On the sidelines of the Kimberley Process Intersessional taking place this week in Antwerp, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) and the African Diamond Producers Association (ADPA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate their common objectives of improving the image, professionalization and marketing of African diamonds. The main focus of the agreement, signed by AWDC CEO Ari Epstein and ADPA Executive Secretary Edgar Diogo de Carvalho, of Angola, is the provision by AWDC of training and expertise (capacity building) for African diamond producers, the commitment to export greater volumes of diamonds from Africa to Antwerp and a joint effort to organize a second edition of the "African Diamond Conference", following the success of the maiden conference in Brussels last year.
This agreement touches on multiple aspects of the organizations shared interests including, among others, the training of diamond experts in member countries of the ADPA, the implementation of the ADPA common strategy to strengthen the reputation and image of the generic 'diamond' product of African diamond producers, the promotion of Antwerp's role as the largest and most important centre for the sale of rough diamonds, as well as the provision of specialist advice and technical means to individual producers in order to make them more efficient. The intention is to eventually replace this MoU with a Cooperation Agreement.
"This is a step in the right direction," said Secretary Diogo de Carvalho. "It is a moment we have been waiting for. A milestone. Africa has 60% of the world's diamonds, and it is important to establish this type of cooperation with Antwerp, the world's leading trade center. It will be very profitable for both of us. AWDC will provide us with training, will help us achieve our goals, and we will encourage companies mining in Africa to send their goods to Antwerp. We intend to do everything in our capacity to achieve what is stated in this MoU." AWDC CEO Ari Epstein reinforced this sentiment, adding, "It is our privilege to sign this MoU with such an strong organization as the ADPA. We intend to spread Antwerp's commitment to transparency, knowledge, information sharing and collaboration to Africa, and to build further on our relationship to the benefit of both sides."
The AWDC commits to promoting the ADPA by providing it with relevant advice and helping it to implement concerted policies and strategies, and assist in obtaining funds and equipment in the form of grants for projects in which it will participate together with the ADPA, for instance in the artisanal production sector. The AWDC further intends to provide technical assistance for the development of training and education in member countries with a view to strengthening their diamond industry on the ground and at the institutional level, as well as to promote the image, reputation and influence of ADPA's diamond producers, including the potential organization of a new edition of the "African Diamond Conference" in an ADPA member country. AWDC will also make available market trend information and the latest technological developments with a view to helping its partners to adapt their strategies in a realistic and coherent way. The intent is to establish a permanent framework for consultation on the major issues related to the growth of the diamond industry.
In turn, the ADPA agrees to observe in the rules of good management and transparency, particularly concerning the funds and any facilities made available to it through the agreement, and to allow AWDC to monitor the progress of the projects they have decided to develop together. More concretely, the ADPA will make efforts to promote Antwerp's reputation as a rough diamond trading center, for example, through the organization of auctions (tenders) in Antwerp for rough diamonds produced in member countries. The ADPA also agrees to work concretely to promote the image, reputation and influence of the diamond industry.
Congolese officials follow diamond valuation training in Antwerp
Technical support for the African diamond producing countries is not new territory for the AWDC. Currently, 11 officials from Congolese NGO ‘Le Centre d’Expertise, d’Evaluation et de Certification des Substances Minérales Précieuses et Semi-Précieuses de la République Démocratique du Congo’ (CEEC) are following a diamond training course in the heart of the Antwerp diamond industry. Another 11 officials will attend the course from September to mid-November. Once the training is finished, they will have an apprenticeship at the Diamond Office, the official body that monitors and controls all diamond imports to and exports from Antwerp, in collaboration with the Federal Public Service Economy and FPS Finance.
The DRC is the third largest diamond producing country in terms of volume and is thus a key player in the global diamond trade. DRC wishes to trade more diamonds through Antwerp because their stones generate a higher value there, but they must meet the strict conditions applicable to the trade in Antwerp. That is why that are following a training course. “The training course consists of theory, sharing of ‘best practices’ and a practical aspect, where the officials will be trained to recognize and analyze rough diamonds in order to better be able to determine their origin and value,” says AWDC spokeswoman Margaux Donckier. "Antwerp is one of the global leaders when it comes to application of the strict Kimberley Process rules. Internationally, Antwerp is known for its quality, controls and transparency. The Congolese government wishes to learn from the best and has therefore agreed to have its people follow training here.”