Perhaps it is a result of the global lockdowns, but as I, like you, have worked to manage through the immediate crisis and plot the course forward, I have found myself longing for one of my favourite places – Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The Delta is a place of unparalleled natural beauty, a source of life and renewal for the world and a welcome reminder for me of better days ahead.
The story of the Delta starts far away from Botswana in the highlands of Angola, where almost all the water that will one day end up in the Delta begins as rainfall, collecting in lakes and rivers until it joins the Cuito and Cubango Rivers. The two rivers become one in the south of the country where they form the famous Okavango River, which carries its water across Namibia and into Botswana, ultimately bringing the Okavango Delta to life.
All along these mighty rivers communities have flourished over generations, but their livelihoods, and the Delta itself, could now be at risk. Along the paths of the rivers the risk of the diversion of water by unregulated agriculture, and erosion caused by deforestation and fires, threaten (if unchecked) to change the waterflows and alter this ecosystem forever. Seemingly small unilateral interventions unintentionally conspire to threaten an entire system with potentially irrevocable outcomes.
In the diamond industry we often use the language of the river: upstream, midstream and downstream. When the industry is working well, we focus on the relative health of each part of the river, build partnerships across it and navigate the periodic droughts and flash floods, but we always seek a strong current that carries diamonds through the value chain, downstream.
Today, however, we are faced with a challenge not to one part of the river, but to the entire river. When this crisis ultimately recedes, as it will, if the upstream is intact but there is no functioning downstream, or a midstream but a significantly depleted source upstream, then we have no functioning river system at all.
While all companies, including ours, are taking rapid action to brace for the crisis, that action must be responsible and sustainable and recognise that just as the challenge is a shared one, so, too, must be the solutions.
Around our mines, in the world’s major diamond cutting centres, and in the communities in which our employees live, the continuity of our operations is central to our people, the local economy and entire nations. The salaries we pay and the services we provide and purchase help families put food on the table and manage their health. In many cases, the provision of water, food, energy and health and transportation systems depend on our operations.
Before we are corporate citizens, we are global citizens. We have a collective interest and a collective responsibility for delivering social outcomes that work for businesses and communities across the value chain.
In a global industry, maintaining the free and unencumbered flow of goods across the value chain is essential to ensuring the continued flow of funds that mean individuals and families have enough income to manage their diet and hygiene and meet the needs of those who depend on them most.
The workers across the entire diamond value chain around the world are the bedrock of the industry. We all want to shield our people from the economic impact of the crisis, but it is precisely because we are all connected that it is impossible to unilaterally protect the welfare of one group of people without forsaking another.
Doing so weakens the entire value chain and, ironically, hurts those we are trying to protect. We have a collective responsibility to implement responsible and sustainable solutions that support all parts of the value chain.
For De Beers’ part, we have already significantly reduced the flow of diamonds downstream. Most of our mines suspended production to prepare for the virus and are now operating or preparing to operate at far lower levels than normal. We cancelled Sight 3, providing our Sightholders with 100% flexibility to defer their purchases, and have announced that we will produce approximately seven million fewer carats this year than we originally intended (nearly a quarter of our total production). In addition, almost all other diamond producers have halted or significantly reduced supply, with some mines unlikely to return to production.
We mine a valuable, finite and depleting resource. We will only sell it when the demand is such that it can create sustainable value for all of us. However, just as we are not compelling our clients to purchase, we strongly believe it is counterproductive for any part of the industry to compel them not to purchase.
While the economic impacts of the pandemic will be different in the main consumer markets, the encouraging signals coming out of China point to the beginnings of a recovery. Consumer demand has started to return in the country as the lockdown has eased. People are visiting shops and malls and re-engaging with the world.
While it is too early to draw conclusions, pent-up demand from delayed weddings compressed into a single season, and self-purchases to reward hardships overcome, are showing signs of lifting the Chinese diamond market out of its months-long hibernation.
This is an unprecedented moment for the world. It is a health crisis and an economic crisis, but it is so much more. It is also a crisis of connection. As people re-emerge from lockdown, they will seek to mark those relationships that are most important in their lives, and we believe diamonds will play a meaningful part in that ritual.
After demand shocks, we have found that people buy fewer, but better things. But this moment is different. The pandemic is both global and intensely personal. All of us have been personally touched by the virus itself, its economic toll, or both. The crisis has forced all of us to examine what is important in our lives and how we live them.
