The Changes the Diamond Industry Is Bringing to Botswana

A fascinating transformation is taking place in Botswana, with De Beers scheduled to move its sales operations there later this year.

Starting in November, the country will host De Beers’ famed sights, which means the world’s leading diamantaires will gather there 10 times a year. All this has led  to a boost to the country’s economy (as it was meant to), as the capital city of Gaborone builds hotels and other facilities to house the new visitors.

Sources on the ground there tell me: 

  • There is a lot of construction, and good offices in the sought-after areas are going at a premium. About 100 or so families have moved there, and they are all looking for space in the same two or three districts, so rents and property values have headed upward as well. But nothing’s gone crazy.
  • A little sadder is that crime is also going up; it used to be very low. Still it’s not terrible or at South Africa’s level. The big problem is home break-ins. 
  • Power is a major issue, but getting better. Water is probably the country’s biggest problem, but the people who come in for diamond business likely won’t notice. Wi-Fi is still expensive and not very reliable; one person told me it reminded him of the old days of dial-up Internet.
  • The airport is a bit of a mess; it works, but it’s still not finished. Flights might be a bigger issue as the only regular ones come in from Johannesburg.
  • The country just built a new five-star hotel, but it’s still “getting there,” I’m told. This BBC video on the country mentions one very industry-specific problem: No kosher food.

It will be fascinating to watch what happens in this transition process. Not all the current De Beers sales (formerly DTC) staff are switching over. Senior vice president for sales and client services Mahiar Borhanjoo is leaving, and yesterday it was announced that head of sales Ricky Ng won’t be going either. While the head of the division, Varda Shine, has told me she is making the transition, it is not clear how long she will stay. According to reports, about two-thirds of the current staff will be relocating.

So in many ways, the entity that used to be known as the DTC will have some real rebuilding to do. An upcoming De Beers function has the title “The End of an Era.” That’s not an overstatement.

JCK News Director