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Home » News » General » De Beers moves to improve Botswana partnership

De Beers moves to improve Botswana partnership

Publishing Date : 13 November, 2017

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs for De Beers Group, David Prager has said a debate on whether Botswana is deriving value from its partnership with the world’s leading diamond company is healthy for the relationship.


Prager, said the onus is on De Beers to continue proving its value to the people of Botswana through its contribution to the country’s economy and people’s welfare. Prager said this at the three day Diamond Conference 2017 organised by the company as De Beers look forward to incorporating Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) in its business practices. “Partnerships are not easy to manage; there is a need for a good will and clear understanding of what the partnership principles are,” said Prager, commending the long standing De Beers /Botswana relationship, which stretches as far as 1967.


“It is up to De Beers to continue proving itself to the people of Botswana to keep the partnership going.” The De Beers Diamond Conference has been running successfully for the past three years in collaboration with the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. This year’s conference was conceived out of the conviction that the diamond industry should play a more strategic role in the upstream, midstream and downstream from a sustainability perspective.


De Beers seeks to have a significant contribution in sustainable development and innovation to reinvent and enhance business models that bring together all stakeholders to impact the global economy. The SDGs were adopted in by the United Nations, and would be the guiding tools for world development in the next 15 years. The SGDs envisages that in 2015 they would be; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice & strong institutions as well as partnership for the goals. 

 
Prager said the De Beers will seek to play a role in SGDs through different ways most importantly through incorporating the SDGs in their business operations as well as influencing its partners to have a contribution. In Botswana, a diamond remains a symbol of success story and a source of pride. De Beers through its partnership with the Botswana government remains at the core of this story. This economic and social progress as captured by De Beers itself in the document titled “Turning Finite Resources Into Enduring Opportunity”, has been built largely on a diamond foundation, enabled by high standards of governance, political stability, and the judicious investment of diamond-generated wealth.


Minister Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Advocate Sadique Kebonang gave credit for the success of De Beers/Botswana partnership to the country founding fathers; Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire. “When the diamonds were discovered in the Bamagwato territory, unlike in other countries, they never said those diamonds were for the Bamagwato territory but said they are to be shared and enjoyed by all citizens. Most of these founding fathers were in their 40s when they negotiated this partnership which today we enjoy its successes,” he said.


Botswana has avoided being a resource-cursed nation, as it has been proven that resource-rich economies often grow more slowly than resource-scarce economies, the opposite has been the case for Botswana. This has been mainly attributed to the fact that Botswana has managed its resource with long-term development goals in mind. Botswana government jointly with De Beers owns Debswana, which is today the of the world’s leading diamond producer by companies by value. Until recently Debswana was also the leading diamond producer by volume.

 
Debswana operates four mines; Orapa diamond mine, opened in 1971, Letlhakane diamond mine, opened in 1975, Jwaneng diamond mine, opened in 1982, Damtshaa diamond mine, opened in 2003. Jwaneng Mine produces the most valuable diamond in the world, and contributes 60 percent of Debswana revenue. The two entities also owns the Diamond Trading Centre (DTC), the world's largest and most sophisticated rough diamond sorting and valuing operation.


While the partnership has undoubtedly been at the core of Botswana economic development, there are some who believes that communities surrounding the mining towns have benefited as much, and still languish in poverty. In political circles, De Beers is still weary of views which are not favourable to its partnership with Botswana. The resurgence of opposition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)


This uncertainty has not been helped by the announcement of the leader of opposition in parliament Duma Boko last year when responding to the Budget Speech that UDC once in power, they will vigorously consider other technical partners for the management of Botswana’s diamond mines other than the current De Beers arrangement. “We believe that it is necessary to pursue a fair-minded approach that does not unduly defer to De Beers even where there is a possibility that there are partners that could assist Botswana generate better revenues and profits from our diamond mines,” he told parliament then.


“This posture is informed by our view that there have been companies, including one in Russia that has been able to perform admirably despite the global economic slowdown and storm against diamonds.” Ndaba Gaolathe, Boko’s former deputy who is now the leader of the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP), also shares the same sentiments. “If we are going to do things the same as the previous regime why should people vote us? “, he asked rhetorically. “We will be doing that for the freedom of our people and we should be resistant to the pressure.”


Gaolathe however highlighted that they will dialogue with De Beers over what their government will envisage. “I hear they are nervous about UDC, but they should view us as fairly minded citizens who want to do things which are good for the people,” he told this publication last year. Whilst a backbencher, Tati West Bigge Butale was even more vehement. He wants Debswana to be an entity wholly owned by the government without any technical partner.


“I was surprised by the Leader of Opposition yesterday talking about inviting the Russians to come and colonise us just like De Beers colonised us,” he had said then. “Why should we always be hankering for people to come from outside and exploit us? Butale is now part of President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s cabinet as Assistant Minister for Trade and Industry.The Coordinator of the Diamond Hub, Khumo Mogaetsho concurred that while the partnership has been the pinnacle of Botswana’s economic growth over the past years, an ordinary Motswana on the streets may not be privy to the benefits of the partnership. She said talk of Botswana going alone has been there, but was quick to admit that the value of the partnership is instrumental in driving Botswana’s economy.

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