The End of the African Mining Enclave? Domestic Marginalization and Labour Fragmentation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ben Radley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Africa‐focused global value chain (GVC) scholars argue that the new mining industry practice of corporate outsourcing invalidates the traditional enclave thesis by providing new opportunities to support domestic firms and stimulate industrialization. However, this literature has clustered around Africa's middle‐ and high‐income countries and its analytical approach abandons the centre–periphery framework within which its earlier antecedents were grounded, while overlooking labour dynamics. Correcting for these limitations, this article explores the GVC literature's claims through a single case study of a gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, representative of a process of foreign‐controlled gold sector (re)industrialization underway across a group of 20 low‐income African countries. The findings confirm rather than invalidate the original enclave thesis, observing that corporate outsourcing has done little to stimulate broader industrialization while facilitating the arrival and expansion of foreign firm subsidiaries. Meanwhile, the new industry practice has also facilitated the adverse incorporation and fragmentation of Congolese labour, thus weakening the collective strength of workers. The findings demonstrate the value of expanding the conventional GVC framework to incorporate a consideration of peripherality and the capitalist labour process, and demonstrate the need for state intervention via pro‐labour and industrial policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalDevelopment and Change
Early online date10 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 May 2019


  • mining
  • Congo
  • labour
  • corporations

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