Botswana leads calls on G7 countries to review diamond tracking initiative

GABORONE, BOTSWANA — Africa’s leading diamond producer, Botswana, has written to the Group of Seven leading industrial countries seeking to reverse an initiative requiring all producers to send gems to Belgium for certification. This follows G7 move to prevent the import of diamonds mined in Russia.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi told diplomats in Gaborone Wednesday the G7 traceability mechanism poses an unfair burden on African diamond producers. 

The G7 is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. They have required since March 1 that all diamonds entering G7 countries be sent through Antwerp, Belgium, to determine their origin.

The controls are meant to prevent Russian diamonds out of global markets amid concerns the revenues will be used to finance Russia’s Ukraine war.

“We cannot agree to an attempt to undermine our quest for development by taking charge and responsibility of our own value addition of our resources,” Masisi said. “Because if you make Belgium, Antwerp the single node for verification, gosh, what impudence. When we mine our diamonds here and we are certain they are mined here and you add another layer of cost, delay and time and risk to direct interaction with customers and clients and you take them still to Antwerp, it’s not acceptable.”

Masisi said African diamond producing countries were not consulted by the G7 before the measures were introduced in March.

“When the G7 made these propositions, that are inimical to our interests and particularly Botswana because we are one of the largest producers at least outside Russia,” he said. “They were essentially regulating our industry completely without our participation. You can’t do this without engaging us, particularly Botswana. They did reach out and send people here. The engagement was pretty patronizing. They had essentially made up their minds.”

Masisi said he is lobbying other leaders to protest the controls.



Botswana, together with Angola and Namibia, two other African diamond producers, sent a letter protesting G7’s move but there has been no response.

“We wrote a letter, we authored the main letter, we shared it with other producing countries namely Namibia and Angola and we asked them to be co-signatories and with minor amendments we all co-signed and sent it to G7 and we have not gotten a response. Apparently they say they are consulting but the requirements have kicked in and luckily the World Diamond Council has also protested because there has been serious disruption to the flow of diamond trade, and cost implications and delays.”

Masisi said Botswana in particular already has advanced verification and traceability systems. 

The G7 move is seen as undermining the Kimberley Process, an existing commitment to remove conflict diamonds from the global supply chain.

“The African Diamond Producers Association is very right to protect their interests,” said Jaff Bamenjo, coordinator of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, which acts as an observer of the Kimberly Process. 

“That is legitimate. However, the G7 is also right to protect the values and principles they cherish and defend. The main issue to us, as the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, is how much we accommodate the legitimate concerns of each other. That is the question. But I should say, the G7 in my opinion, from the very onset made a mistake not to consult the African diamond producers right from the initial stages.” 

Belgian-based diamond industry researcher Hans Merket told VOA traceability measures are necessary but that there is also a need to respond to African producers’ concerns. 

“A serious advancement of traceability in the diamond trade is long overdue,” Merket said. “Too many actors have been overtly comfortable in a lack of transparency for many years. I think delays in the implementation of the scheme in the first month were a growing pain and have already been partly resolved after some adaptations. The added costs I think are also manageable given that the scheme only applies to more valuable diamonds of about 1 carat.”

More than 100 diamond businesses recently wrote a letter to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre expressing concerns over delays in customs clearance of diamonds since the G7 introduced the traceability measures.

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