The A-Star Alliance believes that the diamond industry should benefit the countries that produce these precious stones. We are especially proud to have established two thriving manufacturing operations in Botswana, maximizing contribution to its local economy through Beneficiation. With this in mind, it is easy to see that we were pleased to have the opportunity to see The President of Botswana speak and meet him at the De Beers Group breakfast. Below are the highlights of the event.
The President of Botswana, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi addressed all the stakeholders of the diamond market. He spoke about Botswana’s history, the impact of the diamond business on this nation and the future of his country.
Before diamonds were discovered in 1967, Botswana was one of the poorest countries on Earth. The Botswana government formed a 50:50 partnership with De Beers – Debswana, which is the longest and largest, private sector – public sector relationship in the world. Already in existence for over 50 years, The President is confident that the relationship will strengthen over the next 50.
35% of Botswana’s GDP comes from diamonds. The President spoke about its commitment to ethical mining and safety in the mines in Botswana. Debswana places the highest standard of safety and demands these high standards from their employees as well. They are continuously striving to improve safety in mines and the number of safety incidents has decreased from 1.39 to 0.23.
The money that comes from diamonds has helped build this nation. Funds from diamonds have not only been invested in infrastructure but also to develop the future of the people. Faced with a huge HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Botswana government ventured to the international community to get help and successfully rolled out free antiviral therapy nationally. Efforts have been phenomenal and 95% of HIV/AIDS positive parents are giving birth to HIV negative children now.
40% of Botswana’s lands are also protected and The President spoke about the beauty of his country and the abundant wildlife that make his country what it is. “We have been told that Botswana is among the best-kept secrets in the world. We don’t want it to be a secret anymore! Please come and visit us.”
Recently, Botswana lifted the ban on elephant hunting, and during his speech, an animal activist questioned The President’s motives, creating a diversion from his speech. President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi responded eloquently and calmly, explaining why he had lifted the ban. Did you know that elephants consume about 250 kg of food per day? Botswana’s ecosystem cannot support more than a certain number of elephants and because conditions have been so apt, the elephant population has soared. This has increased the number of human- wildlife encounters, leading to many human deaths. Botswana is committed to protecting its wildlife and will not engage in an elephant cull, but take action to ensure the ecosystem is not affected and that the interest of the people in Botswana is taken into account.
The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, and De Beers CEO, Bruce Cleaver, answered a few questions –
WHY DID YOU COME TO JCK? (Answered by President)
“I felt the undying desire to be a part of this conference and meet the people who buy diamonds, so I thought I’d come and check it out. While I wonder who buys Botswana diamonds, they must be wondering who we are, so I am here to “Demystify Botswana”
WHAT DOES THE NEXT 50 YEARS LOOK LIKE FOR BOTSWANA? (Answered by President)
“35% of our GDP comes from diamonds, and we want to use this money to develop the next transformation stage. We want to use these revenues to educate the young workforce to reposition the market”
WHAT IS AN ETHICAL DIAMONDS AND WHAT DOES THE WEST GET WRONG OR RIGHT ABOUT IT? (Answered by Bruce Cleaver)
Debswana is committed to producing ethical diamonds all the way through the value chain from mining to retail. Ethical sourcing means more than that.
The funds from diamonds have been used to -
1) improve the economic position of Botswana. In 1966 there were only 4 miles of the tarmac road, now there are 4000 miles!
2) eradicate HIV. Free antivirals were distributed among workers. No HIV positive baby born in the last 10 years from any Debswana employees!
ARE DIAMONDS STILL RELEVANT? (Answered by Bruce Cleaver)
De Beers has invested in an enormous amount of research to understand where the product stands for future generations. The good news is that the GEN Z and millennials are still interested in diamonds but they engage with the product differently and it is more about experiences and branding. This means there is a huge scope for the industry.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON LAB GROWN DIAMONDS? (Answered by Bruce Cleaver)
Last year, DeBeers launched Lightbox, their lab-grown retail brand. After conducting a survey of 70,000 people, asking them what they thought of lab-grown diamonds, many replied saying they looked it as fun, fashion jewellery.
One woman said “It’s the kind of jewellery I would wear on holiday or when I go swimming in the sea because if I lose it I can just buy another one”
De Beers launched Lightbox to give consumers what they want – fun fashion jewellery. The Botswana government was aware of this launch and supported De Beers launch with this launch.
WHAT DO PEOPLE IN BOTSWANA THINK ABOUT LAB GROWN DIAMONDS? (Answered by President)
“When you ask a regular person in Botswana about this, their reaction is “What?” They only know one kind of diamond; the real one! If lab-grown diamonds are perceived as diamonds, heck we are in trouble. We will be seriously compromised. No two diamonds are alike but all lab grows are really much the same. We have a young population in Botswana. More than 60% of the population is a young population and part of our second transformational plan us to educate, skill and support our young citizens to skills to develop different industries and grow the economy further”
A-Star Alliance’s team, Arnav Mehta and Namita Mehta got a chance to interact with The President and The First Lady, Neo Masisi. The First Lady was keen to learn more about A-Star Alliance and their investment in Botswana. They also spoke about the future of the country and value of a strong education to develop the young population in Botswana. It was was a great event and we thank De Beers for making it possible.