Diamond sales at De Beers’ Botswana unit rebound as global market recovers

Debswana is a major contributor to the national economy of Botswana, making up a fifth of the country’s GDP. (Image courtesy of Debswana.)

De Beers’ Botswana unit saw sales of rough diamonds rebound by 41% in the first half of 2021, driven by the reopening of key markets the United States and China, data from the Bank of Botswana showed on Thursday.

Debswana Diamond Company, a joint venture between the Botswana government and Anglo American’s De Beers, sells 75% of its output to De Beers with the balance taken up by state-owned Okavango Diamond Company.

Debswana’s sales fell by 30% in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic hit demand while global travel restrictions impacted trading.

In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Botswana closed its borders for eight months last year, locking out international buyers from centres such as Mumbai, Antwerp and China who traditionally travel to the capital Gaborone 10 times a year to view and buy diamonds from De Beers.

According to data published by the central bank, exports of diamonds from Debswana stood at $1.702 billion in the first half of the year compared to $1.209 billion in the same period last year.

Paul Rowley, De Beers’ executive vice president, diamond trading, told a media briefing last week that the recovery was strong in the first half of 2021 with global consumer demand benefiting from vaccine roll-outs and fiscal stimulus in the United States.

“The long-term outlook for diamond jewellery demand remains positive, while the lack of new diamond projects means supply is likely to be flat or declining for the foreseeable future,” he said at last week’s briefing.

Botswana gets about 30% of its revenues and 70% of its foreign exchange earnings from diamonds and the Southern African country sees its economy growing 8.8% in 2021 after having contracted by 7.9% in 2020.

(By Brian Benza; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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