CIBJO Speakers Call for Sustainable Development for All of Africa

CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, opened its 2007 congress in Cape Town, South Africa, with a call by the South African deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, to take an active role in the creation of sustainable development programs in African countries that supply the bulk of the industry’s raw materials.

Ngcuka said South Africa does not want to operate solely as a producer of raw materials for the industry. “Although mineral resources have contributed significantly to the country’s overall economy, mainly through the export of minerals, we have not enjoyed the full benefits of our mineral economy and on sustainable economic growth and development in South Africa,” she stated. “This is largely due to the insufficient value addition of mineral resources as a result of an underdeveloped minerals processing industry. For this reason, the government has put in place measures to increase our capacity to produce processed mineral products and value added minerals with the added benefits that comes with it. A policy that accepts that the world of mineral beneficiation —be it for jewellery and all other purpose—the competition is tough and we have to make choices and create an enabling environment. We also have to see opportunities and seize them.”

In addition to Ngcuka’s address, the opening day sessions were attended by a number of high-level officials, both from South Africa and abroad. They included Alice Hecht, chief of Protocol at the United Nations; Buyelwa Sonjica, South Africa’s minister of Minerals & Energy; Erkki Nghimtina, Namibia’s minister of Mines and Energy; Elizabeth Thabethe, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry; and Mauro Agostini, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of International Trade of Italy.

In his opening address, CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri outlined the theme of the 2007 congress, which concerns the role of the jewelry industry as a responsible and sustainable force.

“In many regions of Africa, the greater jewelry industry is not viewed primarily as an enterprise that produces luxury items, but it is considered a business that provides employment and support to many millions of people. It also should offer those people the promise of a better future,” he said.

“Let the word go out from Cape Town that, while jewelry may described as a luxury product, the industry that produces it is an essential item—certainly when it comes to economic development. When consumers buy jewellery, they should know that not only is it an expression of value, beauty and emotion, but they have contributed to making a better life for people who need it most dearly,” he added.

Delivering the opening day keynote address, De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, spoke of the responsibility that the jewelry industry has for the people of Africa.

“It takes one incident to tarnish the name of the whole industry in the court of public opinion,” he said. “All the good things we do—the enormous contribution of gold, diamonds and jewellery industry makes—could be as nothing in a single moment. Furthermore, it is not just us in the hall today who would suffer, but more importantly the millions of people who depend upon our industry for their livelihoods, to feed and clothe their children.”

World Diamond Council chairman Eli Izhakoff, also emphasized the industry’s responsibility to society. “We are privileged to work with a unique, rare and beautiful product,” he said. “It aspires to reflect the very highest values of humankind. We must all continue to work in partnership to ensure that, in the future, jewellery products  are no longer associated with helping to finance conflict, but that everyone who depends on them for their livelihood is able to share the same dream.”

Buyelwa Sonjika, South Africa’s minister of Minerals and Energy, called on CIBJO to participate in the development of training programmes for young people in the jewellery industry. “There is an opportunity for us to work together on the enhancement of appropriate skills in this sector,” she said.