While we are physically distancing, we are growing closer than ever in the relationships that matter. We are appreciating the most important people in our lives and yearning for connection. In this new moment, I believe people will seek to purchase fewer, but more meaningful things.
Throughout time the diamond has served as a powerful symbol of connection and meaning. It has always been attached to life’s most precious moments and relationships and represented a store of value, but increasingly we believe a diamond is becoming a store of values.
Over the coming months in our communication with consumers, as we prepare to come back from the crisis, we will increasingly draw on these values. We will remind people of the role diamonds play in shaping a better world and in forging meaningful connections. And just as they have had to find innovative ways to stay connected with loved ones, we will find new ways to connect with them.
The lockdowns and the rapid change to how we all access goods and services has shifted consumers’ expectations forever. The trends that had begun to take hold before the crisis will accelerate as we emerge from it – digital supply chains, the pre-eminence of data, the application of artificial intelligence and the power of brands, amongst others, are even more essential for the future of the industry, and all depend on a collective approach.
In Botswana, the future of the Delta depends on the sustainability of the entire river system, just as the rivers depend on a vibrant Delta for water to continue to flow freely.
Like the Okavango, our industry faces a collective challenge. Our interconnectedness means that the understandable instinct to protect one part of the value chain can only come at the expense of the others. But if we pull together and each take responsible action, knowing that we are all connected, we will be ready for the diamond recovery to come.
After all, we’re all in the same boat!
Until we see each other again, stay safe and pull together.
An open letter from Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group
As the world mourns over the gravity of thousands of lives lost due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and the millions of lives around the globe it has affected, local fashion designers have not been spared.
WeekendLife caught up with a few fashion designers who said the novel coronavirus has severely disrupted their profit making season. There is no doubt that the fashion industry forms a huge part of the creative sector, which currently employed a lot of creatives. Today, the industry like many others is bleeding due to the pandemic, leaving many designers without income streams.
In an interview, Founder of Fierce Designs, Lucrecia Kgowane, who has showcased at Miss Botswana fashion show 2019 and FNB fashion show 2019, and also sponsor of ‘The annual Beauty with albinism Botswana’ explained that this has been the toughest season for fashion designers.
“As designers we were badly affected in the beginning because usually fashion designers in the country work looking at the calendar of events and weddings, mostly because our clientele do not buy clothes for casual wear but for events and weddings. More especially weddings because February, March, April, May is wedding season and it is also our peak season,” she said.
“So when the wedding season took over, weddings were cancelled. I had clients who cancelled their weddings, bridal showers and their dresses. National events were cancelled as well, events like Durban July, every event that people dress up to were cancelled. We ran out of business and closed our offices. Then from lockdown we were working from home.”
Amid all these, she explained that Debswana employed them to make masks for staff in bulk. “Before the masks, it was very bad because there was no income at all. Nobody was calling in for any dresses because they had nowhere to go. We were then contacted by Debswana to make face masks. So we are currently in contact with Debswana and making masks,” she said.
“Besides that we are making individual masks that are a bit outstanding and stylish compared to what we usually get from the shops. We tried doing designer masks for our clients to stand out. Right now every tailor designer is making face masks. We are trying as much as possible to do different types of masks to try and beat the market. This is how we recovered. It is not as good as it should be but it is not bad.”
She further explained that LEA in connection with Debswana helped with the contract for face masks, a project for LEA clients for Debswana. Currently, like many other fabric shops they are totally reliant on face masks for profit. She said they were bound to launch their new winter collection but until they can access fabric shops their hands are tied.
“Also, the masks that we make are unique and very stylish making wearing them fun and less stressful, we have turned them into accessories that one can match with any outfit and personally I see face masks existing even after coronavirus pandemic. They make a very strong fashion statement,” she concluded.
Very often people tend to underestimate the impact of culture and creativity as agents of economic growth.
According to the Cultural Times, the first global map of creative industry, revenues generated globally in 2013 from cultural and creative industries totaled US$2,250 billion and employed over 29 million people.
The current COVID-19 crisis is particularly critical for cultural and creative sectors due to the sudden and massive loss of revenue opportunities, especially for the more fragile players. Some actors benefit from public support (e.g. public museums, libraries, theatres) but may experience significant budget shortfalls.
The sector includes major multinational companies with sustainable revenues, but many small companies and freelance professionals essential for the sector could face bankruptcy. This crisis creates a structural threat to the survival of many firms and workers in cultural and creative production.
