Linkages and subcontracting

Sara Geenen was the principal investigator in a FWO (Research Foundation Flanders) funded project “Towards a new theoretical framework for linkages from large-scale mining: bringing in power and the production of access and exclusion” (2017-2018).


Resource optimists argue that extractive industries are not only a powerful engine of economic growth, but can boost other productive sectors and thus contribute to broader social and economic development. Theoretically, this view is inspired by the academic literature on economic linkages (channels through which extractive industries contribute to national and local economies; can be forward, backward, consumption or fiscal linkages), global commodity chains and global value chains. It has translated in the World Bank’s and other donors’ policies since the 1980s, which now increasingly include ‘local content’ requirements and support for small and medium enterprises.

Yet backward and consumption linkages are very difficult to measure and existing research mainly draws on macro-economic and country-wide data. My proposed research therefore takes a more localized and politicized angle. It focuses on locally-owned subcontracting companies and assesses their contribution to development, taking into account power, social relations and embeddedness in local institutions. In doing so, it addresses a concern often raised with respect to value chain analysis, which looks at aspects of governance within the chain, but underplays the external factors (social and institutional) that deeply affect the functioning of value chains.

The project will gain further insight into the ways in which power, social relations and institutional embeddedness play into the issue of subcontracting, and the outcomes this creates in terms of access/exclusion with a particular focus on access to employment and its effect on local inclusive development.


Field research has been carried out in April 2017 in the Twangiza concession (Luhwindja), in April 2018 in the Namoya concession (Salamabila), and in June 2019 in Kibali’s concession in Durba. More than 500 individuals were interviewed, including interviews with subcontracted workers and key stakeholders, and focus group discussions with workers and non-workers.

The working paper “Industrie Minière et Développement Local en RDC. Focus sur l’emploi dans les sous-traitances” presents the findings of the study (in French) and can be downloaded here.

We have also summarized the findings in a 30 min video that can be watched here.

The following academic articles are also based on the project data:

Geenen, Sara and Gleiberman, Mollie (2021) Superfluous jobs in extractive industries. The usefulness/uselessness of job creation after dispossession. Work, Employment and Society. Geenen and Gleiberman 2021_Superfluous jobs in extractive industries_Author copy

Geenen, Sara (2019) Gold and godfathers: local content, politics, and capitalism in extractive industries. World Development 123. Geenen 2019_Gold and godfathers_author copy