There is excitement in Botswana as the government owned Okovango Diamond Company begin to auction diamonds in their home country instead of Europe as in previous auctions. De Beers, which is part owner of the mine will also be moving sales operations to Gaborone.
Botswana has long held the view that diamonds mined from the country should be processed and sold from where the diamonds were sourced. In a move to facilitate the smooth running of operations, De Beers moved from London, where its rough stone sorting operation has traditionally been carried out, to Botswana.
The auction will last for about two weeks, and currently there are a dozen diamond buyers from around the world perusing the diamonds on offer. This is a very big move for the country and will provide many jobs for locals, as well as experienced personnel from De Beers relocating to Botswana - great for the local economy.
The long term plan is for Botswana to become a hub of the diamond industry, such as Tel Aviv and Antwerp, continuing even if and when the diamond mines eventually close. After De Beers' relocation they expect to sell within the region of $6million worth of diamonds of Gaborone.
Philippe Mellier, chief executive of De Beers, who own Debswana, the country's main diamond company with Botswana said, "moving diamond sales was part of a deal agreed with the government of Botswana. It's a global movement of big scale for the diamond business. If you migrate $500m-$600m per month of sales of diamonds - that's a big move and at the scale of Botswana that's a very big move and certainly a move of significant scale for southern Africa."
Rob Young from the BBC World Service, Gaborone, says, "The auction is going to be small, but its symbolism is huge. It should earn more money for Botswana than the previous system. The diamonds which are being sold were mined in Botswana and are being sold by Botswana. For decades, the auctions have taken place in Europe. Staff from diamond giant DeBeers in London are also relocating to Gaborone, and locals are being trained and employed. Soon, DeBeers will sell about $6bn worth of the precious stones annually in Gaborone; that is the equivalent of a third of the size of the economy.It has seen by those in power as the beginning of "bringing the diamonds home. There is excitement among many here, especially the business community which hopes to benefit from a related economic boom."