The Political Economy of Galamsey and Anti-Chinese Sentiment in Ghana

by Richard Aidoo

Abstract

Recently, as Chinese engagements in Africa involve a diverse array of actors, including states, corporations, private and public ventures, individuals, and groups, Beijing’s economic and diplomatic relationships on the continent have become rather variegated and complex. The colliding of these actors and varied interests/motives is also shaping the discourse of anti-Chinese sentiment, and consequently, socio-economic decision-making and policies in individual African countries. Lately, different Chinese migrants and operatives have been involved in unregistered and unregulated artisanal gold mining in Ghana (locally known as galamsey). The illegal mining activities have resulted in increasing conflicts and controversy within Ghana, including a series of mass deportations of Chinese migrants from the country. As the governments of Ghana and China carefully determine diplomatic responses to this situation in 2013, many Ghanaians, particularly in areas mainly impacted by these Chinese illegal mining activities stirred up anti-Chinese sentiments to pressure the government to act decisively. In this qualitative study, the research draws on unstructured interviews and information gathered in 2013 and 2014, from Ghana, particularly Awaso, in the Western Region—an area known for Ghana’s major bauxite mine, currently operated by the Chinese, as well as increasing galamsey activities in surrounding areas. The article argues that in the bid to manage or quell the increasing anti-Chinese fervor and maintain Sino-Ghanaian economic and diplomatic interests, different political actors in Ghana have contributed to the diverse reactions towards the illegal Chinese miners, as well as the outcomes for some Sino-Ghanaian economic engagements.


Richard Aidoo is Associate Professor of Politics and Assistant Dean, Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Coastal Carolina University. His research focuses on China’s political economic engagements with Sub-Saharan African countries. He co-authored Charting the Roots of Anti-Chinese Populism in Africa