- Your Honour, Mr Slumber Tsogwane, Vice President of the Republic of Botswana;
- Mr Charles Michel, President of the European Commission,
- Mr David Gotlib, President of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC);
- Mr Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice of the European Commission;
- Mr Lefoko Maxwell Moagi, Minister of Minerals and Energy, Hon;
- Honourable Ministers of Mining from African Diamond Producing Countries;
- Honourable Ministers from Botswana;
- Members of the AWDC Board of Directors;
- Mr Eri Epstein, Chief Executive Officer of Antwerp World Diamond Council (AWDC);
- Your Excellency Mrs Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, Ambassador of Botswana to the Kingdom of Belgium;
- Captains of Industry;
- Distinguished Guests;
A very good morning to you!
1. I wish to extend a warm welcome to all of you to Gaborone, where we are meeting for the second edition of the FACETS Conference, themed Motswedi wa Khumo-Diamonds for Change. It is an honour for me to perform the official opening of this important conference, the outcomes of which will contribute to shaping the future of the diamond industry in the world.
2. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) for partnering with us to make this conference a reality, delivering on the commitment they made to Botswana at the inaugural FACETS Conference 2022 held in Antwerp. As we gather on the African soil, we recognise the significance of this continent in the world of diamonds.
3. Global Diamond production for 2022 stood at just over USD 16 Billion, with 65.80% of that production sourced from Africa. Africa not only yields 65% of the world’s natural diamonds but also holds the potential to reshape the industry’s narrative, making it a force for positive transformation and sustainable growth.
4. The theme of this conference, “Diamonds for Change” is a testament to the profound impact that these gems can have on our nations, our people, and our shared future. In Botswana, we have experienced this impact first hand. Our journey over the past decades stands as a testament to how diamonds can be agents of change, catalysts for progress, and vehicles for economic and social upliftment. From the foundations of our economic diversification to the enhancement of our social fabric, diamonds have played a pivotal role in shaping our nation’s destiny.
5. Yet, as we gather here today we recognize that the path to sustainable change is not without its challenges. The diamond industry, like any other, must grapple with complexities that arise from a rapidly changing global landscape. Economic shifts, technological advancements, and evolving consumer preferences create a dynamic environment that demands adaptability. Therefore, it is our responsibility as diamond producing countries and key stakeholders to navigate these challenges with wisdom, foresight, and collaboration as well as ensuring that the industry’s positive impact resonates far into the future.
6. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our commitment to sustainable change begins with responsible practices across the entire diamond value chain. From responsible mining techniques that safeguard the environment to ethical trading practices that empower communities, we must set the standard for integrity and social responsibility. Let us remember that the true value of a diamond extends beyond its monetary value; it lies in its potential to build bridges of prosperity, understanding, and shared progress.
7. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as we deliberate on the future of the diamond industry, we must also centre our discussions on the diamond-producing nations that bear the weight of this responsibility. These nations are not just stakeholders; they are custodians of an industry that has the potential to uplift their people, create jobs, and foster sustainable growth. By fostering partnerships that are built on trust, mutual respect, and shared objectives, we can ensure that the benefits of this industry are distributed equitably, thus leaving No One Behind.
8. It is important for us to delve deeper into the concept of sustainability in diamond mining. Sustainability is not merely a buzzword; it is a cornerstone of our collective responsibility as stewards of this precious resource. Sustainable mining practices encompass various dimensions, including environmental preservation, ethical labour, and community development.
9. In pursuit of this objective, we must invest in research and innovation. Cutting-edge exploration and mining technologies can minimize the impact on the environment. From drone-assisted surveying to advanced water management systems, these innovations are not just investments; they are our commitment to preserving the natural world for generations to come.
10. Furthermore, ethical trading is another cornerstone of sustainability in the diamond industry. We must ensure that every diamond that reaches the market has been sourced and processed under conditions that respect the dignity of workers and protect their rights. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which seeks to prevent the trade of conflict diamonds, is a crucial step in this direction. However, we must go further.
11. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, transparency and traceability are vital components in the assurances that we as Diamond Producing countries must provide to our global customers. Blockchain technology, with its immutable ledger, can provide consumers with the guarantee that their diamonds have been ethically sourced. It empowers consumers to make informed choices and encourages responsible practices throughout the supply chain.
12. Our commitment to social responsibility must extend beyond ethical trading to community development. Mining communities, often located in remote and economically disadvantaged areas, deserve to share in the benefits of the diamond trade. Through community engagement and investment in education, healthcare, and infrastructure, we can transform mining regions into thriving, sustainable communities.
