Monday, August 15, 2022

Botswana hopes to outsmart Antwerp with London diamond sorting migration

When he was asked whether Botswana, with the impending migration of the London based rough diamond sales activity to Gaborone, wants to be like Belgium’s diamond capital of Antwerp, minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, told the international media to come in 10 years to see for itself.

A new deal signed on Friday by De Beers and Botswana will see the country fully benefiting from it being the world’s largest diamond producer when De Beers moves diamond trading to the country.

“In 10 years when you come back, I hope you will see something better than Antwerp,” Kedikilwe said at a press conference after the signing of a landmark sales agreement between the 50/50 shareholders of Debswana Diamond Co.

Antwerp is known for diamond downstream although it has no Jwaneng or Orapa and its diamond district trades diamonds. The city has four diamond bourses with one used for trading bort and three for gem quality goods.

At least, from the shareholders, De Beers looks committed as already it has informed its staff in London that they could be losing the shine to Gaborone.

“We have started the initial consultation with staff and not with sightholders and we hope they (sightholders) will be interested in relocating to Botswana,” Bruce Cleaver, Director of Strategy & New Business at De Beers, said.

The De Beers London operation currently has 120 employees and whether they will be made redundant or coming to Gaborone is not clear as it is ‘early days’.

“It is a complex issue, but it will have no impact on our clients.”

“It is a combination of people relocating from London and the local staff,” Cleaver added.

Kedikilwe added he was recently in Antwerp to attract companies that can attach diamond into watches as the country moves to jewellery manufacturing.

However, the minister admitted the country needs to work hard to build the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the migration.

Already the country is expanding the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, which is taking longer than expected to complete. A P30 million diamond facility from the airport is also been built and government is mulling a gemology institute.

“That is what we are focused on,” he said. There have, however, been fears that Botswana will need to work hard on its security as the country prepares to be a full international diamond player, which could attract jealousy and diamond criminals.

Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale, said the agreement will boost the GDP numbers going forward.

“We have not the number crunch per say, but it (migration) will have a boost into the economy,” he said.

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