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28/10/2022

“Thanks to our collaboration, diamond income has increased by 40%.” – Gazet Van Antwerpen

Gazet van Antwerpen – 28 October, 2022

“Thanks to our collaboration, diamond income has increased by 40%.”

The diamond company HB Antwerp will open a branch in the South African country of Botswana at the end of December. It wants to create 485 jobs there in the coming years. “Thanks to our collaboration, the Botswana government’s income from diamonds has increased by almost 40% in the last two years,” says Margaux Donckier, communications director at HB Antwerp.

More than 40% of the market value of all goods and services produced in Botswana comes from diamonds. Thanks to this income, Botswanans can enjoy free health care and education at university. And yet, the Botswana government revenues could be much higher, as most industrial jobs, such as cutting and valuing a diamond, are done overseas.

“Many of my compatriots have never even seen a rough diamond up close,” says Botswana Prince Chidzala (25) in fluent English. “I had to fly nineteen hours to Belgium to see with my own eyes what such a stone looks like.”

HB in Antwerp & Botswana - Gazet Van Antwerpen
HB in Antwerp & Botswana – Gazet Van Antwerpen

 

Against fraud

Prince is in Antwerp for three months, together with fourteen compatriots, because he was recruited by HB Antwerp and is now receiving training here. HB Antwerp cuts diamonds in Antwerp, analyzes them, and uses technology to turn them into a kind of ‘passport.’ That ‘passport’ states, among other things, from which mine a diamond comes, when it was mined and where it has been. This transparency makes fraud in the sector virtually impossible.

For example, HB Antwerp cuts all diamonds of at least +10.8 carats from the Karowe mine in Botswana. The diamonds from that mine fly directly from Botswana to Belgium so that no money gets stuck in the pockets of intermediaries, such as diamond dealers.

“That is revolutionary in our sector,” says Margaux Donckier. “By making the chain so short, the Botswana government’s income from diamonds has increased by 35-40% in two years.”

Duplicate Company

HB Antwerp now wants to go a big step further. ” We are going to copy our Antwerp company in Botswana,” says Margaux Donckier. “We want to employ 485 people there by 2026. Every laser, every grinding robot, and another device from Antwerp will also be in our facility in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. So, we will employ people there who cut diamonds on-site, analyze them and determine the number of carats, for example. We want to fill those jobs with Botswanans so residents can finally enjoy their country’s natural resources.”

Need for change

Prince Chidzala is one of the first Botswana employees of HB Antwerp. He receives a Belgian wage for three months during his training in Antwerp. In Botswana, he will receive a salary that will be 35% above the Botswana average. “I’m thrilled to be part of the transformation of my country,” said Prince. “For example, here I learn how to get the best model out of a diamond.”

His compatriot Stella Moreba (25) is equally enthusiastic. “I saw a small polished and glittering diamond through a microscope for the first time here in Antwerp,” Stella says. “That was a beautiful moment. My family is happy that I can contribute to a new future for our country.”

There is a great need for change. “Despite the higher quality of our education, it is not unusual for you to be unemployed for ten years after graduating in Botswana,” says Natasha Majuta. “There are simply few jobs. And for almost every job, you need a lot of experience. That is why I am so happy that thanks to HB Antwerp, I can work in the diamond industry.”

Lithium and copper

HB Antwerp wants to copy its business model in other non-corrupt countries in the coming years and go beyond diamond alone. “We can also apply our principle to other raw materials, such as lithium and copper,” says Margaux Donckier. “The Botswana government would then find out, for example, in which electric car the Botswana lithium is used so that it can generate much more income from that substance.”

HB Antwerp’s heavy investment in Botswana means the company will still need to scale down its activities in Antwerp. On the contrary. “We now employ 140 people in Antwerp. That will be 355 by 2026,” says Margaux Donckier. “That is because, with our transparent approach, we are creating a completely new market and, therefore, winning many extra orders. We are creating hundreds of jobs by pursuing a strong anti-corruption policy.”

HB Antwerp can praise itself. But is their business model in the global diamond industry so unique?
“Yes,” says Koen Vandenbempt, an independent diamond expert from the University of Antwerp. “Foreign companies often employ Botswana to sort diamonds, for example, but the fact that HB Antwerp in Botswana will also cut diamonds on a large scale and determine their value and thus create different jobs for highly skilled workers is revolutionary. help Botswana move forward. If this plan succeeds, it will be quite impressive.” (will)