13. As you are all aware, Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry, and the diamond sector is no exception. The challenges we face are not insurmountable; they are opportunities waiting to be unlocked. It is through innovation that we can address these challenges and build a more sustainable, responsible, and prosperous diamond industry.
14. Emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, hold promise in diamond processing. Nanodiamonds, tiny diamond particles, have a range of applications from medical imaging to quantum computing. By exploring these novel avenues, we can broaden the scope of the diamond industry and create new economic opportunities. This is Mindset Change.
15. As we embrace innovation and its transformative potential within the diamond industry, we must also address a pressing concern – the growing threat of synthetic or lab-grown diamonds (LGDs). These man-made gems, have rapidly gained ground in the market, posing both challenges and opportunities for the industry.
16. At first glance, the rise of LGDs may seem like a formidable challenge to the natural diamond industry. However, the key to maintaining a thriving market for natural diamonds lies in effective segmentation and marketing.
17. Segmentation, in this context, refers to the practice of categorising diamonds based on their origin – whether natural or lab-grown. It aims to preserve natural diamonds as a premium product that commands a significantly higher price per carat than LGDs. This differentiation is primarily driven by marketing strategies and the ability to appeal to distinct customer groups.
18. In essence, the battle between natural and lab-grown diamonds is not just a matter of chemical composition; it is about perception, consumer preference, and the emotional connection that diamonds hold. Natural diamonds have a rich history, symbolizing love, commitment, and enduring beauty. They are the embodiment of nature’s wonder, forged deep within the Earth over millions of years. This story, this narrative, is a powerful marketing tool that sets natural diamonds apart.
19. As an industry, we must capitalize on this narrative. We should not merely compete on price but highlight the unique and irreplaceable qualities of natural diamonds. These gems are not just carbon crystals; they are the result of geological processes that have shaped our planet. They carry with them a legacy of wonder and awe that no laboratory can replicate.
20. As we continue our journey to shape a brighter future for the diamond industry, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to natural diamonds. Let us embrace innovation as a tool to strengthen our position, rather than a threat to our existence. By doing so, we can ensure that the allure and enchantment of our natural diamonds continue to shine brightly, transcending generations and captivating the hearts of people worldwide.
21. Distinguished, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us also not forget and fail to recognise the human element of our industry. Our success depends on the talent and dedication of the individuals who work tirelessly in mines, laboratories, and marketplaces. It is our duty to nurture and empower the next generation of diamond professionals.
22. In many diamond-producing nations, the industry provides a vital source of employment and economic stability. However, we must ensure that these opportunities are accessible to all, regardless of gender or background. By promoting diversity and inclusivity, we enrich our industry with fresh perspectives and foster an environment of creativity and resilience.
23. As we chart this course toward a sustainable, responsible, and innovative diamond industry, we recognize the importance of global partnerships and collaboration. Challenges such as climate change, responsible sourcing, and ethical labour are not confined to borders. They are global issues that require collective action.
24. Through collaboration between governments, industry leaders, civil society organizations, and consumers, we can amplify our impact. Initiatives like the Responsible Jewellery Council and the Diamond Development Initiative have made significant strides in promoting ethical practices and sustainable development within the industry. We must continue to support and strengthen such initiatives.
25. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we stand at a pivotal moment in the history of the diamond industry. Our choices today will shape the future of this sector, influencing not only economic outcomes but also the well-being of countless individuals and communities.
26. The diamond industry holds immense potential, not only to shine brightly but also to illuminate the path toward a more sustainable and equitable world. Together, we can ensure that the diamonds we cherish today continue to sparkle in a future where “Diamonds for Change” are more than just words; they are a beacon of hope and progress across the Globe.
27. Distinguished, Ladies and Gentlemen, looking at the agenda for this conference, the program ahead promises a rich tapestry of keynote speeches, dialogues, and networking opportunities. These moments are not just opportunities for knowledge exchange; they are stepping stones towards a more inclusive and resilient diamond industry.
28. However, let us also recognise the significance of the second day, dedicated to empowering the next generation of African diamond professionals. As we equip them with knowledge, skills, and a sense of purpose, we lay the foundation for a legacy of sustainable change that will echo through generations.
29. In conclusion, I wish to thank you for your presence here today. May our deliberations inspire action, and may our actions pave the way for a brighter, more responsible, and more innovative future for the diamond industry and the world at large.
30. I thank you for your kind attention
Image: Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi. (JCK Events)