Accepted paper:

State-TNC repression of domestic upgrading in the DR Congo's gold sector


Ben Radley (London School of Economics)
Sara Geenen (University of Antwerp)
Bulambo Mulonda (Pain aux Indigents et Appui à l'auto promotion)

Paper short abstract:

In the eastern DR Congo, domestic groups are upgrading to higher value-added activities in the country's gold sector through a locally-led process of mechanisation. Yet the Congolese state, acting on the behest of a Canadian transnational mining corporation, has repressed this process.

Paper long abstract:

In South Kivu of the eastern DR Congo, artisanal mining is the most important livelihood after agriculture, employing approximately 150,000 people. An emergent and relatively prosperous local (capitalist?) class of artisanal gold trader-managers drive the sector, creating, redistributing and (re)investing value in mining, but also in education, property, agriculture and commerce. In recent years, part of their reinvestment has included upgrading to higher value-added activities through locally-led processes of technological assimilation, capital formation and mechanisation. This has included electrification, machinery to deepen mine shafts, and the local manufacture and use of crushing mills, which grind large rocks into a fine powder at a faster rate than can be done by manual labour. Yet in some areas, this upgrading process has been taking place in a concession owned by the Canadian transnational Banro, resulting in the depletion of the corporation's deposits at a faster speed than was the case under artisanal production. In response, Banro has cut down the electric pylons and opened legal proceedings against the crushing mill owners, leading to the state's forced appropriation of around half of the mills in use on its concession. The proposed paper explores the theoretical significance of this story, which not only questions a number of assumptions about the low productivity and inefficiency of artisanal mining in Africa, but also asks what space is there for African mineral sector domestic upgrading in a context where African states, IFIs and development agencies continue to prioritise a TNC-led model of mineral sector (re)industrialisation?

panel H5
Global value chains, the state and the political economy of development