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Orapa & Letlhakane mine: The highs and lows of the world’s largest diamond mine – Part One

ORAPA: If Las Vegas is famous for its glitterati lights and trendy casinos, the gambling and money spinning haven for a cross-section of the wealthy one percent, Miami, London and Paris the fashion and culture capitals of the modern world.

Hollywood the nurturing cradle of pop-culture that churns out the world’s glamorous, the best entertainers and super stars to wow and thrill our planet. New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made, then Orapa is the world’s one of a kind reliable and highly trusted giver of rare, special, precious rocks, a gift to the word that keeps on giving.  


The Orapa diamond mine owned and operated by Debswana is the world's largest open cast diamond mine located in a small township in the Boteti Sub-District. Orapa has for many years decorated royals and Hollywood stars with jewelry from its priced and truly special diamonds, it is a magical oasis of precious stones in the sweltering warmth of the unforgiving Boteti heat.

At its best, Orapa is to the Botswana economy what Obama is to American politics, what Mandela is to South Africa, what the Buggatti is to the car industry. It is what Floyd Mayweather is to Boxing, but that was then. For close to fifty years, Orapa has endured its highs and lows, it has experienced its boom and bust, in that order and the tale as told by its very first inhabitants is an incredible one.   


After close to half a century of uninterrupted high value diamond production and critical support to Botswana's economic development, Orapa is not the same place it used to be. Its first employees and original residents now in the evening of their lives, men who dared to literally invade the sleeping place for lions, (The word Orapa is actually a Sesarwa word that means resting place for lions) sleeping in nothing but makeshift tents (Camp Lamando) when Orapa was just a thicket of bush, a feared forest where lions roamed and the human species, except for some highly experienced Basarwa animal trackers would not dare to step foot in, look back with nostalgia and reminisce about the good old times of the Orapa Beer-fest, the Christmas parties where drinks over-flowed non-stop, the days of Orapa owned Television Station, memories of mine sponsored shopping sprees and the mine bonus program mpho le mphonyana as well as the generosity of the then Minister of Minerals, a certain Minister Mswele, who now seems all forgotten.

They saw the township being built, brick by brick from the ground up, they witnessed too much during the life of the mine. They posses the greatest institutional memory, but yet have also forgotten a lot in the last forty five years which they now remember in bits and pieces before it is all lost to historical record.   


This week, two old men who were part of the tiny cohort of Orapa mine’s first employees sat down with this publication to jog their memories and attempt to remember all that was Orapa of yesteryears, Orapa of their time. Eighty year old Kgosiemang Diepo, born in 1935, says that he started work at Orapa mine in 1967 when the mine had just been discovered and the AK1 kimberlite just indentified. 

He describes that time as the ‘best of days’. Orapa, the oldest of four mines operated by Debswana, begun operations in July 1971, four years after he had begun work at the mine.

By then Diepo was only 35 years old, and had no idea he was going to embark on the task of building the world’s largest diamond mine, which will turn out to be the mainstay of Botswana’s economic success model for many decades.


Kgosiemang Diepo started work at the mine during it initial prospecting, first sampling and evaluation process in 1967 and was among those in attendance when it was officially launched and open for business in 1971 by His Excellency Sir Seretse Khama. 

He says he was part of the mine’s first geologists, led by Manfred Marx, and ably assisted by Dr Gavin Lamont and Norman Randel who carefully traversed the carnivores infested forest of Boteti in search of precious stones, then he had never laid eyes on the stone they sought. He says this adventures process, which later included sampling and evaluation of soils and rocks took them two years to complete. 

On June 23rd 1968, the De Beers Botswana Mining Company was born. He says he remembers that special moment then when the first diamonds were discovered and he first laid his eyes on the stones he had longed to see. 

The old man saw all that is Orapa today from conception to execution. Now retired and a headman of arbitration at Mokgobelele Ward in Letlhakane, know for his trademark safari hat, Diepo says he had no idea then he will stay at Orapa mine for more than 26 years, let alone live to tell the tale to the younger generation.


