Namibia invites Israeli firms to polish its diamonds

Israel does not produce diamonds itself but is a leading polishing and trading center.

diamond 88 224 (photo credit: )
diamond 88 224
(photo credit: )
Namibia is committed to getting more of its rough gems cut and polished locally, but it hopes to do that in partnership with major processing centers in Tel Aviv, Antwerp and Mumbai, Namibian Commissioner of Diamonds Kennedy Hamutenya said Tuesday at an international conference on rough diamonds in Tel Aviv. Developing Namibia's capability to turn rough diamonds to finished stones did not mean shutting out foreign expertise, he said. "We've invited investors from Israel, from Antwerp, from India to come and do business in Namibia," Hamutenya said. "We actually expect investors... to import skills to our workforce. We want a commitment to really transfer skills to Namibia." Africa accounts for about 60 percent of the world's rough diamond mining. In November 2006, 12 African states, including Namibia, formed the African Diamond Producing Countries Association to press for producer countries to carry out more of the value-enhancing process themselves. Hamutenya said diamond sales made up 50% of his country's exports. "Diamonds are a strategic commodity for us, just like oil is for Saudi Arabia," he said. Israel does not produce diamonds itself but is a leading polishing and trading center. The Israel Diamond Institute, host to the Tel Aviv conference, claims to have the world's largest diamond trading floor. It says Israel exported polished diamonds worth more than $7 billion in 2007. Liberian Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy Eugene H. Shannon told the conference Tuesday that following the end of UN sanctions against his country, it shipped its first package of export-certified diamonds last year, sending them to Israel. Certification is carried out under a multinational agreement known as the Kimberley Process, whose members undertake to trade only fully documented diamonds. The United Nations imposed sanctions on the Liberian diamond trade in 2001 after then-president Charles Taylor was accused of using "blood diamonds" to fuel a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. Taylor, who went into exile in August 2003, faces war crimes charges stemming from his alleged backing of Sierra Leone's rebels, who tortured victims by chopping off their arms, legs, ears and lips. Sierra Leone's Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumama told the conference Tuesday that since the end of the fighting and his country's signing the Kimberley Process, it has been trying to restore its reputation. "All diamonds exported out of Sierra Leone are now conflict-free," he said. "We shall continue to work and ensure that the Kimberley Process is properly implemented in Sierra Leone."