Diamond producer De Beers Group has launched an enterprise development project for diamond beneficiators to create growth and transformation in the local diamond-cutting and polishing industry, which it says has been in decline.
Five black-owned diamond cutting and polishing companies have been selected for the project, which in the long run aims to provide holistic support throughout the diamond pipeline – from buying rough stones, to world-class manufacturing.
Currently, it includes a full-time manager to oversee and assist the participants. Also, business incubation company Raizcorp will provide entrepreneurial development, guidance and hands-on support, while also up-skilling the entrepreneurs to improve their business acumen, marketing and administration capabilities.
Speaking at the launch event on Wednesday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said business and government has to work together to drive beneficiation in South Africa, commending De Beers and the Department of Trade and Industry, which funded part of the project,
“The next big thing in our province is to get [closer] to key sectors of industry, and business leaders,” said Makhura.
“We in government are not the enemies of business and business is not the enemy of government. Our common interest is that we want an economy that grows in a way that creates jobs.”
Makhura also said empowerment is of no use if it means giving shares to the elite and people who are not directly involved in the particular space that the empowering company is operating in.
De Beers will supply rough diamonds to the participants and help them to identify polished diamond markets and distribution channels. The company will also facilitate access to business funding, state-of-the-art infrastructure and mentorship from existing sightholders (top diamond polishers within De Beers’ network).
Upon completion of the development programme, the five companies – Kwame Diamonds, Thoko’s Diamonds, Molefi Letsiki Diamond Holdings, Nungu Diamonds and Diamonds Africa – will apply to be accredited buyers. Once they can compete and meet the standards of top diamond polishing companies, they can apply for sightholder status.
Bruce Cleaver, incoming CEO of De Beers, said the move was important for the company, from both a commercial and strategic point of view. He added that it could lead to South Africa becoming, somewhat, the beneficiation hub on the continent.
“The Gauteng government is establishing a jewellery manufacturing precinct at the OR Tambo Industrial Development Zone, which will include both local and international beneficiators. My advice is that we include beneficiators from the whole SADC region.
Munirah Desai, the owner of Diamonds Africa, started her company with R50 000, after completing a diamond polishing course at the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School and a diamond graduate course run by the Gemological Institute of America.
“We are very proud and excited to have been selected in this project. It’s going to be hard work, but I am confident that by 2020 we will be sightholders,” she said.
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