“I was among the first local inhabitants to work in the Orapa diamond mine, which was then not called Orapa or Debswana but De Beers Mining Company. I begun work on the 26th May 1967, when Orapa was still just a camp and we lived in temporary structures. The mine headquarters were in South Africa while the geology office was based in Lobatse” the old geezer says slowly.


He says many of the people he began work with at the mine are late and that his first responsibilities at Orapa were clearing bushes, creating space for internal roads, digging, prospecting and taking soils sample. He was a jack of all trades “we were basically preparing for the parrot plant building, back then we used very rudimentary equipments and everything was a process of discovery through trial and error.

I remember that we were initially paid R8 and then later R10” he says. He says heavy duty drivers who are now paid between P10, 000 and P20, 000 by the mine were only paid R15 “Our Chief geologist was a Scottish man called James George Gibson and our general manager who I remember been picked at the Francistown train station regularly lived in Johannesburg and would only visit to check on progress” he remembers vividly.


He says when the mine was handed over in 1971, it was a period of great joy and trepidation among his contemporaries, and the mine’s first employees “since that day, the mine has operated unabated and uninterrupted, its plant operates non-stop day and night” he says.

“Orapa then was like the biblical land of milk and honey, it was a hodgepodge of people from different nationalities, all focused and committed to the search of one thing, the world’s most valuable rocks. From there on we started having a mix of people from Germany, Canada, South Africa and Zimbabwe coming to this place” he says.

He says many of the new arrivals then brought their children and settled in Orapa. He says that even gold diggers from the south African gold mines, mining engineers, metallurgists, steel experts and the like started descending into Orapa in their droves “as the population of people increased, the mine decided to build the township as you see it today, a modern town, with modern brick houses, additional housing was added gradually over the years to convert the bush into a true modern mining city” he says.  

He says back then the mine took good care of its employees “ R10 was a lot of money in the 70’s, the mine could also afford to give its employees, housing allowance, free gas, free electricity, cars to go shopping in Francistown, all expenses paid as there were no shops in Letllhakane or Orapa” he says.


Gabaratane Maphane Mawala, born in 1934, says he was operator with the mine for 20 years. He says they used to be given mine cars to go wherever they wanted “back then to work in the mine gave you prestige in the village, the mine operated non-stop day and night, it never closed, we had 3 shifts, one from 8-4pm, followed by another from 4pm- 12 mid-night, then another group would go to work from 12 midnight until 8pm, the cycle would continue and that cycle has been like that to date. In our time we would be given seven days off work to rest regularly” he says.


While they speak well and glowingly about the mine, the two old timers don’t flinch when they bemoan the lack of developments in their village of Letlhakane. “we had high hopes that the mine would develop this village, looking back we regret that we should have demanded more developments for our region” Mawala says with a straight face.

He says that it is a shame that in 2015, Letlhakane has no street lights “with all the money that has come from the mine the village should have good internal roads and street lights” Letlhakane has no single street light and they both agree that might pose a danger to people who have to catch buses for their night shift.

“life has changed, these days stories of mine employees working night shifts being robbed or victims of crime are common, it is a big disappointment and unbelievable that the village is still as dark at night as it used to be back then in the 70’s, this is a great failure and a disservice on the part of the government and the mine” he continues, with visibly restlessness written on his face.

The two concur that unlike today, in the past it did not require a special permit to enter Orapa “people entered as they pleased. In our days, there was a lot of diamond theft. Many people stole diamonds back then and were as a result denied access into Orapa” Diepo adds.

It was then decided that permission will be restricted and a permit sought to enter the township. He says diamond theft was so rampant that the then chief of police, a certain Jack Monty was transferred to Orapa to assume the post of Chief Security Officer at the mine.

He says many such people were tried in the courts of law in Botswana and it is now impossible for them to enter Orapa, let alone for anyone with a criminal record, this he posist  is due to the mine’s high security culture. Orapa is entirely fenced, it has a high security fence, with only two manned entry points, even upon entry into the township, access is only allowed in the green area and not where the diamonds are mined.

