This article examines the ways in which illicit gem mining in Madagascar indicates the highly variable impacts of globalisation in sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that distinct categories such as global/local, legal/ illegal and traditional/modern have lost much of their explanatory power. Far from being distinct categories, they are indivisible and constitute a single, complex whole which produces enormous wealth, coupled with high degrees of poverty and marginalisation in precisely the same locations. It is clear that Africa's participation in globalisation has not been just about 'joining' the world economy; instead it has been characterised by highly selective forms of global connection which have been combined with highly visible and very real forms of disconnection. © 2007 Cambridge University Press.