Botswana: Diamond Industry Transformation Imperative

Gaborone — Government should consider transforming the diamond industry for greater private sector and citizen participation, especially in light of the Vision 2036 aspiration to become a high income economy, says Business Botswana president Mr Gobusamang Keebine.

"Business Botswana is concerned about the lack of meaningful citizen participation in the diamond industry and would like government and the private sector to work more closely to radically transform the status quo," he told the High Level Consultation Council recently.

Mr Keebine called on government to afford his organisation the opportunity to participate and contribute to the forthcoming negotiations on the diamond sales agreement with De Beers.

It was imperative, he said, that the voice of the private sector be heard as an input into the final agreements reached in respect of the sale of Botswana diamonds.

He noted that diamonds had been, and would continue to be the mainstay of the economy for many years, Mr Keebine said benefits deriving from the industry had not been enjoyed directly by Batswana entrepreneurs, which necessitated that a greater sense of urgency be given to reforms that would ensure that they benefited.

Mr Keebine said the 2006 sales agreement between government and De Beers, which ushered in beneficiation in the cutting and polishing of diamonds, was a laudable initiativeas it created over 3 600 jobs at its peak, but the bulk of the jobs were low level.

"There has been little change at the managerial levels of the cutting and polishing factories, much more importantly, the beneficiation drive has not translated into Batswana being able to make inroads into the ownership," he said.

He indicated that the much publicised relocation of the Diamond Trading Company activities from London to Gaborone, arising out of the 2011 sales agreement, had also done very little to add to economic activity in Botswana and improve citizen business participation in the industry.

Mr Keebine stated that the establishment of the Okavango Diamond Company, which similarly emanated from the 2011 sales agreement, did not include the active promotion of beneficiation and citizen empowerment as it turned out that the company was a commercial entity solely focused on making profit.

He further decried the loss of momentum on privatisation and an extremely slow uptake on public private partnerships even though these were essential reform tools as the country embarked on the path to a high income economy.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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