“When I started working as Operator on December 20 1989, I thought what the mine did for the village was good enough for us, looking back I would say we have failed the young generation and should have demanded better and more developments’’ Mawala brings us back to the discussion on the villagers co-existence with the mine.


He says while his generation was satisfied with R35 which he earned when he became full operator, he wishes they had the vision to see 25 years into the future and asked the mine to cater for village developments as well, to build at least public toilets and street lights for the villagers “The mine has not developed Letlhakane, we are disappointed. Residents should stand up and demand better! Otherwise the mines will soon close, leaving the village as it was when it started operation” he declares.

Diepo adds that not even the main kgotla in Letlhakane which is the symbol and embodiment of the village’s culture, identity and development has a proper roof and is big enough.

“I must add though that when Blackie Marole was at the helm and leadership of the mine he tried his out most best, but was failed by the politics and ill advised by people who did not want to see this village prosper” he says.


He says people should visit Letlhakane to see that it is not any different from 45 years ago, save for a few structures which were not build by the mine but through the sweat and toil of local business men and Letlhakane residents, who saw opportunity in a mining environment. He says while they understand that Orapa is the administrative centre for all the mines in the region, the township has unfairly benefited, getting the bulk of all the developments at the compete exclusion of Letlhakane.


He says water and power never shuts down in Orapa no matter what happens in the rest of Botswana and it saddens them as senior citizens that Letlhakane is excluded when it also has a diamond mine “Letlhakane should be better, we live in a village with no proper sewage system, not many good gravel roads, majority of the mine workers stay here and we are surrounded by diamonds.

The dust is unbearable because we have no tarred roads! Tuberculosis is on the rise in the village. The big mine trucks, so big that we never knew trucks that big existed, have to drive on these terrible roads regularly, sending clouds of dust everywhere and causing more damage to our once peaceful and safe environment. It is time a small percentage of the profits is reserved to help the village build roads” he says hushly, as if to restrain himself.


He reveals that he remembers however that a few years ago the mine reluctantly built 55 toilets in tsikinyega ward and regularly donates cash through their corporate social investment (CSI) arm which will be one of its biggest legacy to the village, but so do many non-mining companies with CSI units he says “what would be wrong with the mine doing something more tangible to remember it by, like constructing internal roads, improving the gravel roads in Letlhakane and building a proper hospital, why should Letlhakane residents still be referred to Francistown hospitals after so many years of mine operation” he asks rhetorically.


While he acknowledge that the mines has built the one road that connects Letlhakane to Francistown, he says he will be proud of the mine if Letlhakane had a proper stadium, airstrip, good internal roads, large hospital, mine sponsored malls and street lights.

He says his consolation is that while the mine did not develop the places and regions the minerals are extracted from, it is comforting that it has helped develop the rest of the country “the mine has employed so many people over the years and changed lives positively, it has employed people from across Botswana without discrimination and that is what consoles me” he says as if in reflection.


He says while he would not like to talk too much about what might have been and dwell on the past, it still troubles him that whites who were junior and doing the same jobs as them were paid more “English people from England and some of those countries, who were doing hard labor and menial jobs, came here and were paid more than us.

That was unfair and it was never explained to us what that was about”. He remembers sadly.

He says having been involved with the mine for that long, he knows that there are still plenty of diamonds in Boteti and that more mines will spring up in the future “I do not wish to reveal too many details or cause alarm about this, but I can assure you that having been to many spaces where diamonds are found in Boteti, from the very beginning, I know there are still plenty of diamonds in this country, they will never finish” he says boldly. 

He says he however fully supports government’s strategy of not revealing too much information to citizens about diamonds as that might lead to many mines opening and a possible stock pile of diamonds or the country being attacked in a scramble and scurry for the precious rocks.

“When we begun work at the Orapa mine, we were told that it will have a life span of about 30 years, I retired after 26 years, and its life span keeps increasing. Don’t believe all this hype about the mine life span or shut down. We will die and in my knowledge there will still be digging for diamonds in Boteti. Orapa will get to cut 3, 4 and 5 and I will be proven right.

