June 30, 2004

NAMIBIA: More control of diamonds sought

Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab has signalled a wind of change for the country's diamond industry and possibly that of the entire southern African region. During the opening of the largest diamond cutting and polishing factory in Africa, Gurirab said in Windhoek that a process of change had started. According to him, his government would be prepared to invoke a specific clause in the Namibian Diamond Act of 1999, which gives the government the right through section 58 to force producers such as NamDeb, the De Beers joint venture, to make rough available to resident diamond manufacturers. This is in line with Canada's Northwest Territories where producers are effectively forced to supply a portion of their production locally for domestic processing.
Gurirab's remarks highlight a wider political ambition in diamond-producing countries such as South Africa, Angola, Russia and Canada to manufacture diamonds domestically through local supplies and subsequently brand them as diamonds from their country of origin. South Africa is reviewing its diamond sector regulations, including the terms on which De Beers and the industry export diamonds. Official sources in Botswana have said the government is considering selling part of its production on the open market. Namibian ministers in their speeches also emphasised the need to add value to rough diamonds found in Namibia. Minister of Trade and Industry Jesaya Nyama said, "To our neighbours Angola and Botswana, we hope you imitate what has been taking place here."The time has come to put an end to the export of raw materials." (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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