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The Fifth Dubai Diamond Conference

24 february 2022
The future of diamonds – perspectives on the diamond consumer market, supply, technology, and trade. Some things change, while others do not. 

Image credit: Marian Jaen Arjona

That was the overwhelming feeling at this year’s Dubai Diamond Conference. 
As usual, the event started a good hour late. As a smiling participant noted, that is not surprising since trying to get a group of ‘diamond people’ together is like herding cats. But, as we said earlier, the room was filled to capacity once Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and CEO of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), welcomed the participants.
Contrary to earlier programming reports – that also featured the mining minister of Botswana – there was only one keynote speaker: the Honorable Minister of Mineral Resources of Angola, Dr. Diamantino Pedro Azevedo. 
Azevedo reported that, currently, diamond mining is a prime national economic engine, producing more than 8.1 million carats in 2021. In 2022, he emphasized, Angola expects to bring more than 10  million carats to market. He lauded the effort of the various national diamond mining enterprises to add more value to the rough diamonds they mine by setting up diamond cutting and polishing plants and opening a fully functional diamond exchange in the country
His chief message was his call for increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in Angola’s diamond mining sector*. 

Image credit: Marian Jaen Arjona

This year’s DDC carried the theme “The Future of Diamonds.” 
In four different panels and panel discussions, four different questions were posed:
     1. Why did diamonds do so well during the pandemic?
     2. Who is the new consumer, and what does she/he want?
     3. How do we rethink the diamond supply chain?
     4. What are the perspectives and expectations of the various trade organizations?
Indeed, why did diamonds do so well during the pandemic? 
Are the industry’s recent successes sustainable? And what risks are we facing, Anish Aggarwal, who once again skilfully led the three of the panel discussions, asked Bruce Cleaver, the CEO of the De Beers Group. According to the program, Sergey Ivanov, CEO of ALROSA, was also supposed to be on this panel but wasn’t present. Another change.  
The world, Cleaver said, is, of course, full of risks. An immediate threat is, for example, inflation. But if we learned one important thing during this pandemic, diamonds have not lost their emotional power and inspiration. On the contrary: consumers continue to perceive and experience diamonds and diamond jewelry as symbols of love, commitment, and eternal love.
Cleaver contended that the phenomenal growth of diamond jewelry sales during the past 18 months in the leading consumer markets would be difficult to sustain in the coming year. It is essential that, as an industry, we continue to build together on the success of the past year, he added.
Across the board, the De Beers CEO expressed optimism about the future growth of diamond and diamond jewelry sales. China, he said, would continue to grow as there are so many more opportunities to drive consumer demand in the Chinese market. He shrugged away a question about the possible saturation of the US market away, saying that more than 2.5 million couples are expected to get married in this calendar year. That alone is a record number in history.  
“Of course, there is uncertainty, and growth cannot be kept going at the same rate! But it will be sustained,” he insisted. 
Asked about the rise in rough diamond market prices, he pointed out that rough prices will always match the supply of polished diamonds and finished diamond jewelry to the end markets.
All in all, there was no new information in Cleaver’s one-on-one with Agarwal. Some things don’t change.

By Ya’akov Almor, special event envoy, from Dubai

* Angola: from state control to foreign investments

The biography of the keynote speaker at the fifth Dubai Diamond Conference, Dr.  Diamantino Pedro Azevedo – Minister of Mineral Resources, Petroleum and Gas, of Angola, runs parallel to the changed position over the years the Angolan government has adopted in its economic outlook and policies.
According to Second Wiki (https://second.wiki/wiki/diamantino_pedro_azevedo), Azevedo's initial training as a mining geologist in the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) exposed him to what was then called "the socialist planned economy." He pursued his Ph.D. studies in the new, unified Germany, where he absorbed the principles of the social-democratic market economy.
As a result, his political positions changed accordingly: "As a mining student in Germany, he was of the opinion that it would be good for a country if the mining companies were in state hands. "During his professional life in the mining sector, he realized that it is wrong for state-owned companies to own the production concessions and carry out the operation. Instead, independent companies should have the concessions, and the state should only set the political framework," the Second Wiki entry noted.
Since he assumed his ministerial position, Azevedo has allowed Italy's ENI to acquire a 48 percent stake in an oil field in Cabinda. In August 2019, the minister went on an international roadshow to promote private investments in the oil and gas sector.
Therefore, Azevedo's efforts to guide leading diamond producers into Angola are a natural development with the full support of Angola's president, João Lourenço.