The country’s diamond cutting and polishing industry is slowly taking shape and may become a major sector in the near future.
The industry growth has been boosted by the 2016 sales agreement between the government and De Beers, which sees Namibia receiving a significant increase in rough diamonds made available for beneficiation, with US$430 million worth of rough diamonds offered to the factories annually by the Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC).
There are 13 diamond and cutting companies operating at the moment in Namibia, including Ankit Namibia Gem Diamond and Polishing in Windhoek, which was recently visited by Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union.
Ankit is a joint venture between Indian company, Ankit Gems and local company, Crystal Diamond Namibia.
During the tour, Ankit officials told Mahamat and his delegation that the decision by government to establish a local cutting industry has led to the creation of jobs and the transferring of skills to Namibians.
Figures by the NDTC show about 10 percent of the staff employed by the company are expatriates, while the rest are Namibians.
The Ankit factory is in an unmarked building on Mandume Ndemufayo Avenue, and from the outside it hardly looks like a place where diamonds worth millions of dollars are cut and polished.
But inside the factory, officials showed Mahamat the process of cutting and polishing diamonds using state-of-the-art methods, which include laser technology.
During the tour, Ankit’s staff in blue uniforms went through their duties unmoved by the AU head visit.
“We have about 100 workers; we are one of the top factories in Namibia. We are planning to move to a bigger factory this year,” said Ankit’s senior official, Mahendra Shah.
Statistics by the NDTC show that the 13 polishing factories employ close to 1,000 people.
Shah is happy with the new sales agreement between government and De Beers.
“We have more diamonds now; we are receiving more goods,” he said, but refused to disclose the number of carats the factory receives from the NDTC.
Ankit, like other diamond cutting and polishing factories, has been operating under the EPZ status, which the government is in the process of scraping following pressure from the European Union, which says the status was being used as a tax haven by certain companies.
“It is still unclear what will happen with the EPZ status. Without EPZ status, this industry will not exist,” said Shah.
Despite the progress made in establishing the polishing and cutting industry, Shah said one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at the moment is that there is no institute to train people in diamond cutting and polishing.
“We need a training institute like the one at Karibib and Keetmanshoop for gem stone cutting.”
Ankit’s Chairperson, Asino Mikka Natangwe, told Mahamat that De Beers had initially refused to allow diamond cutting to take place in Namibia, saying it was not viable.
He said the Namibian experience is in line with the desires of the AU for Africa to add value to its natural resources.