The world’s leading diamond bank, the Dutch ABN-AMRO Bank, which is the 12th biggest bank in the world, opened a branch in Botswana, at a ceremonic event hosted at the Diamond Technology Park on Thursday.
The Vice President, Mompati Merafhe, officially opened the bank, defining the moment as a “giant leap in the development of Botswana’s diamond industry”.
Merafhe said that the opening of the bank is a great step as it will provide the much needed finance to fuel the downstream industry, asserting that the move was a building step after the establishment of the Diamond hub, which he described as an initiative to transform Botswana from “just being a diamond producer into a World Diamond Centre”.
He added: “The need to broaden Botswana’s economic base through the economic diversification programme is of greater importance now than ever before.”
Merafhe said that the government is anticipating that employment created primarily in diamond cutting, polishing, sales and marketing will lead to a 30% increase in the country’s diamond industry jobs and a 10% increase in the country’s total number of manufacturing jobs.
“There is no doubt that Botswana needs to move away from producing rough diamonds with only small amounts being beneficiated locally.”
He said that the opening of the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) is another stride in the development of sustainable and profitable downstream diamond activity in the country.
He also welcomed the opening of the branch, calling it a “clearer expression of confidence” by the investors and Board of ABN-AMRO in the resilience of the Botswana diamonds.
“I am especially elated that this strategic milestone of establishing ABN-AMRO Bank Botswana is being achieved at this most difficult time for our diamond industry,” he said.
Merafhe also said that the opening of the bank underpinned the bank’s direct commitment to Botswana. He believes that the development will lend its weight to translating its relations with the Netherlands into practical and fruitful cooperation.
Speaking at the occasion, the Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, said that the opening of the Bank was historic. He added that ABN-AMRO’s establishing both a domestic and a regional offshore Banking Unit would play a leading role in providing sight holders registered with the DTC with diamond industry related finance, in partnership with the overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), whereas the offshore banking unit will initially provide medium and short term working capital credit facilities, cash management services and Forex dealing to existing clients in the region and other diamond markets further in Africa.