Southern African diamond producing states called on the industry to give them their own cake in the multi-billion dollar trade by establishing some manufacturing factories in their own countries.
The five major producing countries, Angola, Botswana, DRC, Namibia and South Africa, said the industry needed to break with the past and support initiatives aimed at erasing poverty in the world’s poorest continent.
South Africa’s Minerals and Energy minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, said producer countries are struggling to fight poverty in their own nations, adding that “for a long time, countries which are endowed with mineral resources have been exploited and we have to break with the past.”
Sonjica was speaking at the Antwerp Diamond Conference which, among other things, was to weigh the changes that are currently taking place in the diamond industry.
As part of the new changes, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa will set-up their own DTCs (Diamond Trading Companies) separate from the main one in London. Under that agreement with the world’s leading diamond producer, De Beers, the countries will be allowed to sell a certain portion of their produce to cutting and polishing companies which would have been established in their own countries.
However, Botswana has been given a bigger role of ultimately aggregating diamonds from other De Beers mines if its marketing and selling exercise becomes successful.
It is planned to sell diamonds worth US $ 387 million next year, which will be followed by goods worth US $ 500 million by 2009. That alone is expected to generate 3000 jobs, directly and indirectly, and by 2011 it will sell all the aggregated diamonds to cutting and polishing companies from all over the world.
“Beneficiation in our minerals is a break with the past and wealth created by mineral development will fight poverty in the continent,” Sonjica said, adding that the region would like to see its mineral resources being invested in tangible and non tangible assets.
Her comments came after Martin Rapaport, an old hand in the diamond industry and consultant, called for a sea-change to address poverty in Africa, which he dubbed “revolutionary.”
“The level of poverty and unemployment in Africa is revolutionary. Life expectancy has dropped and, in a number of countries, children do not reach the age of five and women are getting raped everyday,” he said. “There will be wars (in Africa) if beneficiation does not work.”