Having prospected for diamonds, evaluated then and seen some of the pits and the rocks they came from, that is my general view if you ask me about the future of diamonds in Botswana” He says with a relaxed confidence. 

He says while the mines may occasionally shutdown and experience their lows and bust, as it occurred in 2009 due to less demand for diamonds and the world economic meltdown, they will always be back up when the world economy changes and demand shifts.


Diepo, who says when he left the mine he had been Promoted many times, remembers being promoted to Geology Transport Supervisor and another promotion to senior Geology field officer, he says he is surprised that people in the same position today earn so much more. He says even white employees back then used to laugh behind his back saying he should have been paid more for the many roles he played building Orapa.

For his part, Maphane says, he was told his position was, operator, then shift foreman and later shift-foreman now dealing with blasting, to prove this he shows a scar on his leg, the injury came about during one of the blasting operations at the A/K1 kimberlite. To date, he is still seeking compensation for his injuries from the mine.


Today, the Boteti region boasts of four diamond mines, being Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa (OLDM) and Karowe Boteti mines all within a 10 kilometers radios of each other. Firestone, Monak ventures, as well as other mines are said to be on the pipeline.

The Orapa diamond mine operates for 24 hours, seven days a week all year round, since 1971 and the early 2000, only halting shortly and intermittently for the plant to go for routine service and maintenance.

The average work day on the mine is eight hours. It employs hundreds of operators and miners trained on mining and earth moving machines, drilling, excavating and blasting, who burn the mid-night oil daily, in a meticulous search for life sustaining stones, all working on shifts day and night even as the nation sleeps or some employees go on strike.

The mine has its own independent water and power supplies to ensure uninterrupted around-the-clock operations ensuring that Orapa remains the one of a kind reliable supplier of rare stones, a highly trusted giver to the world that keeps on giving and it seems in the wisdom of Kgosiemang Diepo so will it be, now and in posterity.


Part two will cover the two men’s departure from Orapa mine and their journey to start work on another mine, the Letlhakane mine in 1975. Part three will cover the controversial scannex machines used in the diamond red area, where only a select few are allowed access. Part four the mine’s long term impact on the environment in Boteti. Part five will focus on Boteti Karowe Mine-a Model Mine and the Unknown story of Monak Ventures.

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Mining production rebounds to pre-Covid-19 levels

12th January 2022
Mining production

The local mining industry is on the rise again, emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic induced headwinds. 

In 2020 mining operations had to curtail their production in response to plummeting demand across commodity markets. Companies also had to reduce their workforce to comply with COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the contagious plague.

This resulted in low production levels across the sector, however operations are significantly jumping back to pre-COVID-19 output levels albeit another variant that has now surfaced, posing uncertainty for the year 2022.

Just before close of business for the year 2021, Statistics Botswana released the Index of Mining Production, a quarterly measure of output across Botswana’s mining operations and extractive industries.

The Index of Mining Production stood at 95.5 during the third quarter of 2021, showing a year-on-year growth of 31.8 percent, from 72.5 registered during the third quarter of 2020.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows an increase of 11.6 percent from the index of 85.6 during the second quarter of 2021 to 95.5 observed during the period under review.

The main contributor to the increase in mining production came from the Diamonds, which contributed 31.2 percentage points.

Gold was the only negative contributor to mining production, at negative 0.4 of a percentage point.

Diamond production increased by 32.2 percent (1.584 million carats) from 4.916 million carats during the third quarter of 2020 to 6.5 million carats during the same quarter of the current year.

The increase was a result of planned strategy to align production with stronger trading conditions.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production registered an increase of 11.6 percent (673 000 carats) during the third quarter of 2021 compared to the 5.8 million thousand carats during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s flagship diamond producer is De Beers – Government jointly owned Debswana, by far the country’ s mining jewel and global leader in rough diamond production.

