Female Faces in Informal ‘Spaces’: Women and Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in sub-Saharan Africa

Gavin Hilson, Abigail Hilson, Agatha Siwale, Roy Maconachie

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This paper critically examines how women employed in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)–low-tech mineral extraction and processing–in sub-Saharan Africa could be affected by moves made to formalize and support their activities under the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), ‘Africa’s own response to tackling the paradox of great mineral wealth existing side by side with pervasive poverty’. One of the main goals of the AMV is Boosting Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining, which requires signatories to devise strategies for ‘Harnessing the potential of small scale mining to improve rural livelihoods and integration into the rural and national economy’. Moves being made to achieve this, however, could have an adverse impact on many of the women working in ASM in sub-Saharan Africa. Findings from the literature and research being undertaken by the authors in Sierra Leone and Zambia suggest that whilst most women engaged in ASM in the region work informally and, as a result, face very challenging circumstances daily, many have adapted to their surroundings and now earn far more money than they would from any other income-earning activity. Governments must study these dynamics before taking action under the auspices of the AMV to formalize and support women in ASM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-346
Number of pages41
JournalAfrica Journal of Management
Issue number3
Early online date9 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)
  • informal sector
  • poverty
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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