However, public and private companies have come to rescue creatives from this mess. I must say it is a welcome development for some creatives were already feeling some kind of blue, and who knows maybe something unscrupulous could have ensued because of a small thing as having nothing to sustain your life, which can only be money in this instance.
First National Bank Botswana FNBB has announced further details on the approved programmes and intended disbursements of its P1.5 million contribution to COVID-19 relief in support of the performing arts and creative industry.
Peo Porogo, the FNBB Director of Marketing and Communications said at times like these, they need the arts and culture more than ever, saying singing unites people, while dancing keeps them active.
‘’Each one of the activities that we have identified will help mitigate COVID-19 social impact and demonstrated how the arts, culture and fashion play a role in public health, social cohesion and resilience.’’
FNBB Foundation has issued a call for proposal in categories which support COVID-19 social communications, behavior change, entertainment and public safety which are music, fine arts, literary arts, dance, comedy, photography as well as short films. The group also looks to give money to online music shows and fashion.
FNBB wishes to run a digital writer’s workshop where attendants will be entered into an essay competition. The top 5 best essay’s will be rewarded P5000 each, while the facilitator will go home with only P10 000.
The bank says it has partnered with a local radio station to run a music show where artists will be challenged to record and submit songs that have an underlying message on the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘’Songs shortlisted will be entered into a competition where the top 3 will be rewarded an amazing amount of money.’’
Poetry has also been contained within the list. FNBB will extended sponsorship for two online poetry sessions each valued at P25 000, in which the theme will be Impact of COVID-19 on the Creative Arts. Short films also carry the same theme, but the amount of hard work put in these videos come with lot of coin, which amounts to P100 000 each participant.
Further, the bank looks to engage two associations that specialize in fine arts. ‘’The associations should have the experience and reach to facilitate online art lessons that will lead into an art competition. The jobs will be spread across different categories such as painting, drawing or sculpting, all valued at P35 000.’’
FNBB will also sponsor production of a COVID-19 memoirs photobook, a sponsorship that is open to producers who will facilitate purchase of photographic content from local photographers to be featured in this production. The sponsorship is valued at P75 000 including production and payment of content used.
Songbird sensation, Amantle Brown has released her first international collaboration with South African female rapper, Gigi Lamayne who is known for her collaborations with renowned artists the likes of Ricky Rick, King Monada and many more acclaimed.
The duo have released an upbeat song dubbed ‘Sedidi’, which refers to an unstable man who finds it hard to settle down in a committed relationship. The ‘Lethabo’ hitmaker shared with WEEKENDLIFE that she has always wanted to work with the renowned South African and thus decided to Direct Message (DM) her on social media for a collaboration and as the saying goes, “the rest is history”.
“I sent her a DM telling her I wanted to do a collaboration with her and then she responded. Afterwards she came to Botswana doing her radio tours and we linked and she added a verse to my song. It did not take much as I had already recorded the song, she only had to put a verse to it,” she said.
She further stated that the song is about a guy who is not certain about himself, as to whether he wants to commit and settle down in a relationship or run helter-skelter. “I am basically saying, how come you do not seem to be stable,” she explained.
“It is an amazing collaboration. Gigi Lamayne is such an amazing person, we have started being friends and we are communicating frequently. I was just telling her about my struggles this side and she told me about hers that side. Then we decided to help each other however we can to help market each other in our countries.”
Brown further stated that since working with the South African rapper she is now alive to many things. “Working with her taught me that, although we see these people having big platforms, we think they are living in abundance and everything is just cool with them but you get to notice that the challenges we face this side, they also face them that side, sabotages, promoters, plugging a song and many more. They have the same struggles as us, so we just need to put a bit of hard work.”
“She also touched on the fact that it is so hard for women to do collaborations together, but we need to realise that when we work together as women, we can build up to the respect that we want men to give us,” she said.
Known for her unique renditions, Brown gives her fans a heads up that this time around people should not expect the usual signature lyrical vocals that people have come to know her for.
“Its upbeat, it is also Caribbean and calls people to move. It is so empowering it is like we women are telling guys to sit down as they look like they are indecisive and that they must decide. It is like we are showing our power,” she said.
When asked whether men have a problem with commitment she said, “Well, this is a very complicated situation. I do not think there is no guy who can commit when he is not ready or when he doesn’t love the woman. A guy who genuinely loves a woman automatically that feeling hits him hard. If someone is not ready to settle they can never be with any woman no matter how beautiful and confident she is, there is nothing you can do to that guy. A man commits where he wants not when he is made to commit,” she said.