Accepted Paper:

Capital brokers. HR managers in foreign mining companies, D.R.Congo  
Benjamin Rubbers (Université de Liège)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing inspiration from the anthropology of development, this paper analyses the role of HR managers in foreign mining companies established in the Congolese copperbelt as capital brokers who participate in the co-production of mining capitalism in Africa.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing inspiration from the anthropological literature on development borkers, this paper aims to provide insights on the everyday work of HR managers in the foreign companies that started new mining projects in the Congolese copperbelt over the last two decades. It is structured around three main questions: 1) in a country where there is no formal training in HR, how did they access this job position, and what specific skills do they associate with it?; b) How do they deal with expatriate management?; and c) what is their role in the implementation of new mining companies' HR policies?

Based on research between 2016 and 2018, the analysis shows that Congolese HR managers accessed their position by developing specific organizational,legal, and cultural skills on the job, and obtaining expatriate executives' trust. Eager to show that they are legitimate in their function, they often play an active role in the organizational changes that foreign mining companies put in place. While this loyalty to management put HR managers in a gatekeeper position, it also exposes them to workers' and local communities' hostility.

From a theoretical perspective, the paper proposes to study Congolese HR managers as capital brokers, who derive power from their ability to control access to jobs in foreign companies, and participate in the co-production of mining capitalism in central Africa.

Panel Anth30
Business at work: new ethnographies of private sector dynamics in Africa