Studies find that oil-rich African countries (OACs) suffer slow socio-economic growth and development. The petroleum operations in these countries are also primarily in the hands of multinational corporations (MNCs). Motivated by their profit maximisation prospects (PMPs), the MNCs face significant corporate social responsibility (CSR) dilemmas with reference to their contribution to the socio-economic growth of these African economies. Even though there are few studies on CSR and corporate financial performance (CFP) within the African context, little or no attention has been paid to how and the extent to which MNCs’ PMPs, CSR and CFP interact to affect the socio-economic growth of OACs. Drawing from legitimacy, institutional, and agency theories we employ a panel data approach covering 14 years (2003-2017) to understand the drivers of these PMPs, how PMPs affect corporate ethical considerations, and CFP and their implications on OACs’ socio-economic growth. We find that PMPs of MNCs within OACs impede their CSR commitment. There is a significant positive relationship between CSR and CFP; efficient CSR practices impact CFP positively, and MNCs’ contribution to OACs’ socio-economic growth is significantly constrained by weak institutional environments. We conclude that institutional reforms and strategic investment in CSR could foster rapid socio-economic growth and development within OACs. Our study contributes to policy and knowledge on MNC’s PMPs, CSR practices, CFP and literature on business ethics and the natural resource-curse.