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Diamonds: Africa must get lion's share
Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2007

By Isdore Guvamombe
The Herald
May 29, 2007

RECENTLY, diamond producing countries, mainly in Sadc, met in Luanda, Angola, under the auspices of the newly-formed African Diamond Producers' Association (Adpa) to establish a policy that should see the countries become masters and shapers of their own economic destiny on the world diamond market.

The diamond is regarded as the world's strongest mineral used both for industrial and commercial purposes and it continues to fetch high prices on the world market.

According to De Beers, the world diamond industry is currently valued at US$10 billion, with Africa producing 60 percent of the world's diamonds.

This is why Africa must be the main factor in influencing the prices.

There is no doubt that, years after gaining political independence, Sadc countries are mindful of the need to end the foreign stranglehold on the precious stone by introducing effective strategies and policies that are aimed at devolving sovereignty and recovering lost revenue for each member state.

As many as 12 African diamond producing countries, mainly in Southern Africa, formed the association, that is headquartered in Luanda, Angola, to influence the world diamond market.

Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Central Africa Republic and South Africa have sent a clear message that the time has come for them to influence the marketing and pricing of their mineral product.

They now need the lion's share.

The countries have also sought knowledge and co-operation of the Kimberly process.

This is a clear sign that Africa is rising from the ashes of mineral exploitation to self-determination against monopolistic Eurocentric companies like De Beers, Anglo-American and Rio Tinto.

Since colonial times, the Anglo-Saxons, through De Beers and Rio Tinto have, like moles, dug an array of tunnels through African soils for diamonds, mostly for the benefit of their kith and kin in Europe.

Ironically Africa, which produces about 60 percent of the world's diamonds, has been receiving crumbs from the periphery of the market yet the mineral was being extracted from its soil using Africans as cheap labour.

The move to control diamond trade by African countries should be taken seriously by all governments on the continent as a major step towards fair deals and fair trade, that is mutually beneficial.

African countries must insist on benefiting through local cutting and polishing of diamonds and jewellery production to generate more employment for the people.

African countries are certainly moving fast to become masters of their own economic destiny and fair play companies from Russia, China and others from the Far East should also be given a chance to clinch deals with diamond producing companies in Africa in general and Sadc in particular. This will broaden the market.

Since the Zimbabwean diamond fields are expected to produce 15,5 million tonnes of diamonds, it is worthwhile trying new partnerships with the Chinese and Russians, who also have vast experience in diamond mining and processing.

This would effectively end the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the mineral's exploitation, as other investors would have to buy a huge stake in order to get real value and fair price.

It is true that Africa has predominantly remained as a source of raw material while countries that add value to the precious stones have significantly benefited and this has been to our detriment.

This is why there is now serious need to understand that if the local industries are transformed from being mere primary producers into full-fledged industries, there are a lot of benefits that will accrue from that.

In terms of fighting colonialism and defending political sovereignty Africans have, since the 1960s stood the test of time, in most cases cuddling together against the predatory instincts of American and British political hawks.

Of course, sell-outs have been noticed here and there but Africa will never be a colony again, politically, yet economically the journey is still too long.

Signs are clear that the time has now come for Africa to end western countries' hegemony on its important resources, especially the land and diamonds.

The host country Angola's Minister of Mines Mr Victor Kasongo summed up the intentions of the African countries.

"It is an African initiative trying to ensure that there is value addition to our resources with the support from our members in Southern Africa.

"We have to amend our laws to enable the governments to realise this. Benefaction is the key priority," he said.

Andre' Action Diakite' Jackson of DRC chairs Adpa with a secretariat headed by Edgar Diogo de Cavalho Santos, the former secretary general from Angola.

Unless Adpa is taken seriously and its principles implemented, the negative trade balance that has existed since colonial times will persist through the systematic plunder of resources for the benefit of other countries.

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