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July 2004

Namibia Opens New Factory

Lev Leviev, the Israeli rough tycoon, has opened up what will be Namibia’s, and maybe even Africa’s, largest diamond cutting and polishing factory. “For more than a century, our diamonds were mined and exported in raw form to other countries without adding any value,” said Namibian President Sam Nujoma. “Lev Leviev Diamonds Namibia is the first company that will cut and polish diamonds here at home before they are exported.”

Namibia has been stressing the concept of adding values to its diamonds, and in recent years it’s established many cutting and polishing factories. Namibia, which now sells a vast majority of its diamonds to De Beers, looks like it is generally becoming more independent.

Recently, a seven-member delegation of India’s Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council visited the country to discuss possibilities of cooperation between India and Namibia, including increasing direct rough supplies to India, and training Namibia’s diamond and jewelry polishers and manufacturers.

Some Namibian politicians were not necessarily interested in greater cooperation, because they feel that Namibia should be doing less exporting to foreign countries like India.

Botswana Looks At New Factories

Namibia is not the only country that wants to increase its local manufacturing. Todd Majaye, chief executive officer of Business Relations for the Leviev Group of Companies (LGC), has told leaders in Botswana that it is possible to polish diamonds economically there.

Majaye said that a polishing industry could boost the economy in Botswana, create employment and increase disposable income. It would also have effects on the tourism industry and on the financial sector.

“It is frustrating to see our diamonds creating a living for other people while in Botswana are jobless,” Mahaye said. He decried the fact that although Botswana is one of the world’s leading diamond producers, it benefits very little from its diamonds. He noted that in Russia, almost 50% of its diamonds are cut and polished locally, and that has created “world-class polishing companies” there.

He said Botswana should insist that at least 10 per cent of its diamonds should be cut and polished locally.

He did concede, however, that there are certain categories of diamonds that are not economically viable for processing in Botswana, as past unsuccessful experiments have shown.

De Beers Signs Deal To Explore in Botswana

Meanwhile, De Beers is not just sitting on the sidelines.

It just finalized a joint venture with Firestone Diamonds to explore and develop Firestone’s Mopipi project in Botswana, located adjacent to two of De Beers’ mines in the area. Initial results show good potential for the presence of kimberlite, Firestone said.

De Beers also recently signed a deal to explore for diamonds in the eastern region of the Central African Republic. The transaction covers some 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers). The accord is for 25 years and involves a possible investment of $100 million.

Cyriaque Gonda, secretary-general for the central African branch of the Kimberley Process, told Reuters that the firm would be modeled on ventures in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. The Central African Republic will have a 30 percent stake in the venture, Gonda said.

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