De Beers chief backs African development

The diamond industry has an important role to play in helping Africa to continue its development, according to De Beers Group Managing Director Gareth Penny who spoke at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre on Monday.

He said while Africa faced many challenges, the Dark Continent had made significant progress in recent years – 40 democracies and good economic growth.

“More than $320 billion in aid from the developed world has poured into Africa over the past 40 years,” he said. “While this aid is important to dealing with the immediate crisis, particularly HIV/AIDS, aid is not the long-term answer for Africa. As Nicky Oppenheimer has said: ‘Africa needs a hand-up, not a hand-out’.

“However, despite the problems, the perception of Africa as a single continent in despair is ignorance at its worst. Twenty-five years ago there were only three democracies in Africa – Botswana, Senegal and Mauritius.”

Penny said diamond producing countries had shown remarkable change – Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania – and were looking to ensure the commercial benefits of the diamond trade were passed on to nationals.

“For us in De Beers, we recognise and support this imperative as we look to expand our successful mining operations into the local Diamond Trading Companies being established,” he said.

“To achieve this vision, we will all have a part to play: Producer governments providing the right environment; De Beers and other producers (providing) a steady and appropriate diamond supply; diamond manufacturing companies (providing) capital, technology and know-how; traditional centres (providing) access to banking facilities; and consumer markets (providing) design and trading facilities.

“Ultimately, the success of our industry will be determined by the consumer who will demand that diamonds do good.”

Penny said the Kimberley Process had shown that the diamond industry could lead the world in developing creative solutions for the betterment of Africa. 

“We can do it again by making diamonds, the most value added natural resource on the continent.”