Entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa's artisanal and small-scale mining sector: Developments and trajectories

Gavin Hilson, Roy Maconachie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (SciVal)


This paper explores how artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) – low-tech, labour-intensive mineral processing and extraction – has evolved in sub-Saharan Africa in recent decades. The analysis focuses specifically on the types of entrepreneurs who pursue work at, and innovation that occurs in, the region's ASM sites, using ideas debated heavily in the management literature, as well as complementary theories and concepts from other disciplines, including development studies, anthropology and human geography. Drawing on findings from ongoing research in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the locations of two of the largest and most complex ASM economies in sub-Saharan Africa, it is argued that legal and policy frameworks implemented for the sector are not aligned with the needs and capabilities of operators, and have therefore impeded efforts to formalize activities. In both countries, these frameworks have created and subsequently galvanized the boundary between two very different ‘worlds’: on the one hand, that of a burgeoning semi-formal artisanal group with limited capacity to mechanize, and on the other hand, that of a small number of individuals who have managed to overcome crippling financial barriers to secure titles to mine using more advanced technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date20 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Innovation
  • Liberia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sub-saharan africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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