Over the past two decades, neoliberal reforms, soaring commodity prices and heightened global resource demands have led to significant growth in extractive industry investment across sub-Saharan Africa. A surge of investment has triggered a variety of responses in mineral-rich communities – from outright rejection, to protest over labour conditions, to acceptance in anticipation of gainful employment. Drawing on recent research carried out in Kono District in Sierra Leone, this article critically explores these contrasting responses to mining activities, by focussing on how youth perceive and respond to extractive industry expansion. In doing so, the paper broadens understanding of why youth perceptions of mining investment differ, and illuminates the various factors underlying a diverse range of responses to the expansion of extractive industries. The focus on youth and its heterogeneity as a social category has important policy implications and the paper makes a contribution to understanding the dynamics and diversity of youth livelihood strategies in resource rich developing countries. In making a distinction between autonomous spaces of community-led development 'from below' and corporate controlled spaces of development 'from above', the article reflects on how youth perceptions of extractive industry expansion may also be influencing the ways in which mining companies understand and fashion their business and social responsibility strategies.
- Sierra Leone