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‘Zimbabwe should seek help from Antwerp’

ZIMBABWE should seek technical assistance from the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) for value addition inside the country to obtain maximum value from its diamonds, a local natural resources watchdog has advised.

BY NDAMU SANDU

The advice comes after Marange diamonds went on sale during two tenders held in Antwerp, Belgium in December and February.

In a report titled: The Second Antwerp Tender of Marange Diamonds, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), said Antwerp has been in the value addition industry for 500 years and Zimbabwe should capitalise on that instead of being a perennial supplier of rough diamonds.

“A strategic plan should be drawn with the aim of making Zimbabwe a regional centre for cutting and polishing diamonds in central and southern Africa, say by 2020,” the watchdog said.

“Since about 57% of rough diamonds in the global supply come from southern Africa, Zimbabwe can also bank on regional supplies for a robust cutting and polishing industry.”

CNRG said the value addition could begin on a small scale with a long-term strategic plan for growth.

“Antwerp World Diamond Centre ought to help sort, clean, cut and polish some of its diamonds locally,” it said.

“CNRG recommends that Zimbabwe asks for technical support and joint venture partnerships with Antwerp based diamantaires in the cutting and polishing industry.”
It said that technology transfer from AWDC would create both jobs and revenue for government.

CNRG estimates that Zimbabwe could create over 210 000 jobs and generate over US$8 billion in revenues annually if a significant percentage of its rough diamonds were cut and polished locally.

During the first tender Zimbabwe realised US$10,7 million from the 277 803 carats. The average price was US$38,52 per carat.

During the second tender, Marange diamonds got US$69 million after 867 308,40 carats were auctioned at an average price of US$79,68 per carat.

The increase in the price per carat was attributed to the decision to clean a proportion of the diamonds, a move which resulted in some categories being upgraded to higher value after the cleaning process.

The push for value addition by CNRG comes at a time AWDC is warming up to the idea, with its chief executive officer Ari Epstein saying the organisation was ready to take its commitment another step further.

“We have created a break-through by opening up the market for Marange goods and creating real added value in a fully transparent manner. We are now willing and able to help Zimbabwe develop further, by sharing our expertise and knowledge on how the country can yield more benefits from its resources,” he said last week.

“The AWDC presented a draft Memorandum of Understanding to the government in order to embark on a joint long-term relationship where technical assistance, knowledge transfer and common value creation are key.”

However, the AWDC boss cautioned that beneficiation required the development of local skills and infrastructure, as well as strong and long-term commitment.

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