De Beers new deal an answer to Botswana’s clarion call

Al Cook – CEO DeBeers
  • De Beers CEO speaks on transformative deal set to transform Botswana’s economy.

The new partnership agreement between De Beers and the Government of Botswana, championed by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Al Cook, stands as a testament to Botswana’s fervent drive for expanded participation in the diamond value chain, economic diversification, and the advancement of a knowledge-driven economy.

In an important development for Botswana’s diamond industry, De Beers, the renowned diamond company, has entered into a new sales agreement with the Government of Botswana. The agreement, signed for a duration of 10 years, aims to further strengthen the relationship between the two long standing partner in the diamond sector.

Alongside the sales agreement, De Beers and Botswana have also signed a 25-year mining license for Debswana-operated mines, solidifying their longstanding collaboration that began back in 1969.

The new agreement comes as a response to the clarion call from the people of Botswana, as articulated by President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Cook, expressed that the aspirations of Botswana were crystal clear, and the agreement reflects their shared vision for the future of the country.

Acknowledging the commendable efforts of the Botswana negotiation team, led by Permanent Secretary to the President Emmah Peloetletse, Cook highlighted the successful collaboration that culminated in the agreement. The team worked tirelessly to ensure Botswana’s interests were represented and secured in the negotiations, said Cook in an exclusive interview with The Projects Magazine in July.

Cook, who led De Beers to find an agreeable deal with the Government of Botswana, did not immediately claim credit for it, indicating that he only joined the negotiations in the last four months. The protracted negotiations, which began earnestly in 2019, caused uncertainty in various quarters when it was reported that the two parties had reached a stalemate.

For the first time in years, the Government of Botswana openly adopted an adversarial stance against De Beers. President Mokgweetsi Masisi indicated that if the two parties do not agree on terms, Botswana will walk out of the partnership.

One of the key concerns of Botswana in the partnership was the future of the country beyond the mining of diamonds. With an eye on long-term sustainability, Botswana sought to diversify its economy and increase its role in the diamond mining business. De Beers, recognizing the importance of this objective, has made significant commitments to support Botswana in achieving these goals.

Firstly, De Beers will collaborate with Botswana to establish jewelry manufacturing factories, which will contribute to the growth of the local jewelry industry. This initiative holds the potential to create employment opportunities and foster the development of Botswana’s skills and expertise in the jewelry sector.

Furthermore, De Beers has pledged to establish the Diamond for Development Fund, with an impressive commitment of P1 billion pula. The fund aims to support various developmental initiatives in Botswana, driving socio-economic growth, and empowering local communities.

“Throughout the negotiations the Government of Botswana was very clear on its vision. President [Mokgweetsi] Masisi was very clear on his vision that we needed an agreement that is good for the people of Botswana, for years and for decades to come,” Al Cook said in an exclusive interview with this publication. 

“I think that is important because it explains why the Diamonds for Development Fund is such an important part of this deal. President Masisi has always been clear, that the nature of the relationship between De Beers and Botswana must evolve overtime, that it must look at the future to the day the last diamond is taken out of the ground, that Botswana must have a knowledge-based economy, that propels it beyond — built and turbo-charged by the incredible natural resources underneath its ground.

“What we are trying to do with Diamond for Development Fund is addressing exactly that. It will invest in sectors well beyond diamonds. The purpose of the fund is to help transition Botswana into a knowledge-based economy, with the Government of Botswana and De Beers working hand-in hand to do that.

“We can look into investment in the energy sector, particularly renewable energy, water and the development of water resources, and going to smart Agriculture using digitalization skills. We can look into building on the fantastic education levels in Botswana, the envy of Africa and making sure that we create thousands of jobs. “

The partnership between De Beers and Botswana has been instrumental in the country’s economic progress, and this new agreement represents a significant step forward. With a shared vision for the future, the collaboration aims to unlock new opportunities, promote economic diversification, and ensure sustainable growth beyond the mining sector.

As Botswana celebrates the 54th anniversary of this enduring partnership, the new agreement between De Beers and the Government of Botswana lays a solid foundation for continued cooperation and mutual success. With a renewed focus on economic diversification and empowerment, Botswana can look forward to a future that transcends the boundaries of diamond mining.

“10 years ago, we agreed to relocate Global Sightholders from London to Gaborone, and since then, we have witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of diamond cutting and polishing factories established in Botswana, providing employment opportunities for hundreds of Batswana. The value chain has evolved from the upstream to the midstream. With this new deal, we are taking it further downstream, into jewelry manufacturing. That is why I am excited about this agreement,” said Cook.

“Our objective is to work hand in hand with Botswana to establish diamond jewelry factories, so that our involvement goes beyond just mining and cutting and polishing diamonds in Botswana. We aim to collaborate in manufacturing exquisite jewelry, made in Botswana by Batswana,” Cook added.

Cook said, the brand “Botswana” holds immense power for diamond customers and helps to tell a good story to customers who want to know where the diamond comes from and what the good it has done.

“When someone purchases a De Beers diamond, they are not just acquiring a De Beers diamond; they are acquiring a diamond that symbolizes Botswana’s excellence and progress,” he said.

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