Tuesday, October 19, 2021

De Beers diamond conference spotlight Africa diamonds myths

Although Africa is home to seven of the top 10 diamond producing countries, it has emerged that non-diamond producing countries are influencing a large part of its market.

The Chairman of the African Diamond Council (ADC), Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge, made the shocking revelation at the just ended 2017 De Beers Diamond Conference held in the capital Gaborone this past week.

Ngenge made his remarks on the backdrop of what he termed as “long standing efforts by diamond consuming countries to manage and administer the African diamond resource.”

The ADC is the official governing body for diamond producing countries in Africa and is working to introduce and implement the diamond legislation in each nation such that their interests are safeguarded. It would appear that the general experience of the African continent relating to the diamond industry is that its benefits have tended to be skewed towards diamond consumers with less going to the natives of the diamond producing countries.

“We don’t always want to paint a beautiful picture, we want our consumers to know what the reality is regarding the diamond industry,” said Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge. One such reality is that the African diamond producing countries are strung together by common setbacks which are mainly economic, environmental and political, all of which have proven to be a consequential constraint to improving the human conditions within each member state. Another reality is that the African diamond producers are plagued with issues mismanagement, theft, money laundering, smuggling which contribute to a significant amount of loss of revenue. These and others are sticking points which the ADC is working towards addressing. Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge mentioned recovering the loss of revenue as one of the council’s top priorities.   

Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge shared perspectives regarding the diamond industry which he mentioned are often inadequately communicated. In a roundtable discussion with other industry experts Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge cited an example in which non-producing countries influence the African diamond market. He said that the ADC deals with terminology developed by non-producing countries to which it has the option to either reject or accept. It does this, he said, by questioning and assessing if the terminology is not concealment to something else. “They invent terminology and introduce it to us expecting us to go along with it,” he said.

Borrowing from this year’s theme of ‘building a sustainable business model to accelerate the pace of shared value creation in the diamond industry’ Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge said that the ADC wants to ensure that the term ‘sustainability’ doesn’t become a misapplied idiom, a grave oversight or conceptual limitation in the way it deals with it. He said that sustainability hinges more on cultural and natural characteristics. “The most important thing to ADC is human sustainability,” he said. Including the views of the ADC to a conference organised by De Beers was regarded by Dr. M’Zee Fula Ngenge as commendable. “De Beers stepped out of its comfort zone,” he said, adding that the initiative taken by De Beers is proven by the dialogue it created, even that which is at odds with it.

The CEO of the Diamond Producers Association, Jean-Marc Leiberherr, pointed out in his discussion that though the diamond industry is not a wide sector it is however characterised by fragmentation. This means that the industry is yet to develop and agree on a single truthful narrative that is shared across all of its participants. Currently the industry has varied representations and interests within it under the plethora of Associations that exist. In recent times the diamond industry has struggled to move past the headwinds and to date continues to navigate through them. It could be deduced that the absence of a truthful single voice in the industry could also be dragging down efforts to help it move past the volatility it is grappling with. 

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