… Too slow on jewellery manufacturing
Despite being the leading big producer of diamonds in the world in quality and value, Botswana is not playing any role in the important large scale manufacturing of diamond jewellery.
The Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Lefoko Moagi told Parliament this week when responding to questions asked by Kanye North MP Thapelo Letsholo.
Letsholo asked the minister – what is stops Botswana from doing large scale manufacturing of diamond jewellery as well as why Botswana doesn’t market her diamonds outside De Beers deal.
Minister Moagi said Botswana has developed a strategy that will ensure that the country is represented throughout the diamond value chain from mine to finger.
“Botswana is currently not represented in the jewellery manufacturing. However, this is being addressed in a study to find out our niche and the competitive edge. My Ministry is aware and confident that we can grow jewellery manufacturing and the retail in Botswana because we previously had a successful factory in Botswana that was exporting to the USA and other places. Unfortunately, this factory had to shut down due to the Indian financial crisis that have further impacted negatively on the Diamond industry. Our optimism is also buoyed by the successes of private players that we have interacted with,” said Moagi.
Regarding the, De Beers deal, Moagi said he is not in a position to talk about it for fear of compromising the negotiation process.
“I have been asked three questions regarding the diamond beneficiation in Botswana. In answering these questions, it must be noted that I am doing so when Botswana is still engaged in negotiations with De Beers. It would not be in the best interest of Botswana to give out some of our plans because this could compromise the Government’s position during the negotiations and some of the plans have influenced and agreed to as part of the outcome of negotiations,” he said.
He stated that when the government and De Beers have concluded the negotiations, he will be in a position to provide additional details to Parliament in relation to the questions asked on De Beers.
In addition, he said, in 2011 as part of the government and De Beers negotiations, Botswana negotiated to sell up 15% of Debswana production independently through a Government wholly owned company called the Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), and 15% was increased to 25% in May 2020.
“ODC and Lucara Botswana are already marketing and selling Botswana diamonds through various platforms, outside of our agreement with De Beers. 25% of Debswana production and all of Lucara production is sold outside De Beers and competes directly with De Beers,’’ he added.
Moreover, Moagi said Botswana is already active in the cutting and polishing part of the value chain with over 25 licenced cutting and polishing factories, which used to employ over 3800 people but it is currently employing about 2500 peopled due to impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have developed a beneficiation strategy, which was done in consultation with industry experts, in a quest to grow the value chain downstream. The next logical step is entrepreneurship development to have Batswana being the ones, owning and operating diamond cutting and polishing factories. Evidence is the amendment of the Diamond Cutting (Amendment) Bill 2021, Bill No 5 of 2021,” buttressed Moagi.
MPs said that it was unfortunate for the country to be not a player in jewellery manufacturing despite Botswana being the largest producer of diamonds which must create jobs for Batswana.
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