Victor Van Der Kwast, head of the ABN-AMRO Bank, said they are weighing up prospects of establishing in Botswana in a bid to support the fledgling diamond polishing industry in the country.
Van Der Kwast, who heads the world’s largest supporter of the diamond polishing industry, said they have already made some visits to Botswana and South Africa with the view of setting up in the region.
“We are looking at Canada and clearly southern Africa. We have been to Botswana and South Africa,” he told the recently ended Israeli Rough Diamond conference in Tel Aviv held at Dan Panaroma Hotel.
“We will continue our commitment to the diamond jewellery business. We are the leading bank in this industry and we will continue to be,” he said.
A high level team of ABN-AMRO bank officials paid a special visit to Botswana late last year to look at prospects of establishing here. Their visit followed that of Antwerp Diamond Bank, which is also looking at the same prospects.
Some of the countries which ABN-AMRO is looking at include Israel and Turkey, which are some of the diamond centers.
“We would like to be where the action is. It is one of those things that we would like to do,” Van Der Kwast said.
However, he expressed concern at the level of debt in the industry, which is currently estimated at US $ 13 billion and is largely blamed on the sky-rocketing rough diamond prices and a weak US economy that accounts for close to half of the diamond jewellery sales in the world.
“I have not changed the tune or aspirations. I told my team that where there is crisis there is an opportunity,” he said.
He said Africa, Asia and Europe still want to grow and they have initiated some market researches with the hope of being in those markets for the long term.
Speaking at the same conference, Martin RapaportÔÇö- an old hand in the diamond industry and head of Rapaport GroupÔÇö told the industry to look for an alternative international currency adding that the US dollar is dead as is its economy.
“The diamond industry does not control the prices and De Beers is not you daddy or mummy.
“If you know how to price the product and people want to buy diamonds then you are in the right business,” he said.
He said the diamond industry should stop complaining about the high prices of rough diamonds but rather concentrate on how best to market the product.
“I think out of the current situation the banks are going to be the only guys who are going to be screwed,” he said.
Rapaport, who is a critic of Chinese and Indian cutting centers saying they are “stealing black jobs “(African jobs), said the decision to have beneficiation in the southern African countries is the right move.