The other diamond producing operation is Lucara’s 100 % owned Karowe Mine, a relatively small operation but known around the globe for its spectacular diamond recoveries, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Gold production decreased by 26.9 percent (65 kilograms) during the third quarter of 2021, from 241kilograms during the same quarter of the previous year to 176 kilograms currently

The quarter-on- quarter analysis reflects a decrease of 5.5 percent (10 kilograms) to 176 kilograms during the third quarter of 2021, compared to 186 kilograms in the preceding quarter.

Botswana’s sole gold producer is Galane Gold’s Mupane Mine in North East Botswana, enclaved around the historic gold fields of Francistown.

The decrease in production according to Statistics Botswana was a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine. Mupane Gold Mine is currently on a rough run with imminent workers strike over unsatisfactory payments. The impending protests have been heavily endorsed by Botswana Mine Workers Union.

In Sua Pan, the sodium crystals have risen to glory, making Sowa Town great again, Soda Ash production rose by 81.7 percent (29, 312 tonnes) from 35, 883 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020 to 65, 195 tonnes in the same quarter of the current year.

The quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that production went up by 12.5 percent (7, 233 tonnes) during the period under review, from 57, 962 tonnes during the previous quarter.

The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.

Salt production went up by 86.1 percent (78, 566 tonnes) to 169, 826 tonnes during the third quarter of 2021, from 91, 261 tonnes during the same quarter of the previous year.

Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered an increase of 66.9 percent (68, 050 tonnes) compared to 101, 776 tonnes during the second quarter of 2021.

Botswana’s industrial scale Salt an Soda  Soda Ash producer is Botswana Ash (Botash), a 50-50 partnership between Botswana Government  and South African Chlor Alkali Holdings (CAH) Group.

Coal production increased by 1.0 percent (5, 434 tonnes), from 543, 793 tonnes during the third quarter of 2020, to 549, 227 tonnes in the current quarter.

The slight increase came as a result of the efforts made to meet both domestic and international high demand, particularly that new markets have been identified.

The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production went up by 13.1 percent (63, 585 tonnes) compared to 485, 642 tonnes during the second quarter of the current year.

Inthe coal space the only operating mines are the privately developed Minergy’s Masama located near Media Village and the wholly Gorvenment owned Morupule Coal Mine.

Copper-Nickel-Cobalt Matte recorded zero production during the period under review. The affected mines are still under provisional liquidation.

Copper in Concentrates and Silver though there has been exportation of Copper by the newly launched Khoemacau Copper Mine since July 2021, the mine has been engaged in preparatory mining activities in readiness for full operations intended for the year 2022.

The preparatory mining operations yielded rewarding outcomes as copper residues realized have been exported since July 2021.

The period between preparatory and full operations is intended to allow the production to stabilize before reporting production output figures.

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Exports plummeted in October 2021

12th January 2022
diamonds

Botswana exports took a knock in October 2021 registering only P4,960.7 million, a 22.1 percent decline from the revised September 2021 value of P6,365.1 million, latest International Merchandise Trade Statistics  have revealed. 

According to this monthly data, released by Statistics Botswana late December 2021 the decline is attributed largely to the reduction in the exportation of Diamonds by 22.6 percent (P1, 264.8 million) from the revised September 2021 value of P5, 608.4 million to P4, 343.6 million.

Though it registered a decline in export figures , the Diamonds group still remained Botswana ‘s biggest exported commodity accounted for 87.6 percent (P4, 343.6 million) of total exports, followed by Copper and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with 3.1 percent (P152.2 million) and 2.6 percent (P131.3 million) respectively.

During the month Asia was the main destination for Botswana exports, having received 65.5 percent (P3, 249.0 million) of total exports. These exports were mainly destined to the UAE and India, having received 28.1 percent (P1, 395.1 million) and 20.4 percent (P1, 011.8 million) of total exports, respectively. Only Diamonds and Copper were exported to the regional block during the October.

Exports destined to the EU amounted to P1, 066.6 million, accounting for 21.5 percent of total exports during the month under review. Belgium received almost all of the exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.4 percent (P1, 062.0 million) of total exports during the reporting period. The Diamonds group was the main commodity group exported to the EU.

