Botswana Insists on Bigger Share of Rough Diamond Sales from DeBeers

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabatswe Masisi tales part in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.InternationalIndiaAfricaMuhammad OsmanWriter/EditorBotswana has long been known as a major player in the global diamond industry. The landlocked nation in Africa’s south is the continent’s largest producer of diamonds, and the second-largest one globally. The industry accounts for a large portion of the country’s GDP.President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana said during a briefing on Thursday that his government is pursuing, through its Okavango Diamond Company, an increase in its share of rough diamonds mined in the country by De Beers, a unit of Anglo American Plc.The president stressed that Botswana’s government has realized that the nation’s returns from the valuable mineral were “very small” in comparison to the size of sales in the sector of polished diamonds and jewelry.

"We are at the negotiating table now and because we have learned some new things, we want more for the Botswana government," he said. "We have learned in outcome terms, and we can make much, much more money than we have been making by selling rough," President Masisi revealed.

Since 2018, the government of Botswana and the UK-based diamond giant De Beers have been negotiating the renewal of a 2011 deal on the diamonds mined in the southern African country.Under the contract, which was set to terminate in 2021, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic extended to June 2023, Botswana only received 10% of the diamonds, which was later raised to 25% in 2020, while De Beers owned the rest.AfricaOpen Veins of Africa: How Western Firms Plunder the Continent’s Wealth24 August 2022, 19:59 GMTIn February, while addressing supporters of the governing Botswana Democratic Party, Masisi proclaimed his government’s intention to pursue a mutually favorable outcome of negotiations over a review of the diamond agreement with De Beers.

"If we don't achieve a win-win situation, each party will have to pack its bags and go," Masisi told his party's supporters.

Botswana is Africa’s number one diamond producer and the second-largest worldwide after Russia. It has three large mines that are currently operational: the Orapa and Letlhakane mines in the north, and the Kalahari mine in the south.Earlier, in September 2022, in order to build up its national reserves, Botswana announced a new policy that requires businesses producing high-value minerals in the country to pay half of the output to the government in refined mineral produce.It is worth mentioning that about two-thirds of De Beers’s annual production is generated from its Botswana unit, Debswana. In February, the UK-based diamond giant said that the sales of gemstones in its first sales cycle of 2023, from January 16-31, increased by 8% to $450 million. The previous cycle lasted from December 5-20, with that period’s sales totaling $417 million.


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