WINDHOEK - As part of its strategic plan, Namib Desert Diamonds (Namdia) intends to venture into value-addition by cutting and polishing Namibia’s rough diamonds.
This was revealed by its CEO Kennedy Hamutenya in an interview with New Era yesterday.
“We have actually done a feasibility study. We have already made a proposal to the board to enter into diamond-cutting and polishing,” he revealed.
He says the idea has been part of Namdia’s business plan all along, adding it would allow the company to explore the polishing side of the market. This comes at a time when Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo recently aired his concern that many of Namibia’s local downstream industry players still do not offer cutting and polishing services of local stones, choosing instead to buy and sell to secondary markets.
Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) CEO Shihaleni Ndjaba, in an interview with New Era last year, said there were no policing mechanisms in place to ensure that diamonds supplied to local polishers were indeed being polished in Namibia as is required.
It is understood that some polishers ship diamonds to places like India, where the costs of cutting and polishing are said to be lower than they are in Namibia.
Hamutenya – in an interview to be fully published in tomorrow’s edition – cautioned that selling uncut and unpolished diamonds to secondary markets would be harmful to the industry.
Alweendo said Namdia has an opportunity to enter the lucrative downstream diamond industry which would add value through polishing and cutting its entitlement of diamonds.
“Let us not use the excuse of a lack of qualified human resources to cut the larger stones profitably to export our diamonds in their rough format, thus depriving the Namibian nation of the valuable foreign currency revenues we could accrue from value addition of the product. Government remains committed to providing training and resources towards the upskilling of our human resource,” Alweendo said then.
The minister noted that the private sector and those directly benefiting from the landmark deal with Namdeb have to venture into developing human resources instead of importing skills at the highest cost to add value to Namibia’s own natural resource – the diamonds.
Namdia is 100 percent state-owned, and was born out of an agreement between government and global diamond giant De Beers in 2016.
The 10-year agreement stipulates that Namdeb Holdings, a joint venture between De Beers and the Namibian government, would channel 15 percent of its annual diamond production to Namdia.
The said 15 percent has to be valued by an accredited valuations firm before Namdia markets the diamonds on behalf of the government internationally.
“We want to see what we can get out of polished diamonds. Also, we want to create a Namibian brand, Namdia, which some people are currently busy destroying,” he said.
“That’s the brand we are going to go with in the market and create a footprint for our Namibian diamonds - the best diamonds in the world. When you go to Dubai or New York, you should be able to go in the shop and say that’s a Namdia diamond,” Hamutenya said.
Hamutenya feels rough diamond sales is a miniscule industry compared to the jewellery industry when value has been added to the rough stones.
He said currently Namibian stones are out there being marketed under different people’s names.
Therefore, he strongly believes by branding Namibian diamonds and selling them in the niche market, the country will be able to increase the profit margins it makes on these precious stones.
“Rough diamond is only a 13-billion-dollar business, while jewellery is a 90-billion-dollar business and that’s where we want to be. But now people don’t want us to be there. We must give our diamonds to other people and they brand them under their name and we are not there.”
“This is wrong. Does Saudi Arabia allow another country to sell its oil? So why shouldn’t Namibia be allowed to sell its own diamonds?” he added.