Among the ‘Top 30 Enviable Celebrity Engagement Rings’ revealed by the biggest jewelry publication Jeweller, there is a Botswana cushion-cut 5 carat natural diamond worth P3 million, which was put by Prince Harry of Wales on his then actress girlfriend Meghan Markle, around this time two years ago.
This is one of the latest much hyped Botswana linked diamond story intertwining with the showbiz world of Hollywood, as this country becomes part of the glitz and glamour pages. In this royal ring, the Botswana story alone is not enough, there is another vintage description of it; the 5 carat diamond is also rounded with two 0.75-carat round diamonds from Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana’s private collection.
Diamonds, the stone also attracts abundance, strength, power, courage, fortitude, creativity, imagination, purity, harmony, faithfulness, and innocence, increased feelings of self-respect and love, and relationships full of pure love. What is worth or more valuable than the sparkle and romance that comes with Prince Harry’s engagement ring is that it boosted this country’s diamond marketing and public relation machinery. Botswana diamonds also have an emotional attachment coming with their production; they are not just sold for fantasy but they are dug out naturally and are as natural as they come.
International media says the ring was more fitting not only to Markle but for the fact that the jewel has connection with Botswana, which is the second biggest supplier of conflict-free natural diamonds, according to data from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. The Kimberley Process (KP) Certification Scheme helps control rough diamond trade among 81 countries who have joined forces to eliminate conflict diamonds, ensuring transparency and prohibiting diamond trade with countries not part of the initiative
"Choosing a diamond from Botswana speaks to Prince Harry and Meghan’s shared commitment to social and environmental responsibility, as Botswana diamond mining has contributed to transforming Botswana into one of Africa’s most prosperous economies,” Business Insider said just after the royal engagement. The publication further says, "Botswana diamonds are also sourced from mines that follow internationally recognized labor and environmental standards."
The most asked question: Natural diamond vs threat of synthetics?
At any diamond event or occasion the most asked question is whether natural diamonds will withstand the advent of synthetic or lab made diamonds. Big industry players always have one common response; synthetic diamonds will never take away the emotionality and socio-economic factor that comes with natural diamonds.
This week during the De Beers Diamond Conference, CEO of the giant mining company Bruce Cleaver answered the most asked question. Cleaver downplayed synthetics as just for “fashion, fun and lighthearted”, when compared to emotions, luxury and economic impact that comes with natural diamonds. Cleaver told journalists who asked if he is threatened by lab made diamonds that De Beers remains a “natural diamond business.” De Beers has always been against production of man-made diamonds but last year May it made a U-turn on the decision, and started venturing into synthetics.
Having 130 years in the diamond industry, De Beers coined a marketing tag “A Diamond is Forever” in 1947, as a crusade to counter the production of artificial diamonds. It is a natural belief that the big threat that comes with synthetic diamonds on the traditional industry is that some synthetics are falsely marketed as natural. The US’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires lab-grown diamonds to be marked.
At the same Diamond Conference, coming from De Beers’ rival, Lucara Managing Director Naseem Lahri concurred with Cleaver saying synthetics will never be a threat. Lucara brands itself as “producers of large, high quality, Type IIA diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats.” Lucara also produced the historic 1,109 carat ‘Lesedi La Rona’ (second largest gem diamond ever recovered) and the 813 carat Constellation (sold for a record P631 million or US$63.1 million).
“As a lady I can tell you how much diamonds mean to me. As for the threat that comes with synthetic diamonds, De Beers has done well in selling emotions. Let us sell how diamonds are produced. Botswana produced diamonds are well branded and produced ethically. We (natural diamonds producers) will always have a market for diamonds (natural),” said Lahri.
Synthetics threat is forever
Some believe lab-grown diamonds are the next generation of diamonds and allow the consumer peace of mind in knowing there is no forbidden or unethical labor sources behind the production. Natural diamond production, for years has been stained with conflicts, political crises and civil wars. There has been bad publicity linked with production of diamond as the media coined them ‘blood diamonds.’
Experts believe the real threat that comes with lab diamonds, when overlooking romantic value and being pragmatic, is that they are 40-60 percent more affordable than a mined diamond. A research says synthetic variants are around 15-25 percent cheaper. Diamond expert Paul Zimnisky says the average discount of a 1 carat generic lab-grown diamond to a natural diamond had widened to 42 percent by mid-November from 29 percent in January.
When giant diamond producer De Beers renegaded from its anti-synthetics stance last year May, something happened in the world of diamonds, a 1 carat synthetic diamond cost about $4,200 while an equivalent mined gem sold for $6,000. De Beers has always sold its synthetics for $800 a carat. Synthetics are produced in a laboratory at high heat and pressure putting together carbon atoms. Production costs are said to have lowered to make the artificial diamonds and experts estimate that to produce a synthetic could be as little as $300 a carat from $4 000 over past decades.
Zimnisky says while synthetic diamonds make 3.5 percent of the world’s diamond jewelry, the share could grow six times or more in the next four years. The world’s biggest consumers of diamonds; India and China are now looking into synthetics and it becomes a threat to economies of natural diamond producing countries like Botswana. China is now said as the biggest maker of synthetic diamonds used as cutting tools. It is said India is number two in production of synthetic diamonds, but China is said to be a bigger player making 56 percent of the world’s lab-made diamonds.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.