Angolan President Begins Charm Offensive To Promote Country's DiamondsJune 07, 18
As I have written previously, it seems that changes are on the way in several African diamond-producing states.
It started with a new president in Angola – Joao Lourenco – replacing Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the former head of state who stepped down due to old age and sickness, and who ruled Angola with an iron fist for 38 years.
The next step was the removal of Zimbabwe's former President Robert Mugabe who was in power for only slightly less time than dos Santos and whose time in office was marked by an extraordinary decline in every aspect of the country's life, particularly its economy.
Finally, in November, after nine years of misrule, South African President Jacob Zuma realized the game was up and left office, albeit reluctantly.
Soon after taking office last August, João Lourenço, the President of Angola, the world’s fifth largest diamond-producing nation with annual production of 9 million carats, surprised outside observers by rapidly moving to take apart the business empire of the dos Santos family, the children of Jose Eduardo dos Santos who had backed him.
The placemen loyal to dos Santos at the head of the country's main companies, institutions and sectors – from the mighty central bank, oil industry, diamonds and the media as well as the police and intelligence services – found themselves replaced by allies of the new leader. Among those removed was Antonio Carlos Sumbula, the head of state-owned diamond firm Endiama.
But was this real change, or just an opportunity to bring in his own people? What would it mean for the country's diamond industry – would he bring in changes to attract investors or was it a simple change of personnel at the top of the ladder?
Evidence that Lourenço is serious about making changes to the Angolan trade and encouraging investors appears to have been provided this week when he visited Antwerp, the world’s largest diamond trading center, and his first visit to an international diamond trading hub, according to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC).
"In what was initially described as a friendly, exploratory house-call, President Lourenço made it clear that he views his visit to Antwerp as part of his intention to increase transparency and promote the country ́s image abroad in order to facilitate the exportation of goods and services and attract direct foreign investment," according to a report on The Diamond Loupe.
Lourenço said, “Due to our country’s policies, we have not been able to benefit properly from our diamond resources. We have a great responsibility. It is time to reverse the status quo,” the report added. “It has been said that Angola has been absent from Antwerp, but that is set to change. We are going to be represented in Antwerp, and will work together in partnership.”
Lourenço, according to the report, explained to his hosts that he had told Endiama and Sodiam, which is responsible for the marketing of the country's diamonds among other functions, to change their policies in order to benefit the country and private companies. "The responsible institutions have been instructed to see that Angola can return to this great diamond center," he said.
The upshot of the visit appeared to be that Lourenço is keen on making the country's diamond trade transparent. And selling diamonds via Antwerp could help him in that aim, as well securing higher prices for his country's rough. Undoubtedly, he will also be keen to see a two-way deal where there is local processing and polishing of diamonds, in line with beneficiation moves that have been instituted in Namibia and Botswana.