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Namibians rise from miners to crafters

Economy
Namibia - Diamonds have played an important role in Namibia’s history, and after 27 years of independence, the country has regained control of this natural resource and included many disadvantaged young Namibians in the beneficiation process.

There are young Namibians who are today doing the cutting and polishing of diamonds, with many able to do the diamond processing planning, which requires high-level skills but generates more value.

One such individual is 31-year-old Saviour Kaunda, who has been part of the industry for the past 10 years, where he started off as a diamond polisher and has since risen, against all odds, to become the first diamond marker in the country.

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An artist's impression of Walvis Bay's port of the future. The port's expansion is part of Namibia's plan to boost its economy.Photo: Supplied

“Before, I was struggling to even pay rent, and I was living with my aunt, but I focused on my work and now I stay on my own and I am paying for my brother, who is at university.

"I am also looking after my two boys,” Kaunda said proudly.

The young man is now able to work on a diamond from its rough to the polished state, a skill that takes many years to perfect, with some never actually getting there.

Kaunda is among over 100 previously disadvantaged Namibians who have carved out a niche for themselves in the industry - in his case, while working at a manufacturing company in the capital, Windhoek.

“My inspiration is that I want this industry to support each and every Namibian. I would like to see my fellow-Namibians involved in the diamond industry. For me it has changed my life, both financially and educationally,” Kaunda said.

Read also: Diamonds, not marriage, are forever

“In future I would like to manage a factory where I can buy stones, plan and train other Namibians in this industry,” he said.

Before independence, and during the first few years afterwards, the diamond industry in Namibia was saturated with expatriates, while black people had been excluded from positions of substance in the lucrative diamond industry.

Back then, only local whites and foreigners had sufficient skills or knowledge to be at the upper ladder of this wealth-bringing, complicated and delicate industry, while blacks were restricted to more dangerous and back-breaking, pick-and-shovel mining jobs.

Things began to change only when the Namibian government after independence prioritised the “Namibianisation” of all aspects of the diamond trade.

Over the years, the rise of more Namibians in the trade aligned well with the mandate of Namibia Diamond Trading Company (NDTC) for Namibia to benefit directly from the diamond trade, rather than sending rough diamonds abroad for value-addition and having foreigners control all of the technical knowledge related to the field.

The older generation did not live to see the full benefits from the diamonds they discovered, but the Namibian nation of today is rising to see the shining side of the mineral.

BUSINESS REPORT


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