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04/11/2022

HB Botswana To Disrupt Diamond Industry

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“New kid on the block, HB Botswana to disrupt diamond industry” – Botswana Guardian

The trending story this week is the setting up of local operations of the Belgium-based diamond company HB Antwerp in Gaborone, Botswana at the Diamond Technology Park. Known only as HB Botswana, the company will go full swing this December with the initial 15 new recruits and eventually grow to become hi-tech facility of 485 people by 2025. This is the company’s ambition as articulated by HB Antwerp’s Public Affairs Director, Margaux Donckier in an interview with Botswana Guardian this week.

The company is currently on a recruiting campaign promising well-paying jobs for chain coordinators, blockchain specialists, data scientists, and for people in marketing, legal, human resources (HR), communication, logistics, security, as well as rough planners, gemmologists, maintenance operators, robot operators, laser specialists and ICT specialists to mention but a few. The early recruits are beneficiaries of a gruelling training programme that comprised five months with WomHub, a pan African boutique incubator and co-working space supporting female-led innovation in STEM, and finally three months at the Antwerp-based HB Antwerp Innovation Lab.

Donckier emphasises the thinking behind this model, saying integral to HB Antwerp’s mission is empowering local communities to benefit from the diamond industry and have a more significant stake in its future. In Botswana, this has meant investing in the country, ensuring a fairer price for its diamonds, and creating new opportunities for its people.

The HB Antwerp Innovation Lab opened in Botswana in 2021 to train engineering and technology graduate students, particularly women, for careers in its facility there. In fact, HB Antwerp will “soon open an academy in Botswana to train local diamond polishers”, says Donckier. This is just how good it gets. In fact, one of HB Antwerp’s co-founders and Managing Partner, Rafael Papismedov is in town with his advance party to set up the specialised equipment that has so far arrived including to sell the company’s plan and vision to Batswana through various media – both electronic and print – as well as speaking at the Global Expo.

According to Donckier, HB Antwerp has created an infrastructure to transform minerals based on fairness and honesty. She says the company is redefining how natural diamonds are sourced, crafted and sold. Working from a conviction that minerals are natural resources that belong first to the country of origin, Donckier says they have created a mineral infrastructure based on fairness and that for the first time in the ‘opaque’ mining industry, miners and governments “get an insight into the complete post-production retail value of their resources and reap the financial benefits”.

 

HB Botswana to disrupt diamond industry.
HB Botswana to disrupt diamond industry.

To achieve this simplified supply chain, HB Antwerp has entered into a Game Changing Partnership with the government of Botswana and yet another trendsetter, Lucara Diamond Corporation – a Canadian diamond mining company that owns and operates the Karowe mine in Botswana, one of the world’s foremost producers of high-quality diamonds larger than 10 .8 carats. Donckier says that this partnership creates the opportunity to structurally embed a more transparent and sustainable way of working in the diamond value chain by creating better alignment among all participants and establishing a healthier, more efficient global diamond supply chain. “For the first time, there is no conflict of interest between the producer and the mine. Instead, the various supply chain partners are fully aligned, sharing profits, complete data, and other information throughout the diamond’s journey.

 

“Every participant in the value chain benefits. Additionally, the fact that there are no secrets in the value chain equates to true transparency for the consumer,” Donckier assures. Further, HB Antwerp holds an exclusive partnership agreement with Lucara, which grants HB Antwerp access to all of the +10 .8 carat rough diamonds recovered from the Karowe mine in Botswana. As a result, HB Antwerp’s partnership with Lucara has led to HB’s acquiring several significant stones, including the 1,758-carat Sewelo and the 549-carat Sethunya in 2020, and an 1,175-carat diamond – the world’s third largest diamond to ever be found – in 2021.

On the technology side, HB Antwerp, which was founded in 2020 with the goal of using technology to bring visibility to the traditionally opaque diamond industry, has partnered with Microsoft Cooperation.