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‘Transparency is one of Botswana’s weaknesses’

07 november 2019

Transparency in the local diamond industry is one of Botswana’s weaknesses, an economist has said.
E-Consult Botswana managing director Keith Jefferis said although there are gaps, it doesn’t mean that transparency is “zero” in the country.
“Botswana government reaches these agreements with De Beers and then the agreements are secret, they are not public documents,” he told a diamond conference in Gaborone on Tuesday.
“But increasingly the global trend is for contract forms to be shared, revenue flows and payments to be explicitly identified and I think that’s where Botswana should be going.”
He said citizens are often told that Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) is owned by the government and every Motswana is a shareholder.
“However, when I as a shareholder ask them for a copy of their financial statements and [they] refused,” he said, drawing laughter from the delegates.
“It’s not just ODC, Debswana also. Debswana does not publish its financial statements, which I don’t think is acceptable for a company of that size. I do think Botswana is lacking on the transparency.” 
Debswana is a 50/50 joint venture between De Beers and Botswana government, while ODC is wholly-owned by Gaborone.
Jefferies said the diamond industry was historically a very secretive industry.
“It’s not as secretive as it once was, but … there is still a resistance to being transparent as would be desirable,” he said.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished