Press Release: On Wednesday May 16, an official delegation led by her excellency Ms. Shabangu, the Minister of Mineral Resources of the Republic of South Africa, was welcomed by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre's (AWDC) vice president, Stephane Fischler, and chief executive, Ari Epstein.
The visit of the high-level delegation underscores the excellent relationships South Africa and Antwerp have enjoyed for over a century, as both can be historically situated at the cradle of the modern diamond business as we know it today.
In the past, Antwerp also had the pleasure to welcome former President Thabo Mbeki, during the 2004 Antwerp Diamond Conference and current President Jacob Zuma, during a special gala event in September 2010.
Epstein said, “South Africa and Antwerp, though at opposite ends of the globe share much common ground. Let’s not forget that more than 60 percent of the world’s diamond production originates from the African continent. In addition, South Africa continues to be a role model for so many other African countries and stakeholders, a position Antwerp is happy to support as the world’s prime diamond trading hub. Moreover, we believe Antwerp can be a significant partner to the entire African continent in terms of a global, sustainable diamond trade, for example through the UN supported ITCCO here in Antwerp.”
AWDC is an industry-established foundation, whose mission is to serve and support the diamond business in Belgium. We are headquartered in the heart of Antwerp's diamond district, and led by a board of directors that is elected directly by those who define the Antwerp diamond community. We are the coordinating body and the official representative of the Antwerp diamond sector, and as such are recognized internationally as the host, spokesperson and intermediary for the Belgian diamond community. In this capacity, AWDC liaises on behalf of the Belgian diamond sector with governments and actively promotes support for the diamond sector at home and abroad.
The importance of the diamond industry for Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium and Europe. The city and country are the world’s leading diamond trade center. Eighty percent of all rough diamonds and half of the world's polished diamonds pass through Antwerp. Belgium is the largest exporter of diamonds in the world, equalling a total of $27 billion.
Diamonds represent 8.25 percent of the total amount of Belgian exports and 15 percent of all Belgian exports outside the E.U., making diamonds the most important export product outside the E.U.
The economic impact of the industry includes A yearly turnover of more than $56.5 billion (2011). Diamonds represent an added value of $1.98 billion for Belgium. The diamond industry creates more than 34,000 jobs (direct en indirect) in Flanders.
Each year, the diamond sector pays between $400 million and $1 billion in fiscal and parafiscal taxes. For a number of countries, diamonds are the first export product from Belgium, for example to India, China and Russia. Diamonds equal 86 percent of total Belgian exports to India. Antwerp is home to 1,850 registered diamond companies. In Antwerp (in the diamond community) over 70 different nationalities live and work together in harmony.