When a 16-year-old Chinese boy was killed by Ghanaian security forces, it triggered a furious backlash against illegal Chinese mining in Africa. Yet four years on, little has changed.
The flare up in the Ashanti region in 2012 was triggered by a security crackdown as locals resisted the perceived exploitation of resources by foreigners. The resulting worldwide media attention led Ghana’s government to deport thousands of Chinese in 2013.
While small-scale mining has always been the preserve of native Ghanaians, the country’s gold boom since 2005 has spurred illicit deals with foreigners. Artisanal miners flocked to the country with increasingly mechanized tools for mass extraction.
Resentment from the wider population at the environmental pollution and lack of local benefits from their resources resulted in growing anti-Chinese sentiment, clashing with a government reliant on Chinese aid and investment to finance infrastructure and development projects. Ghana’s trade volume with China increased to more than $6 billion last year, according to the Chinese Embassy in Ghana.
Despite the mass deportations, illegal mining operations have continued apace. Ashanti’s Regional Minister John Alexander Ackon has been calling for increased action against illegal mining.
The true picture is more complex than the Chinese domination often portrayed in the media, says Isaac Odoom at the University of Alberta. African resentment at exploitative mining and the regulatory environment that has allowed it to proliferate is the topic of his PhD thesis, taking Ashanti as his case study.
Odoom gets to the root of unexplored tensions between African local community interests, governments and foreign investors in an interview with Justin Villamil – the latest in our series of podcasts with African business experts as part of a collaboration between Frontera News and the London School of Economics’ LSE Africa Summit.
More from Frontera News – LSE Africa Summit podcasts here:
For many in Africa, nothing has transformed the economic landscape like mobile money. In collaboration with the London School of Economics’ LSE Africa Summit, Frontera News brings the first in a series of interviews with African business leaders, beginning with a woman at the forefront of developing the first mobile money platform for M-Pesa. Now expanding the technology as the head of Airtel Money in Kenya, Topyster Muga tells Justin Villamil how the platform is proliferating – from paying soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo to new markets in Romania and Albania.