President Festus Mogae told leading members of the diamond industry in Antwerp, Belgium, that Botswana is aiming to be the world diamond centre once DTC Botswana becomes operational.
DTC Botswana, a 50/50 partnership between De Beers and Botswana government, will see part of the diamonds sold through the current DTC London being aggregated to Gaborone by 2008.
The move will see Botswana increasingly becoming an international player in the mineral sector through a number of factors such as the IFSC’s. It envisages an African Commodities Exchange due to be operational by 2008, Bifm Capital’s Botswana Africa Mining Fund and the establishment of the Diamond Park ÔÇö the cutting and polishing centre.
“It is our hope that the half a billion plus worth of diamonds that are intended to be cut and polished in Botswana will actually be cut and polished in Botswana,” he said.
The cutting and polishing center, along the road to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, is expected to be tailor-made along the lines of Antwerp Diamond Centre, replete with diamond banks, diamond security, diamond insurance companies, technology, engineering services and top class restaurants.
And according to industry expert, the move will create close to 5000 jobs when it is complete.
“It is also in our interest that when companies located in Botswana are well developed, they should be able to do every aspect of diamond manufacturing in Botswana, (cutting, polishing, sawing and whatever else you do to a diamond) to ensure skills transfer. We hope that there will be a balance between employment creation (through the cutting of smaller goods) and profitability (cutting of higher goods). It is indeed our hope that all companies will do everything possible to ensure employment creation but we also recognize that they should be viable,” Mogae said.
So far, 15 international cutting and polishing companies with marketing arms, in countries such as Israel, Japan and United States of America, have been registered and the number is expected to increase when the registration freezing is lifted in about three-to-four years time.
The value of diamonds to be cut in Botswana by these companies is expected to increase in due course and stabilize at around US $ 1.2 billion.
“For the above reason, we sincerely believe that aggregation or diamond mixture is still very important to create the balance I have referred to. Therefore, companies will be supplied with DTC – mixtures rather than Debswana only production, at DTC determined prices, which we trust will be market related.”
He said a further 250,000 to 300,000 carats of diamonds produced by a new small diamond mine owned and operated by Australia’s Diamonex, due to be commissioned towards the end of 2007, will also be made available to companies in Botswana outside the DTC system also at market prices. Such diamonds will only be exported if the cutting and polishing companies in Botswana do not buy them.