20 February 2013

Zambia: Unlocking Zambia's Gemstone Sector

TRADITIONALLY the focus of the gemstone sector in Zambia has been on the large global markets.

Indeed for years, these international markets have given large and growing business to the Zambian gemstone sector and have contributed significantly to foreign direct investment.

Therefore, unlocking Zambia's gemstone sector is critical to the country's economic growth and hopefully with the Government's policy to ban the overseas auctioning of Zambia's treasured stones is progressive and Zambia would stand to gain.

We believe that the Zambian market holds similar or even brighter potential for the gemstone and jewellery sector and as such, it is important for the Government to take an opportunity to raise Zambia's gemstone profile at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)'s general assembly to be held in August this year.

The industry can be put on an accelerated growth path provided the industry, the Government and other stakeholders plan and act on the initiatives required by the transforming market.

In the process the industry would continue to generate large amounts of foreign exchange and employment to the Zambians.

In order to tap the growing opportunity, the sector needs to attract international buyers and groom professionals at all levels.

The government should use the UNWTO conference which is being co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe as a platform to auction some of its gemstones and let the global market know that Zambia is now selling its precious stones locally.

The mining experts have said the trend of auctioning gems abroad makes it difficult for Government to account for the production of gemstones, adding that the country was at the same time exporting jobs.

Hence the policy direction by the Government to ban the sale of gemstone abroad was progressive and good for the country because it will enhance transparency and accountability in the production of precious stones.

Having the gemstones cut from within the country would add value to the product and ensure the country derives maximum value from the gemstone industry.

It is for this reason that the Organisation for Zambian Youths Entrepreneurs (OZYE) is urging the Zambian Government as it co-hosts the UNWTO with Zimbabwe in Livingstone to market its gemstones at the general assembly.

It is important for the Government, alongside the deliberations, to raise Zambia's gemstone profile at the UNWTO meeting.

OZYE chief executive officer Katongo Kaniampi pointed out that the move to stop the sale of the bright green gems abroad would contribute significantly to the economic growth of the country.

Mr Kaniampi said the Government should take advantage of the UNWTO meeting which would be held in August to auction Zambia's gems and let the world know that the country would now be auctioning its gems locally.

"The UNWTO general assembly meeting to be held in August this year presents an opportunity for Zambia to raise its profile on the gemstones and it is important for the Government to continue with the policy pronouncements that gems will be auctioned in Zambia.

"We have a lot to offer and this is our chance to market our gemstones and we have the capacity to do so. As a youth organisation we stand ready to market the gems at the UNWTO meeting because we will be creating significant employment opportunities," he said.

Mr Kaniampi said the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development should ensure that the policy stance on the auctioning of gemstones is endorsed by Cabinet, saying that Zambia had the capacity to do the auctioning.

He said the auctioning of the gemstone would provide employment opportunities for the youth who would be engaged in polishing and cutting of the stones, adding that Zambia was poised to become a hub for gemstones because it was centrally located.

He said his organisation was currently discussing with the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development on the youth involvement in mining, adding that it was important for the Government to consider the youth in the ownership of mines.

"We are discussing with the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development especially on the licenses that are lined up for repositioning which should be given to the youths in order for them to benefit.

"As an association we are encouraging the Zambian youths as the owners of the resources to own or form partnerships with foreign investors," he said.

On the other hand, as Zambia takes the route to auction its gemstone locally, enhancement of product quality standards and incentives for increasing adoption of the standards would go a long way in enhancing consumer trust and enable the industry to gain its share for the consumer in the long run.

It is hoped that Zambia will be able to take advantage of the UNWTO general assembly to unlock the potential of the country's gemstone sector.

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