We are very happy to announce the publication of the article “The South-South investment that never happened: Vale in Guinea” by Eric Cezne and Mathias Alencastro in The Extractive Industries and Society. 

In this article, the authors approach the (failed) extractive ambitions by the Brazilian mining giant Vale in Guinea. Thus, they provide clues on the question of what happens, when Southern investments in Africa, that are often met with much enthusiasm, get caught up in complex challenges and turn out to be not as tractable as they were initially envisioned. This article contributes to the (critical) literatures on the politics of the extractive industries and of South-South investment, particularly in the context of Brazil-Africa relations.

The case of Vale in Guinea serves as an insightful example of a troubled and unsuccessful South-South investment that was initially motivated by extractive ambitions in the coveted Simandou iron ore deposits. In their article, Cezne and Alencastro explain how Vale’s advent in Guinea was signified and set in motion – reflecting the excessive ambitions of Brazil’s political and business leaders and nurtured by imaginaries of developing a Carajàs (Vale’s all important iron ore mining site in the Amazon) – but also show how it was built on frail foundations and eventually crumbled. Thereby, they analyze the relationships and interactions among key political and economic actors – namely Vale, BSGR, and the Brazilian and Guinean government – in the pursuit of an (unfulfilled) extractive project. The authors observe that the investment project was put forward despite significant red flags, resulting in Vale finding itself entangled in a highly complex environment, adding another chapter to the story of companies which previously tried and failed to mine in Simandou. In addition to numerous setbacks, Vale’s incapacity to navigate an evolving political landscape and to safeguard itself against competing interests allowed local actors to impose their agenda over the company. Alencastro and Cezne assess these interactive influences of Guinean ruling elites and the role of wider economic and political disputes.
The failure of Vale in Guinea is now remembered as a horror story in Brazil’s corporate world and a lasting warning against what appears now to be Brazil’s excessive corporate ambitions in Africa.

If you want to know more about this story of murky business deals, massive financial and reputational losses, accusations of fraud and corruption and much more, you can download the paper free of charge from anywhere in the world.