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, and sound management of that resource, has 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. (For more click here).
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 1343 in 2001 banning the direct or indirect 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 resources, improving sanitation, and fighting infectious disease.
SIDE BAR BOSTWANA Best example
Botswana is often cited as the best example of diamond mining benefiting an entire nation. A former British protectorate, Botswana gained independence 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% of export earnings. Sound management and fiscal discipline 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. It has the highest credit rating in Africa and the lowest level of corruption.
As one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most developed nations, Botswana has also suffered most acutely from the scourge of AIDS. With a population of just 1.6 million, an estimated 37 percent of the population suffers from HIV/ AIDS. But, fortunately, the economic boon from diamond industry has helped fund one of Africa’s most progressive programs dealing with the disease.
Debswana Diamond Company, a joint venture between Botswana’s government and De Beers, employees 6,500 and was the first company in the word to provide antiretroviral drugs to its employees, their spouses, children, and former employees and later expanded the program to make anti-retroviral drugs available to everyone in the country who needs them.
The diamond industry has also provided funding for Botswana’s government to build schools across the country and provide free education to every child under 18.
Cia World Factbook