Following a positive start to the year, the global impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions on the movement of both people and goods has had a major impact on wholesale demand for both rough and polished diamonds, and consumer demand for diamond jewellery, De Beers has indicated.
Briefing the media via a virtual platform on Thursday, Executive Vice President Diamond Trading, Paul Rowley and Executive Vice President- Corporate Affairs, David Prager gave a business update on the operations of the world leading diamond producing company, by value and volume.
“While lockdowns are now beginning to ease in some countries, a return to ‘normal’ activity appears some way off, as other countries have yet to see a peak, and concerns of further waves of infection persist,” said Rowley.
Rowley said the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge in the sense that it has affected the world in an unprecedented manner, having an overarching international impact, affecting multiple industrial sectors as well as impacting the entire value chain of mining business, from mine to retail.
“Unlike previous economic shocks, Covid-19 has a combination of health, social and economic challenges and considerations. International responses have led to difficulties not only with demand conditions, but several other factors,” Rowley told Botswana media.
“Such a challenge requires a unique response, traditional approaches to business are ineffective. A range of considerations must be balanced with commercial activity. Flexibility and adaptability are key.”
CONSUMER DEMAND IN KEY MARKETS DURING PANDEMIC
The United States lockdown has led to severely reduced consumer demands in the market representing around half of De Beers’ global demand. “Some States in the US are now relaxing lockdown restrictions but most stores remain closed and demand heavily impacted,” he said.
“Meanwhile China, which is the second biggest market for lockdown restrictions severely impacted retail sales in second largest global market. Most stores are now open again. Consumers returning are encouraging signs, but still below former levels.”
In India the ongoing lockdowns across the country continue to have a significant impact on demand. With the vast majority of the world’s diamonds being cut and polished in India, the lockdown there saw midstream demand grind almost to a halt.
Restrictions on international travel and shipping also saw trading activity dry up in key centres. Mines across the world have seen operations paused or stopped.
There are questions regarding whether some operations will return at all after the pandemic. With those mines that are operating, there remain significant logistical challenges and operations are at a reduced level, Rowley indicated.
Direct impact on De Beers Jewellers retail outlets as result of store closures and consumer demand impact, resulting in indirect impact through the value chain as impact on consumer demand ripples through pipeline. Forevermark business has been impacted as jeweller partners were impacted by store closures and consumer demand.
Meanwhile there has been a substantial impact on rough diamond sales; Sight 3 not held in light of logistical challenges related to lockdowns in Botswana, South Africa and India while Sight 4 was only attended by local beneficiation Sightholders as international customers were unable to travel.
Operations across the globe impacted due to requirements to implement different working practices and procedures to keep our people safe but mines are now operating again, albeit at reduced levels.
DE BEERS RESPONSE: FLEXIBILITY IS KEY
In response to the Covid-19 which has affected De Beers’ business, the mining giant has committed to implementing changes to regular customer commercial arrangements including; 100 percent deferrals, additional buybacks, extended sales windows beyond Sight Weeks.
De Beers will also work with partners in government to see how the company can generate revenue when international customers are unable to travel. The group considers focusing on viewings in other centres as a temporary measure
The company will also move to reduced global production guidance by 7m carats to reflect demand and support long-term value as well as refocusing and repurposing marketing plans to reflect changing situation – timing, targeting, product types and messaging.
On Thursday, company leadership indicated that it is impossible to provide a detailed outlook as so much depends on the progress of the virus and government responses. “However, early indications from places that have reopened suggest demand can recover quite quickly,” said Rowley.
De Beers said despite the challenges, the company continues to make major investments across the diamond value chain to ensure the industry’s continued success during these unprecedented times
The mining giant is making investments in production capacity expansion, rough diamond distribution efficiency, as well as downstream consumer marketing campaigns.
The company said it will be leading the recovery and reinforcing how diamonds will continue to have a key role to play in people’s lives after the lockdowns through our consumer engagement activities. “We are focused on returning to business as usual in our Botswana home as soon as is possible,” said Prager
During the questions and answers, De Beers declined to reveal the extent of financial losses during the imposed lockdown in key markets but indicated that the impacts were devastating across all business streams.
De Beers is 85 percent owned by Anglo American and 15 percent owned by the Government of the Republic of Botswana. De Beers’ two primary mines in Botswana, Jwaneng and Orapa represent 92% of the nation’s diamond output by value, with Jwaneng Mine being the most valuable diamond mine in the world.
African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or donâ€™tâ€™ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.
This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. â€śThere has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.
This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumersâ€™ right to healthier lifestyle choices,â€ť Dr Mhizha said.
The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.
It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. â€śInnovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.
Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smokingâ€”the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. â€śNicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,â€ť Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.
Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.
â€śThe Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,â€ť Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.
During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.
The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.
Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.
According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reachingÂ WeekendPostÂ shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.
In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.
This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publicationâ€™s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, â€śas you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,â€ť she said.
She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.
Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.
Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.
Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.
â€śIt is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,â€ť he toldÂ WeekendPost, adding that â€śwhen a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolvedâ€ť.
Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.