The first ever direct tender in Antwerp of rough diamonds from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) officially opened today at the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), with viewings starting tomorrow, November 14. 350,000 carats of rough Congolese diamonds worth an estimated $6 million will go on tender in Antwerp, as the DRC and Antwerp take a first major step toward implementing a cooperation agreement signed in September during a visit from President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi to facilitate access for DRC miners to Antwerp’s transparent diamond market. (Download select photos of diamonds here).
"President Tshisekedi told us he is looking to accomplish three things for the DRC’s diamond sector, and he believed that Antwerp best could help him obtain these goals," said AWDC CEO Ari Epstein at the opening of the tender. "First, he intends to introduce greater stability and transparency to the DRC’s diamond mining and trading practices, to improve the reputation of the DRC internationally. Second, he wants to gain greater access to the international market for the country’s diamonds, to enable them to obtain better prices than they have been receiving in recent years. Third, he wants to deliver the benefits of his country’s tremendous natural resources back to the people of the DRC." He added that the President has a long personal history with Belgium and is aware of Antwerp’s reputation not only as the most competitive market for diamond producers, but also for placing the greatest emphasis on transparency and sustainability in its business practices."
Speaking on behalf of the DRC, Nyembo Muyumba, Director General of the Centre for Expertise, Evaluation and Certification of Precious and Semi-precious Minerals (CEEC) and Nyembo Mbwizya, the Deputy Chief of Staff to President Tshisekedi, reiterated the message expressed two months earlier by the president. Noting that the country joined the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme from its earliest days in 2003, they said the DRC remains committed to its efforts to fully eliminate any remaining traces of conflict diamonds and is aiming to enhance the transparency and formalization of diamond mining in the DRC. The country needs investment and exposure to international markets, and they believe that availing of the critical mass of companies and services on the competitive Antwerp market will help them realize those objectives.
The tender is being organized by Samir Gems and hosted by the AWDC in its Antwerp Diamond Tender Facility. Anjal Bhansali, managing director of Samir Gems, said that viewings for the tender are fully booked through November 20 when the final bids are due. He noted that interest in Antwerp was so strong he could have booked another week solid had the schedule allowed, but expressed confidence in a successful tender.
Photo (left to right): Nishit Parikh, President AWDC, Nyembo Muyumba, Director General CEEC, Ari Epstein, CEO AWDC, Nyembo Mbwizya, Deputy Chief of Staff to President Tshisekedi, Claude Marinower, Alderman for the City of Antwerp.