The SACU region received exports valued at P423.6 million, representing 8.5 percent of total exports. Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Live Cattle accounted for 28.0 percent (P118.6 million) and 14.1 percent (P59.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.

South Africa received 7.8 percent (P386.7 million) of total exports during the month under review more goods entered Botswana in October than the previous month September.

On the other side the value of imports for the month of October clocked P8, 801.5 million, mirroring an increase of 30.5 percent (P2, 056.1 million) over the September 2021 revised figure of P6, 745.4 million.

The increase was mainly attributed to a more than 100 percent (P1, 755.9 million) rise in the importation of Diamonds from the revised September 2021 figure of P1, 616.2 million to P3, 372.0 during the current period.

Diamonds contributed 38.3 percent (P3, 372.0 million) to total imports. Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Machinery & Electrical Equipment followed with contributions of 12.3 percent (P1, 086.6 million), 11.7 percent (P1,034.1 million and 10.0 percent (P882.7 million) respectively. Chemicals & Rubber Products contributed 9.7 percent (P856.1 million).

During the month SACU region contributed 61.4 percent (P5, 405.3 million) to Botswana ‘s total imports. The top most imported commodity groups from the customs union were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds, with contributions of 19.9 percent (P1, 075.1 million), 17.9 percent (P965.0 million) and 16.3 percent (P882.5 million) to imports from the region, respectively.

South Africa contributed 58.8 percent (P5, 176.0 million) to total imports during the reporting period. Fuel, Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Diamonds made contributions of 18.4 percent (P952.3 million), 18.3 percent (P949.4 million), and 16.0 percent (P826.7 million) respectively to imports from South Africa.

Botswana received imports worth P1, 794.2 million from the EU, accounting for 20.4 percent of total imports during October 2021.

The major commodity group imported from the EU was Diamonds, at 89.8 percent (P1, 611.0 million) of all imports from the union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, with a contribution of 18.7 percent (P1, 643.1 million) of total imports during the month of October.

During the month Imports from Asia were valued at P989.5 million, accounting for 11.2 percent of total imports.

The major commodity groups imported from the regional block were Diamonds and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 51.9 percent (P513.8 million) and 13.4 percent (P132.6 million) of total imports from Asia.

China and UAE supplied 2.5 percent (P221.3 million) and 2.3 percent (P202.0 million) of total imports during the period, respectively.

Canada supplied imports worth P364.0 million, representing 4.1 percent of Botswana’s total imports during the current period. Imports from Canada were mainly Diamonds, at 99.6 (P362.3 million) of imports from that country.

The rise in imports and decline in exports resulted in a trade deficit of P3, 840.8 million for the month of October.

During the month exports transported by Air were worth P4, 380.1 million, accounting for 88.3 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P567.5 million (11.4 percent) while  imports representing 51.7 percent (P4, 554.0 million) were transported into the country by Road.

Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 24.4 percent (P2, 148.0 million) and 23.8 percent (P2, 098.4 million) respectively.

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Debswana receives African award from Absa for its CEE policy

12th January 2022
Absa

Debswana Diamond Company, Botswana’s flagship mining business recently received an award from Absa Bank Group in recognition of its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain.

The 4th Annual Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards were held in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 18th November 2021.

The awards celebrate companies that are working towards a better African continent through innovative and impactful supplier development initiatives.

The selection process acknowledges and recognizes corporates who go beyond the scorecard to open access, empower SMEs, foster learning, build a community of best practice and encourage a collaborative spirit within their industries and within the communities in which they operate.

Explaining how Debswana scooped the award Absa Bank Botswana Managing Director Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said: “At Absa Bank Botswana, we were excited that for the first time since inception, the 2021 awards were extended to include nominations from Sub-Saharan Africa.”

She explained that the judges special recognition awards for Sub Saharan Africa corporates (excluding South Africa) were made under four categories being: commitment to Economic Empowerment across the Supply Chain, commitment to women inclusion in the supply chain, Commitment to localization of the supply chain and lastly commitment to a pioneering supplier development.

