Botswana objects to G7-EU diamond-tracking system

Diamonds are seen during an exhibition in Gaborone, Botswana, November 23, 2015. [Reuters]

African diamond producers, led by Botswana, are demanding a review of the tracking and verification system that European Union and G7 nations introduced March 1.

Under the arrangement, diamonds entering EU and G7 countries - which represent 70% of the global diamond market - have to be sent to Antwerp, Belgium, for certification, in an effort to prevent the importation of sanctioned Russian diamonds.

The traceability initiative has resulted in clearance delays and disruption to the supply chain. African diamond producers argue that has resulted in added costs.

But Belgium and the EU say steps are being taken to minimize delays.

A Belgian official told VOA the turnaround time for the certifications has improved, with all shipments processed within 24 hours.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said delays resulted from importers not providing the necessary documentary evidence. He said African countries were bearing no increase in production costs, because expenses were borne by the mining companies.

“From the onset, we have taken the concerns raised by African diamond producers about the introduction of G7-EU sanctions against Russian diamonds seriously," the official said. "This is the reason why we have taken those concerns into account from the very beginning of our discussions and have tried to fully address them.

"Belgian authorities have also reached out to a number of African producers between September 2023 and February 2024 to listen, explain and adjust the ongoing work on the implementation of sanctions against diamonds from the Russian Federation.”

An EU official responding to VOA inquiries also said African producers’ concerns were considered from the onset. She said meetings were held among the EU bloc’s representatives, the United States and Botswana's government.

Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, recently said the EU and G7 countries had not officially responded to a letter from African producers regarding concerns about the new tracking system.

The EU representative said the response had been delayed because it was being drawn up as a collective G7 reply.

On Thursday, Masisi told France’s minister of state for development and international partnerships, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, that G7 countries should reconsider the traceability initiative.

"Tell them that will be a regression in terms of our own development and an ominous threat to our own existence, and everything that we base our growth on," Masisi said. "We just think that because they did not engage sufficiently, they haven’t come to appreciate what the threats are to industry and to livelihoods and the economies.”

Botswana is the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds after Russia. Its diamond exports last year were worth $7 billion.

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