Rapaport Magazine

Antwerp

By Marc Goldstein
Mission to Africa

In the networking travel organized by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) to Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe in recent weeks, representatives of the Belgian diamond industry have begun to build alliances that will fuel the growth of the country’s diamond business going forward far into the future. Under the lead of the Princely Missions, together with industry entrepreneurs, Belgian diamantaires have been traveling to some of the most important producing countries in order to secure sources of rough.
   After the lifting of the European Union (EU) sanctions on Zimbabwean diamond production, the question remains as to how substantial that country’s diamond resources are. Some traders firmly believe that the potential of the country’s rough diamond resources have been vastly underestimated and that their full value is about to be revealed.
   But others, including Amit Bhansali, chief executive officer (CEO) of Rosy Blue, have some reservations about Zimbabwe as a new source of rough. “It is difficult at this point to determine the impact of this supply on the Antwerp rough trading market as there is no precedent for such a shift in recent history,” said Bhansali. “I don’t believe this will make any major impact either way, at least not any rapid changes.”

South Africa
   In the framework of the Belgian Princely Mission to South Africa, Princess Astrid of Belgium, acting as a representative of King Philippe, inaugurated an AWDC Kimberley Process (KP) dedicated seminar, which was followed by an Antwerp diamond networking event in Pretoria. Ari Epstein, CEO of AWDC, elaborated. “We are very grateful Her Royal Highness, Princess Astrid, now continues on the path that was set out by HM King Albert and HM King Philippe. On various occasions, we have witnessed how the commitment of the royal family adds tremendous value to these missions, by opening doors and creating a highly conducive atmosphere for our foreign trade relationships.”
   Stéphane Fischler, AWDC president, added that “On the tenth anniversary of the KP and under the chairmanship of South Africa, the Antwerp diamond industry felt it would be suitable to put the focus of this mission to South Africa on the achievements and future of the KP. The Kimberley Process has been instrumental in fighting conflict in producing countries, and in creating an environment where trade can act as an agent for prosperity.”
   Didier Reynders, the vice prime minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, added, “Within this tripartite system, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre has always been a pillar of expertise, diamond valuation and the KP institution, chairing the group of diamond experts, sending teams to review visits, offering knowledge and expertise whenever needed.”

Angola
   In another stop on its travels, the AWDC organized an Antwerp diamond networking event in Luanda, Angola’s capital, which coincided with a visit by the Belgian Princely Economic Mission to Angola. According to AWDC, the “Economic Mission entailed high-level meetings between Angolan and Belgian high officials, networking opportunities and workshops, connecting Belgian companies from a wide array of industries with their Angolan counterparts. Against the backdrop of Angola’s diamond centenary, it was the perfect opportunity to invigorate and confirm Antwerp’s leadership role as the world’s preferred rough diamond trading hub.”
   While in Luanda, Epstein stressed that “both Angola and Antwerp were at the birth of the modern diamond industry and have enjoyed an excellent relationship ever since. Angola assumed its lead role as the voice of the interests of the African producing countries, while Antwerp laid the foundations for its position as the world’s prime diamond trading hub.”
   One of the direct consequences of the mission in Angola was the decision of the Angolan government to authorize additional flights between Brussels and Luanda. Reynders hopes these extra flights will expand trade between Angola and Antwerp. The expansion of flights coincided perfectly with the Memorandum of Understanding signed several weeks ago between Jet Airways and AWDC that will provide travel discounts of 10 percent to 50 percent to diamond industry members for flights to Mumbai and New Delhi, in India, and other diamond-related destinations, including New York, Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Botswana
   Also in recent weeks, a delegation of Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), the rough diamond distribution arm wholly owned by the government of Botswana, set up a meet-and-greet event in Antwerp. ODC Managing Director Toby Frears commented that “We were particularly happy to network with the Antwerp diamond industry through this event. We were able to meet a number of potential customers and business partners and we look forward to developing a relationship with the Antwerp diamond industry.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - December 2013. To subscribe click here.

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