De Beers pledges jobs in Namibia prior to government review

Months away from a five-year review of its Namibian joint venture, diamond producer De Beers has pledged to change its culture to create more jobs in the country, reports South Africa’s Business Day.

Namdeb, a joint venture between De Beers and the Namibian government, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

“We commit ourselves to be allies of government in local skills development and creating jobs,” De Beers Group MD Gary Ralfe reportedly said. “This will mean a change in De Beers’ perceived old culture.” Ralfe did not specify what skills or jobs he meant.

Namdeb already has a diamond cutting and polishing factory, Namgem, in Okahandja, about 43 miles north of the capital Windhoek.

But there has been criticism both in Namibia and neighboring Botswana that supplies of De Beers diamonds to local polishing outfits are first channeled via De Beers’ European sorting operation, where diamonds from around the world are mixed together, so local polishers use mainly foreign gems, the publication reports.

Israel’s Lev Leviev group, the world’s second-biggest diamond producer, opened a plant in June to cut and polish diamonds from its own offshore operations.

Ralfe reportedly said both the government and De Beers – 45%-owned by Anglo American – needed to be flexible to ensure the long-term sustainability of their partnership.

“Partners have to be sensitive to one another’s needs, they have to be flexible … hence we have decided to make a cultural U-turn so that we can get more involved in addressing our partners’ needs,” he reportedly said.

The sales agreement between the government and De Beers, which allows Namibian diamonds to be sold in London through De Beers’s Diamond Trading Company (DTC), is up for its five-year renegotiation early next year.

There has been public discussion in Namibia over whether the country could derive more from the exploitation of its diamonds, but little signal from government on what, if anything, more they want from De Beers, the newspaper reports.

Namdeb produced 1,3-million cts of diamonds last year and more than 800,000 cts. in the first half of this year.