24 October 2006

Botswana: Counter Attack

The government has rolled out the big guns to defend our main source of foreign exchange - diamonds.

Last month, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that without the diamond industry, Botswana would not have been able to develop so quickly into a middle-income nation.

Then last week, President Mogae took up the diamonds for development theme when he addressed the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. and when he was interviewed in the United States by Reuters and Bloomberg Television.

As the president pointed out in the Reuters interview, the government is worried that a new Hollywood film about conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone could cool the demand for gem stones.

In the 'The Blood Diamond', star actor Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a South African mercenary looking to make his fortune in the diamonds-for-arms trade.

It is not a pretty picture, but it doesn't have anything to do with diamonds from Botswana and other members of the Kimberly Process.

That's the message the government is trying to promote, but one has to worry about how much weight addresses, interviews and TV documentaries will carry when they conflict with Hollywood fiction - especially in the United States which is the largest market for gem diamonds.

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