For the last two weeks, representatives of four African diamond-producing countries (Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia) have been participating in the "KP Technical Assistance Valuation Program" put together by the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) and Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC). We spoke with organizers and participants about the rough diamond valuation course itself and what it means for the participants and their respective governments.
Kingsly Mforteh, Program Manager for DDI said, "It is important to start developing a knowledge base not just to support the government, but also the miners themselves. Everyone must be involved. Governments need to implement a strategy for structuring programs that improve the capacities of the miners. Programs like this aim to create a resource base to build that capacity, and thanks to AWDC we are able to do this. It's amazing."
AWDC President Stéphane Fischler said, "The long term success and sustainability of the Kimberley Process depends on enhanced knowledge, capacity as well as strong governance to ensure higher income for producing countries, which will benefit human development and security. These students will serve as ambassadors for this crucial task. Sharing our unique and recognised experience on diamond sorting and valuation will give them the tools to make a difference back in their home countries. That is why AWDC is proud to host this initiative. We are grateful to have the opportunity to support this program and look forward to continue our support for DDI in creating a network of expertise and best practices throughout these African countries."
While the students learned new techniques for counting diamonds, creating parcels and determining value, one of the primary takeaways from the two weeks was the exposure the students received to the diamond industry itself. As DDI's Mforteh explained, "The real value of such a program is to see how the process works once diamonds leave the country and enter the supply chain. Given their perspective on the ground, they simply did not know this."
Young diamond valuer Isa Koroma from the National Minerals Agency in Sierra Leone said her eyes were opened. "Being in Antwerp, visiting the tender houses and the Diamond Office, it totally changed my idea of how to price diamonds. Learning how to mark stones for a polisher was a really important. We now have a better idea of the polished price outcome we should get from a rough stone, how to value it." Alieu Kamara, Regional Office Manager for the Agency concurred. "It is a huge issue at the regional level. The miners do not know the value of their stones. Purchasers come along and tell them whatever they want. That's why local valuators are so important to help the miners know what their product is really worth. It's good for them; it's good for the country."
Mforteh elaborated, "The aim is to give miners the knowledge to sort their own stones and correctly value them. It is a large problem, and DDI needs partners like AWDC that are willing to take up the challenge and find solutions. Training builds development, which supports the country. It is very important to have the knowledge and capacity. For instance, our experienced valuators were exposed to larger stones for the first time, 10 carats and up. This was a major breakthrough for them. They only had experience with smaller stones. For the smaller stones, speed is key. It is not good for business if there are delays, so they need to learn to value diamonds quickly. They learned techniques to do this. What is more, during the training course, the participants were exposed to 300-400 carats per day. AWDC provided so that each student was exposed to 2,400 carats over the two-week course. That is more than some of them see over the course of a whole year back home. This also gave them exposure to a greater variety of diamonds. The whole thing ... It's a really good feeling."