Despite the bad press surrounding “conflict diamonds” in Africa, revenues from the legitimate diamond industry have done a great deal to further the development of the continent – helping provide education, build infrastructure and improve health care.
With $8.4 billion worth of diamonds coming out of Africa annually, the diamond industry employs thousands of Africans and contributes to the overall economies of the nations with the highest GDP on the continent. South Africa, Botswana and Namibia all have large diamond industries and the highest GDPs in Africa, aside from Equatorial Guinea, which has huge oil reserves.
Revenue from the diamond industry has helped pave roads, build schools and decrease poverty. The discovery of diamonds in Botswana
Botswana is often cited as the best example of diamond mining’s benefiting an entire nation. Botswana gained independence from Britain in 1966, and geologists discovered diamonds in 1967. Diamond mining has dominated the economy ever since – making up one-third of the GDP and 70-80 percent of export earnings. Sound management, fiscal discipline and the lowest level of corruption in sub-Saharan Africa have helped Botswana develop from one of the world’s poorest nations to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $10,500 in 2005.
But Botswana has suffered acutely from the scourge of AIDS. An estimated 37 percent of the population of just 1.6 million suffers from HIV/AIDS. The economic boon from the diamond industry has helped fund one of Africa’s most progressive HIV/AIDS programs.
Debswana Diamond Co., a joint venture between Botswana’s government and De Beers, was the first company in the world to provide antiretroviral drugs to its employees, their spouses, children and former employees and has expanded the program to make antiretroviral drugs available to everyone in the country. Revenue from diamonds has also allowed the government to provide free education to every child under 18. and sound management of that resource have helped the country of only 1.6 million develop from one of the poorest nations in the world to a middle-income economy with a developed infrastructure and one of the most progressive health care strategies on the continent tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
Liberia is anxious to begin developing a legal diamond mining industry to add much-needed revenue to the formerly war-torn nation. The U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1343 in 2001 banning the direct or indirect export of all rough diamonds from Liberia because illicit diamonds were funding the civil war there. The ban has not been lifted yet, but Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sees the development of the country’s diamond industry as an important part of the country’s rebuilding and recovery.
Diamond revenues have also contributed to better quality of life by helping to provide clean water, improving sanitation and fighting infectious disease.
Sources: CIA Factbook, DiamondFacts.com, Debswana