This week, a group of nine government officials from four African diamond-producing countries (Cameroon, Congo Braza, Cote D'Ivoire, Guinea) embarked on a ten-day training course in Antwerp, furthering their knowledge of rough-diamond evaluation and valuation. The course, called the "KP Technical Assistance Valuation Program", originates from the commitment of the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), which coordinates requests for Technical Assistance on behalf of the Administrative Support Mechanism (ASM) in the framework of the KP. The education arm of HRD Antwerp is implementing the course with the support of its host and sponsor, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC).
AWDC’s objective in supporting these training programs is to remain a reliable partner for the KP and support its task of providing technical assistance and facilitating capacity building, and it has long been a contributor to the DDI. AWDC CEO Ari Epstein says that the valuation program fits into a, "wider program of engagement and is part of our wholehearted commitment to our ongoing dialogue and information-sharing with African diamond-producing countries. The success and sustainability of the KP depend on enhanced knowledge and capacity at the grassroots level, as well as strong governance to ensure higher income for producing countries. That is why AWDC is proud to host this initiative."
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." Proper valuation of rough diamonds for export not only enables diamond producing countries to achieve the maximum revenue from their product but also serves as a deterrent to abusive practices, such as transfer pricing. Consequently, the AWDC has committed to organizing at least one KP Technical Assistance project annually and has previously held successful training programs in Ivory Coast and Brazil, as well as in Antwerp.
The technical course on rough diamond analysis and valuation practices includes a theory course on best practices in the framework of the KP and a visit behind the scenes of the diamond industry. The objective is to provide the participants with additional tools and training to fulfill their KP roles. The course covers the key components of diamond valuation, such as assessing the characteristics of the polished diamond(s) that can be obtained from a rough diamond (i.e. reverse engineering), calculating the yield and eventual value of rough diamonds with and without rough diamond price lists, and the use of technology and equipment. An additional focus this year is on distinguishing diamonds from simulants and laboratory-grown stones.
Instructor Wouter Vansteelant told us that this particular group was much more advanced than most. One of the students, Foe Mbang Myriam Angele from Cameroon, works as an administrator and valuatorr at the government's diamond export office. She says the course will not only help her perform her job better but is also important for the country. "This course is very good for me. By giving me the tools and some tricks to better understand the polished price outcome we should get from a rough stone, I will become a better diamond valuator. And that is good for the country as well," she said. "The government needs more trained experts to explain the value of stones, and to teach our own people who go out in the field and assist artisanal miners. But it is expensive to travel outside of the country to get the necessary training. Thanks to the AWDC bringing us here for this course, I am becoming an expert." Asked if she was a rising star in Cameroon, she smiled and said, "Yes, or at least I want to be. When you come back from a course in Antwerp, the more experienced experts will notice. You can talk with them on another level, and earn more respect."
Another student, Fale Sedrine Tangwa, also from Cameroon, has been a supervisor at the Douala International Airport for five years, where he coordinates a staff of twelve. In addition to controlling KP certificates, checking for synthetic diamonds and analyzing the value of diamond parcels, one of his team's main tasks is to identify smugglers of all types of goods, but particularly diamonds. "They're very clever," he says about the would-be smugglers. "We caught a Chinese man with four carats in his mouth. I don't know why they try it, because it would only cost them money, and maybe jail time. If someone did manage to export diamonds without a KP certificate, they would be worth much less without a certificate than if you just got a certificate and paid the export tax." Mr. Tangwa said the course is making a difference. "It is the most intensive training I have ever received, and most important of all is the practical work. In Cameroon, we only get the theory."