Partnership between De Beers and government has transformed Botswana from one of the poorest countries to an upper middle income country, Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Mr Kitso Mokaila has said.
Opening the Chatham House De Beers Diamond Conference on Monday November 23, Minister Mokaila said progress was built on a diamond foundation, enabled by high standards of governance, political stability and the judicious investment of Botswana’s diamond wealth.
He said when minerals were discovered, government adopted and pursued policies that allowed the country to forge partnerships with the private sector for exploration of the resources to nationalise mining operations.
“The Debswana partnership is one of the most successful public private partnerships.
It is through this partnership that Botswana government and De Beers is not only a leader in diamond mining and sorting technologies, but with responsible practices meant to preserve the diamond equity and employment of best practices in extracting the resource, marketing, and development of defense technology against synthetics,” he said.
Minister Mokaila said government decided to beneficiate the diamond sector as one of the areas of economic diversification, with the key focus being to develop a vibrant cutting and polishing, jewelry manufacturing and polished and rough diamond trading to create employment opportunities for Batswana.
“It is normal practice for partnerships to be anchored around agreements, but in the absence of these key principles and misalignment of interest, it will be difficult to deliver the national objectives and the partnership is bound to fail,” he said.
Minister Mokaila said government had committed to assist the industry to address issues of productivity through working more days and longer hours to move closer to Asian competitors.
This, he said, would result in improving from an average of 212 working days per annum to close to 283.
He said government had granted the diamond manufacturing sector another waiver from paying training levy hence expecting the industry to develop its training and localisation plans and collectively work with government to establish programmes that would facilitate capacity development in the field of diamond beneficiation.
“On the issue of low margins to the mid-stream, we will continue to monitor the markets and act responsibly to preserve the integrity of the industry,” he said.
Talking about creating a conducive environment for investment, the minister said his ministry was making a progress towards awarding a 300MW power project to an Independent Power Producer (IPP) and the refurbishment and rehabilitation of Morupule A and B power station had commenced to improve its availability and reliability to ensure security of power.
Government in 1990/91 developed a National Water Master Plan under which five dams with a combined capacity of over 700 million cubic meters were constructed in the northern part of Botswana including a 360 km long water transfer scheme.
Minister Mokaila said his ministry had over the last six budgeting cycles, received more than 20 per cent of the development budget, adding that the money went towards driving development of the much needed water and power infrastructure.
“That is how committed we are and continue to be in our quest to connect every corner of Botswana with water and energy resources,” he said.