Kuwait was the world’s largest oil exporter outside of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia – Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Saud – 80 years old – In power since 2015
Salman will probably be the last king to be chosen from among the 45 or so sons of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz bin Saud. Salman’s youngest living sibling, his half-brother Muqrin, is turning 71 this year and, as of last year, is no longer the designated Crown Prince. The Saudi Crown Prince has since become Muhammad bin Nayef, Salman’s nephew, while the Deputy Crown Prince has become Salman’s own son Mohammad bin Salman
Algeria – Abdulaziz Bouteflika – 79 years old – In power since 1999
Bouteflika came to power during and after the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s. Today his health is in question. Algeria is estimated to be the world’s 16th largest energy producer and its fourth largest natural gas exporter.
Uzbekistan – Islam Karimov – 77 years old – In power since 1991
Karimov first came to power at the end of 1980s, when he became President of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic
Iran – Ali Khameni – 76 years old – In power since 1989
Kazakhstan – Nursultan Nazerbayev – 75 years old – In power since 1991
Oman – Qaboos bin Said al Said – 74 years old – In power since 1970
Qaboos first became ruler after overthrowing his father in a palace coup in 1970. He has no children or clear successor
South Africa – Jacob Zuma – 74 years old – In power since 2009
Zuma was Deputy President of South Africa from 1999-2005. South Africa is a major producer of energy, and a net exporter of energy, because of its coal reserves, though it is a net importer of oil
Nigeria – Mohammadu Buhari – 73 years old – In power since 2015
Buhari was previously Nigeria’s head of state during the 1980s
Angola – Jose Eduardo dos Santos – 73 years old – In power since 1979
Angola, one of the fastest-growing economies of the past decade, is now the world’s third or fourth largest oil exporter outside of the Middle East
Equatorial Guinea – Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo – 73 years old – In power since 1979
Equatorial Guinea is the 30th-40th largest oil producing country, but may have the world’s third highest per capita oil production, the highest outside the Middle East. Both the age of its leader and the number of years he has been in power are exactly the same as in Equatorial Guinea’s relatively nearby neighbour Angola
Sudan – Omar al Bashir – 72 years old – In power since 1993
Brunei – Hassanal Bolkiah Muiz’zaddin Wad’daulah — 69 years old – In power since 1967
Brunei is the world’s 40th-50th largest oil producing country, but may have the 6th highest per capita oil production
Brazil – Dilma Roussef – 68 years old – In power since 2010
Her predecessor, Louis Inacio Lula da Silva, who literally as of today was selected to become Roussef’s new chief of staff, was 65 years old when he left office in 2011 at the end of an eight-year term. Roussef has been facing an impeachment attempt, while Lula has been under investigation in a corruption scandal.
United Arab Emirates – Khalifa Al Nayhan — 68 years old – In power since 2004
The Emir of Dubai is 66 years old, meanwhile
Colombia – Juan Manuel Santos – 64 years old – In power since 2010
South Sudan – Salva Kiir Mayardit – 64 years old – In power since 2011
Iraq – Haider al Abadi – 63 years old – In power since 2014
Masoud Barzani, meanwhile, who has been president of oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan since 2005 and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party since 1979, is 69 years old. Foud Massoum, a Kurdish politician who is Iraq’s president (a more ceremonial role than prime minister), is 78 years old and has been in office since 2014. Nouri al Maliki, who was Iraq’s prime minister from 2006-2014 and is now Iraq’s vice president, will turn 66 this June. Saddam Hussein was 42 years old during his purge of 1979 and 66 years old when the US invaded in 2003.
Russia – Vladimir Putin – 63 years old – In power since 1999
Malaysia – Najib Razak — 62 years old – In power since 2009
Mahatir Mohammad, meanwhile, is 90 years old. Malaysia is thought to be the world’s 25th largest oil producing country
Turkey – Recep Tayyip Erdogan – 62 years old – In power since 2003
While Turkey is a significant net importer rather than exporter of energy, it is nevertheless capable of impacting the rest of the Middle East, and it has hopes to become a major energy nexus at the centre of the Middle East, North Africa, and Caspian Sea region. (Similarly, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been prime minister since 2009 and was previously prime minister from 1996-1999, is 66 years old)
Australia – Malcolm Turnbull – 61 years old – In power since 2015
Egypt – Abdel Fathah al-Sisi — 60 years old – In power since 2014
Sisi was also highly influential for at least a few years before 2014, following Hosni Mubarak’s departure from office in 2011
The following graph shows how old these countries’ rulers were in any given year between 1970 and 2015, and how old they will be in 2020 if today’s rulers remain in power for the remainder of the decade:
In the graphs below, the y-axis indicates the age of today’s rulers, the x-axis indicates the number of years they have been in power, and the size of the circles indicates the relative amount of energy that is produced by their country.