The Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Botswana, Neo Moroka, has thrown the gauntlet at Botswana’s private sector to seize opportunities provided by the relocation of the De Beers sales and marketing headquarters from London to Gaborone.
As part of the ten-year agreement signed by the Government of Botswana and De Beers last year, the company’s marketing arm, which has been headquartered in London for over the last hundred years will move to Gaborone.
The deadline for the move of the P50 billion a year operation is December 2013.
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Moroka said the Migration Steering Committee set up to coordinate the relocation is already in full swing and said it is becoming transparently clear that Botswana’s private sector stands to benefit by providing a suite of services and products to the people who will be moving from London to set up in Gaborone.
A total of 80 De Beers employees and their families are expected to settle in Botswana as part of the relocation.
Moroka said an opportunity exists in the accommodation sector to provide De Beers employees and their families with world class, high-end executive accommodation. Such an opportunity provides impressive returns in rentals for Batswana who will be prepared to take up the opportunity by way of investing in the accommodation sector, said Moroka.
Because the relocation will also mean De Beers sightholders flying into Gaborone every five weeks to buy rough diamonds, an opportunity also exists for the private sector to provide a secure, executive transportation from the airport to hotels but also to De Beers offices where most of the transactions will be made.
According to Moroka, the Migration Steering Committee has identified those aspects that will need the input of the government given that the people who will be flying in and out of Botswana are international business people with cultures and religions that could, in some instances, be totally different from Botswana’s.
“We have found that there will be need for such facilities like prayer rooms. We have to cater for religious as well as dietary requirements of these people. Without answering for them, I can confidently say government has recognized these needs and there is a consensus move towards providing what is required. Ultimately the general state of preparedness depends on cooperation between De Beers and the Government of Botswana,” said Moroka.
He said De Beers is doing all it can as a company to make sure that Botswana companies will derive maximum benefits from relocation related business opportunities.
At the Sir Seretse Khama International airport in Gaborone, he said it has become clear that there is need to set-up a world class lounge, adding that “for our part as De Beers we will work at ensuring that from design to construction Batswana owned firms will be at the centre of it all”.
The challenge, he said, was for Botswana’s private sector to rise to the occasion and prove their mettle.
“Let me be clinical with my approach. This move from London brings with it many opportunities, including for people who are not directly involved in the diamond industry. Our thoughts at De Beers are with citizen suppliers and manufactures. If you look at the fact that close to a hundred families are moving here, it becomes clear that there will be need for both office and residential furniture. And as De Beers we are adamant that these should be sourced locally, and better still from citizen manufacturers.”
Moroka said De Beers hoped the hotel and hospitality industry will also come to the party by way of upgrading their facilities to meet the needs of international business people who will be frequenting Botswana as part of the relocation of the De Beers marketing arm.
“There is also an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate our productivity and service levels. Those involved in customer service and training should raise the bar towards service excellence. We have to show as Batswana that it can be done.”
He said this is because people coming here are arriving with a set of expectations and it is important that Botswana does not disappoint.
To give the tourism industry a shot in the arm, De Beers is looking at ways of partnering with the hospitality industry as a way of providing a platform on service training as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility. The company is also in the process of compiling a data base of service providers in the low to medium categories among citizen owned firms. A De Beers vendor day is already on the cards.
The De Beers chief has also called on the sectors providing ancillary services to tailor their products to reflect the changes and needs as brought by the De Beers relocation.
He specifically singled out the banking sector, which plays a crucial role in the diamond supply and value chain.
“Botswana’s banking sector has to tailor their products for the diamond industry which is peculiar in that it has a longer value chain.”
A challenge has also been extended to the medical sector to reflect its anticipation of the relocation by way of adjusting their facilities to cater for the needs of the coming De Beers employees and their families.
The same applies to private schools.
“De Beers and Government can only do so much. What is important is for the private sector to rise to the opportunity,” said Moroka.