Diamond-rich Botswana woos jewellery makers

Wednesday, 6 April 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

GABORONE — Botswana, the world’s largest producer of diamonds, told international jewellery makers Monday it was ready to create conditions to entice them to set up shop in the country.

Botswana is committed to slashing red tape for cutting, polishing and manufacturing jewellery, acting minerals minister Ponatshego Kedikilwe told a meeting of the International Diamond Manufacturing Association.

“Our aspirations are to see as much beneficiation as possible done locally and on a sustainable basis,” he said. “We are willing to do what it takes to ensure that an environment that enables beneficiation is created.”

“Beneficiation” has long been part of government efforts to diversify the economy by encouraging the growth of businesses that add value to diamonds, rather than simply exporting uncut stones.

Investors have complained about landlocked Botswana’s infrastructure, including weak Internet access, and a shortage of skilled labour for the jewellery trade.

Kedikilwe said government was working to simplify the visa process for foreigners seeking to open jewellery businesses.

A new factory is expected to open in December, once final government clearance is received, operated by Shrenuj, an Indian company that is one of the 16 polishing and cutting firms already working in Botswana.

The firm says it will employ 70 people to start, with plans to grow to 300 employees, mainly making jewellery for the United States. Botswana has preferential access to the US market under an African trade deal.

Botswana’s downstream diamond industry currently employs nearly 3,000 people.

The country’s economy was hard-hit by the global recession as diamond demand plunged. The economy shrank by 4.9 percent in 2009, but turned around with 7.6 percent