Gaborone: The government of Botswana and the Antwerp World Diamond Centre yesterday concluded the co-organised, two-day diamond conference, FACETS 2023, Motswedi Wa Khumo – Diamonds For Change, in the country’s capital, Gaborone. The conference, inaugurated by Botswana President Masisi, welcomed a host of delegates and industry stakeholders from across the globe, gathering to discuss the state of the diamond industry and current challenges and opportunities, zooming in on how diamonds can be agents of change in diamond-producing countries on the African continent. The conference, attended by over 450 people, was a resounding success.
Leadership in safeguarding integrity:
In their opening addresses, President Masisi, President of the European Council, Charles Michel, Minerals and Energy Minister Moagi and AWDC CEO, Ari Epstein all underscored Botswana’s leadership position as the world’s largest diamond producer, supplying a massive 22,6 million carats valued at 4.8 billion US$ last year alone.
The speakers all highlighted the importance of sustainability, transparency and traceability as key components to safeguard consumer confidence and ensure a prosperous and responsible natural diamond industry that can uplift communities and foster sustainable growth. Recognizing the role and relevance of the Kimberley Process, with Botswana hosting the first-ever permanent KP Secretariat, the opening speakers agreed these efforts need to be taken a step further. “Blockchain technology, with its immutable ledger, can provide consumers with the guarantee that their diamonds have been ethically sourced. It empowers consumers to make informed choices and encourages responsible practices throughout the supply chain.”, Masisi said.
EU President Michel pledged the EU’s support and commented, “Natural resources should never finance war or human rights abuses. Rather they should breathe life into peace, prosperity and economic development. The G7 and EU are committed to taking coordinated action to curb Russia’s earnings from the diamond trade. This includes a system of controls – to make sure these measures work – … this is the way forward, to break the link between conflicts and diamonds.”
“Economic challenges and geopolitical tensions are testing our resilience as an industry. In the balance is our ability to adapt and change, to question the status-quo and to seize opportunities to grow stronger with every crisis successfully battled. That is when true leadership emerges, and we are privileged to stand side by side with our Batswana and Africa partners in this matter,” AWDC CEO Ari Epstein added.
Engaging Interviews and Panel discussions:
In an interview with Okavango Diamond Company CEO Mmetla Masire, industry expert and moderator Edahn Golan touched upon the increasing share of diamonds that will be allocated to ODC in the new De Beers-Botswana agreement. Masire explained that the company is looking at diversifying its sales channels, potentially including 2-year sales contracts with a limited number of buyers alongside its auctions. ODC also aims to include local entrepreneurs more actively in the distribution of its rough allocation. ODC canceled its November auction and might cancel its December sales as the industry is grappling with an oversupply and massive price drops for both rough and polished diamonds.
Continuing into the first panel discussion, entitled “State of the Diamond Market, Challenges and Opportunities”, panelists Olivia Landau, influencer and CEO of the US-based retailer The Clear Cut, Leanne Kemp, CEO of traceability tech company Everledger, Philip Hoymans, GM of tender specialist Bonas and Best Raditladi, VP Manufacturing at De Beers delved deeper into the subjects raised in the opening ceremony. Olivia Landau echoed President Masisi’s comments tying origin traceability in with differentiating natural diamonds from Lab-Grown Diamonds (LGD) – dubbed “microwave diamonds” by the President – saying the natural diamond industry often fails to tell the story on a diamond’s origin and its positive impact on communities, for example in Botswana. Technology and innovation will be a catalyst to enable this differentiation, Leanne Kemp added, not only in the context of the pending G7 and EU sanctions traceability requirements, expected to be announced shortly, but well beyond; “The technology is here and is being implemented today, what it takes is for the industry, those who are not doing it already, is to understand this is the only path forward for this industry.”
Leading into the second panel discussion, discussing gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness, Iris Van der Veken, leading the Cartier and Richemont initiated Watch and Jewellery Initiative (WJI) 2030, gave more context on the relevance of this topic in future-proofing the global diamond and luxury industry. WJI 2030 focuses on the UN SDG’s as framework to actively engage the industry in moving forward on a host of related goals, including Human Rights, Equality and Livelihoods, resonating with the conference theme of diamonds as a catalyst for change.
Moderating this second panel Dr. Letsema Mbayi-Kwelagobe questioned panelists Iris Van der Veken, Ambassador Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, Human Resource Manager at Debswana Boikanyo Kgosi, Nomalungelo Stofile, owner of Sunrise Gems and Women in Mining Chair Esther Vamanuka Kanaimba-Senai on where the industry finds itself in achieving gender equality and diversity goals, revealing much work remains to be done – at the current pace, it will for example take 257 more years to close the gender pay gap. In the all-women panel, panelists shared their own experiences, illustrating the need to actively eradicate hurdles, especially towards women, to gain access to this industry.
In the final panel discussion, Edahn Golan and panelists Minister of Mines of Lesotho Mohloni Moleko, James Campbell, CEO of Botswana Diamonds, Kealeboga Pat Pule, CEO of Nungu Diamonds and Alisia Amupolo, CEO of Namdia discussed how African producing countries can ensure continued growth. Diamond mining industry veteran James Campbell highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to diamond exploration to unlock the massive potential that is still out there, for example through access to exploration info, simple, efficient and predictable legislation and financial incentives. Another major topic in this panel referred to the need for capacity building and training, in a multidisciplinary approach that includes empowering women to enter the industry across the value chain, from mining over trading and manufacturing to retail.
Boosting African Entrepreneurship: Pitching Contest:
On the second day, five teams pitched their innovative, diamond and jewellery related ideas to a jury of experts, including Onneetse Ndadi, Entrepreneurship specialist at the University of Botswana, Leanne Kemp, CEO of Everledger, Iris Van der Veken, Executive Director of the Watch & Jewellery Initiative 2030, Kealeboga Pat Pule, CEO of Nungu Diamonds, Olivia Landau, CEO of The Clear Cut and Lipalese Makepe, CFO of Okavango Diamond Company.
The five teams, four based in Botswana and one based in Zimbabwe, presented their idea live in a 10-minute pitch, followed by a jury Q&A.
“Zoe Diamonds”, based in Gaborone, pitched an ambitious plan to expand its portfolio as a one-stop shop for sourcing and manufacturing diamonds and diamond jewellery for local diamond professionals.
“Panorata”, with home-base in Zimbabwe, caught the jury’s attention with a creative idea to capture videos of the transformation of a diamond or jewelry piece, designed to enrich the storytelling around the traceable origin and impact of a diamond jewellery piece.
Young Batswana academic, Thapelo Mothatego, impressed the audience with a highly scientific approach revolving around the creation of natural nanodiamonds, used in high-tech applications, through diamond dust ablation.
Local jewellery designer “House of Divinity” presented itself as a fully responsible, locally sourced jewellery brand looking to expand its footprint internationally, focusing on its culturally inspired designs.
The “Diamond Link” team brought the jury a surprising and innovative take on connecting local job seekers fast and efficient with open job positions in the local Batswana diamond industry through an online application.
Team Diamond Link took home the winning prize of 15.000 US$, 1st runner up, team Zoe Diamonds was awarded a 5.000 US$ cheque and 2nd runner up, Thapelo Mothatego left the competition with 2.000 US$ in prize money. Moreover, all the teams got a unique opportunity to receive valuable feedback on their ideas and connect with jury members and industry stakeholders.