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The Independent: 'Fogg' rewritten as Shell steers clear of Africa

By Guy Adams
Published: 10 February 2006
He inspired Steve Coogan Michael Palin and a generation of Victorian explorers. Now Phileas Fogg has his strangest imitator yet: the multinational oil firm Shell.
In a bid to underline its “green” credentials, Shell is currently sending a fleet of Volkswagen Golfs in Fogg's footsteps, on an expedition “around the world in 50 fill-ups“.
The big idea is to win a place in the Guinness Book of Records for circumnavigating the globe in the most fuel-efficient manner possible. This will require Shell's specially customised vehicles to stop for petrol fewer than 50 times.
It sounds like a simple enough PR stunt. But there is one major hitch: both Phileas Fogg and his later imitators travelled across north-east Africa.
Unfortunately, Shell has a – shall we say? – dodgy record in those parts, as a result of its ongoing operations in Nigeria.
Aside from occasional environmental difficulties, Shell's interests in Nigeria saw it on the receiving end of a widespread boycott during the Ken Saro-Wiwa affair of the 1990s.
With this in mind, the firm has decided against going near the continent of Africa. Instead, its Golfs, which left London 23 days ago, were flown straight from Greece to Pakistan.
Despite this strange itinerary, a spokesman for the firm insists politics had nothing to do with its route: “There are difficulties taking all the cars through customs,” I'm told. “So it was decided going into Africa would cause too many problems.”

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