After being deceived for decades that no profitable diamond manufacturing can take place in Botswana, the authorities here have finally awakened to the folly of such a lie.
Not only are reputable international diamond cutting firms enthusiastically descending onto Botswana to do business (thanks to President Festus Mogae’s principled stance during his government’s negotiations with De Beers) such firms are also running profitable entities from here.
Late last year, President Mogae took on an Indian road show, inviting the diamond cutters in that country to seriously consider setting up in Botswana to take advantage of Botswana’s new agreement with De Beers under which a new company DTC Botswana would be formed to supply local cutters instead of them accessing their supply from London.
While it normally takes long for investors to make decisions on setting up in one country, the President’s visits, we are happy to say, have already begun to bear fruit.
But there are a few hiccups that have to be resolved.
The first is that there seems to be a contradiction by the Ministry of Minerals with what the President is doing.
While the President is inviting diamond manufacturing companies to come here, the ministry on the other hand has suspended licensing of companies who want to come here.
That is despicable to say the least.
The policy of turning Botswana into a world diamond cutting centre is a very important one.
It is very hard for one, no matter how charitable they try to be, to come up with a grander and more promising example of what is likely to become President Festus Mogae’s lasting legacy than this one.
This is especially true given the fortitude and determination Mogae went to in disabusing De Beers of the lie they peddled for decades that such a feat could not be achieved before his government signed new agreements with that South African company last year.
By the last count, only sixteen companies had been admitted into Botswana to manufacture diamonds following the signing of the new agreements.
The information we have is that many more companies want to come but are not able to get licenses.
There is very little time left before President Mogae leaves office. We can only urge him to work hard in that short span of time not only to strengthen his legacy by ensuring that more reputable companies flow into the country, but also to clearly state to those distracting his course what is at stake in the form of job creation, wealth creation and the exaltation of Botswana as the diamond capital of the world.
In short, President Mogae has to work hard to ensure that he completes the job he has started; otherwise those who resisted his efforts, assisted by their local hangers on will dismantle his legacy immediately he departs.
Another thing is that a way has to be found to ensure that citizens form joint ventures with citizens and citizen companies.
While it is good that these companies train and employ citizens it would be even merrier if the relationship extended as far as forming joint ventures.