Botswana’s diamond industry contributes a great deal to the current status of her economy and developmental infrastructure. The bad press and other publicity that focuses on ‘Blood Diamonds’ in Africa continue to generalize African diamonds, as a whole, to be blood diamonds and this can have an adverse effect on Botswana’s economy. What Botswana needs in order to be separated from the dire image that surrounds certain African countries’ diamonds, is positive, international publicity.
Although in recent months President Mogae has been traveling all over the world to promote and educate the world on the truths about Botswana’s diamonds, there is an added benefit in having a man of Russell Simmons’ popularity and cultural influence in promoting the good story about Botswana’s diamonds.
This past week in Gaborone, the celebrated Simmons, best known, among others, as the founder of Def Jam Records, Chairman of Rush Communications, Rush Philanthropic and Hip Hop Summit Action Network, embarked on a fact-finding mission to Botswana.
“There are many misunderstandings about Africa in America,” said Simmons. “I came to see the real story.”
Simmons would like to quell the misconceptions that exist in the United States, and the western world, about Africa and about Botswana, in particular.
As the president of a new jewelry line, named The Simmons Jewelry Company, Simmons’ interest and reason for visiting Botswana is related to Botswana’s diamonds. The Simmons’ Jewelry Company was founded in 2004 when it entered into a pioneering venture with one of the world’s leading distributors of polished diamonds and jewelry, M. Fabrikant & Sons. Currently, the Simmons’ Jewelry Company has a wide distribution in several major jewelry stores in the United States.
“ Simmons’ Jewelry is not only the first African-American company, but the first company to do branding in these stores as opposed to the old, boring generic stuff.” Simmons Jewelry, he said, is unique in that it is more creative and has a more youthful flair than much of the other fine jewelry that is available in stores today.
Simmons is interested in pioneering a Diamond Empowerment Fund that would teach Africans to be more self-reliant.
“We’re starting a Diamond Empowerment Fund to teach Africans how to cut and polish diamonds on the continent instead of taking diamonds out”. His view on the issue of natural resources in Africa is that they have been a cause of pain Instead of being tools that can help to uplift and build nations.
Whilst in Botswana, Simmons paid a visit to President Mogae. During Simmons’ visit with the President, Mogae expressed his gratitude to Simmons for his interest in Botswana and said that he looked forward to further developments in the endeavors Simmons wants to embark on in Botswana.
Simmons also went to Botswana Diamond Valuing Company, Oodi Primary School, and the University of Botswana. He was pleased by what he saw and the fact that Botswana’s diamond revenue has been used to develop the country and that all Batswana benefit directly from the diamond industry. According to Simmons, Botswana is the “best example” of an African country that is making positive developments and providing facilities to its citizens.