Thursday, May 6, 2021

How investment ensures Botswana’s diamond future

Ever since De Beers’ geologists first discovered diamonds near the village of Letlhakane, the prudent and long-term management of Botswana’s natural resource has been a core part of our business model. After 45 years of partnership with the people of Botswana, we are proud of the part we’ve played in helping to transform their wealth below ground into opportunity above ground.

Since day one, the success of Botswana and De Beers has been linked inextricably ÔÇô and we’re committed to ensuring that remains the case long in to the future. Every day across the world, diamonds are given to symbolise lasting commitment. The affirmation of our lasting commitment to Botswana could not have been demonstrated more strongly than when, in 2013, we relocated the sales of our global production, representing more than $6 billion in economic activity per year, to Gaborone.

Relocating De Beers’ sales function ÔÇô which had been based in London for more than 70 years ÔÇô not only represented one of the largest ever transfers of wealth from the northern to the southern hemisphere, but also signalled the start of a new chapter in Botswana’s future.

As a Botswana resident myself, it has been immensely gratifying to witness the impact De Beers’ relocation has had. I have seen a new entrepreneurial spirit take hold in Botswana and a huge desire from citizens to make the most of the opportunities that have accompanied the move. Botswana has always been a forward-thinking country that makes the most of its advantages, but the last two years really have felt like a step-change in the country’s economic progress.

Economic progress is, of course, only possible when companies are profitable. And profits, when serving a purpose, will spur further opportunities.

Profit helps fund Debswana’s investment to extend the life of Jwaneng ÔÇô already one of the world’s richest diamond mines. The $3 billion spend is one of the largest commercial investments in Botswana’s history. More importantly, it will secure thousands of jobs, put the supply chain to work and secure important long-term revenues for the country.

Investment creates a ripple effect through the economy, meaning that the value of the end result is much greater than the original spend.

Success can already be seen in the thousands of Batswana employed in diamond mining. It can be seen in the Batswana who are turning rough diamonds into beautiful polished diamonds. And it can be seen in the Batswana who are spurred on by their own ingenuity and energy to build a new business from the ground up.

We are keenly aware that Botswana’s diamonds are ultimately a finite resource. It is therefore right that we’re judged not only by what we achieve, but also how we achieve it. That is why we are committed not only to appropriate disclosure and due transparency, but to fully and clearly demonstrating how we are maximising the value and life of Botswana’s diamonds to facilitate long-term prosperity.

Five decades on, De Beers continues to be humbled by the trust placed in it as a joint steward of Botswana’s most precious natural resource. Together we have shifted the centre of gravity of the diamond world toward Botswana, and reframed the world’s expectations of a successful public-private-partnership. In the tradition of the geologists who came before us 50 years ago, our confidence in Botswana’s future is undimmed and our commitment to it is stronger than ever.

Paul Rowley is a resident of Botswana and Executive Vice President of Global Sightholder Sales, The De Beers Group of Companies

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