BY KABELO SEITSHIRO
Business Botswana ÔÇô an apex body of the private sector in the country has once again expressed concerns about the lack of meaningful citizen participation in the diamond industry.
This comes after the realisation that Botswana’s neighbour South Africa – another key player in the diamond sector globally has implemented beneficiation in the diamond sector for several years while Botswana on the other hand began its catch-up only some five years back.
This week, speaking at the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) meeting in the capital Gaborone Business Botswana President – Gobusamang Keebine once again raised citizens’ absence concern.
He added that in the November HLCC Business Botswana raised the matter and assumed the matter would be raised as an action item for the relevant ministry to take up.
“There is no doubt that diamonds have been and will continue to be, the mainstay of the Botswana economy for many years to come,” said Keebine.
Currently the level of penetration for the locals who are aspiring to become “active players” in the cutting and polishing sub sector remains very low. More than 50 percent of the cutting and polishing firms that survived the closures which happened a few years back are foreign owned.
“There has been little change at the managerial levels of the cutting and polishing factories’, Keebine said. He also observed that much more importantly, the beneficiation drive has not translated into Batswana being able to make inroads into the ownership.
Meanwhile Keebine said urged the government to afford Business Botswana an opportunity to participate and contribute to the forthcoming negotiations of the Diamond Sales Agreement with De Beers. He added that it is imperative that the voice of the Private Sector be heard as an input into the final agreements reached in respect of how Botswana Diamonds are sold.
Pundits strongly suggest that the imminent beneficiation failure is a direct result of the absence of an industrial policy that addresses the fundamental issues of productivity in infant industries such as diamond cutting and polishing.
While he cannot directly admit all the flaws in beneficiation, the Minister currently responsible for Minerals, Eric Molale previously acknowledged that part of the problem has been caused by lack of skills amongst Batswana.