“We immediately thought of the transformative and inspiring work that Debswana is doing locally and what the company continues to achieve through its Citizen Economic Empowerment Program,” she said.

Pheko-Moshagane explained that in recognition of this commitment and outstanding leadership Absa nominated Debswana Diamond Company into the competition under the category: “commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain”, for which the company was selected as the winner.

The Absa Bank Botswana MD hailed Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Program as a true example of how the private sector can contribute to rebuilding the economy through and post the Covid -19 pandemic.

“Your commitment to citizen economic empowerment resonates with us at Absa bank, because we are also committed to and passionate about growing Small and Medium businesses as they represent a vital part of our economy,” she said.

In 2017 Absa, launched the Enterprise and Supply Chain Development (ESD) in the local market as a response to address some challenges faced by the SMEs. The main objective of ESD is to unlock lending to SMEs in corporate value chains.

The introduction of the ESD program has streamlined some of the stringent financing requirements like the provision of financial statements, security, historical performance and weak credit ratings.

The relaxation of the financing requirements has therefore enabled the SMEs to execute on the provision of goods or services for the clients and positively impacted their growth.

ESD uses non-traditional bank lending solutions to provide financing to SME’s. Through this program Absa offers 100% finance to Enterprises in corporate supply chains.

Moshagane said this approach has allowed Absa to unlock the opportunities within the large corporate as they are now assured that their suppliers and contractors will be able to deliver and in addition releasing the corporate cash flows.

“We continue to explore various partnership agreements with various corporates to see how best we can assist the SMEs in response to government’s call for Citizen Economic Empowerment by propelling the support of the SMMEs” she said.

Speaking to Absa & Debswana partnership Mrs Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane said  the relationship thus far has seen Debswana extend contracts to the value of BWP1.2 billion to SMEs on a  joint program, and Absa has financed close to half a billion to these SMEs, some of which would not have ordinarily qualified for funding under normal banking circumstances.

“To date no SME on the program has had its banking or contract facility terminated, which speaks to the commitment on both our ends in ensuring the success of these SMEs”

Receiving the award, Debswana Acting Managing Director, Lynette Armstrong explained that Debswana started its Citizen Economic Empowerment journey with ABSA Bank in 2017, borne out of the realisation of access to finance challenges by citizen owned enterprises.

This partnership, initiated with a deliverable to implement a pilot project at Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa Mines within the crushing and drilling spaces.

The two projects delivered the desired results in project KPI’s with impeccable safety records with Absa providing the required access to finance that enabled the citizen suppliers to acquire machinery for the projects.

In 2019, Debswana set up the Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme office a factor that accelerated the signing of a MoU in 2020 on access to finance between Debswana and ABSA and in that, ABSA has pledged to avail access to finance totalling an unprecedented BWP1billion over a period of 3 years.

To date, ABSA has financed 23 projects since 2020 at a total impact of BWP1.5 billion pula in Contract amount with more than BWP700 million advanced to citizen suppliers.

These funds enabled citizen suppliers to pay salaries on time, procure machinery in various areas such as drilling and crushing and participate in the recent LTE installation at Jwaneng Mine.

Armstrong said in the coming year 2022, CEEP will see Debswana focused on implementing plans aimed at supporting local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance.

“This is where access to funding is key as the two areas of local manufacturing and local repairs and maintenance have a potential to create meaningful and sustainable employment in the medium to long term to achieve Debswana’s target of 20 000 jobs by 2024”

She noted that Debswana has committed to heightened efforts of connecting the Youth and Women in the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment conversation, capacitation series and participation in the economic opportunities to further, totally involve all possible demographics and diversify the creativity of building sustainable communities and Make Life Brilliant for all, a total commitment of our Debswana Strategy 2024.

The Debswana Acting MD said the recognition of Debswana for its commitment to economic empowerment across the supply chain by is an encouragement to the Debswana – ABSA partnership and “gives us hope to further intensify our efforts to create opportunities for our fellow citizens and support Government’s efforts towards achieving prosperity for all in terms of Vision 2036”

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