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De Beers Expands Diamond Sector Support with Beneficiation Programme

Innovative Training and Mentoring Programme Revolutionizes Diamond Industry

by Adenike Adeodun

De Beers is revolutionizing the diamond industry by nurturing carefully selected small businesses through its Beneficiation Programme, adapting lessons from past experiences. This innovative approach now extends support beyond the traditional cutting and polishing segments, delving into the manufacturing and jewellery sectors.

Kagiso Fredericks, De Beers’ Beneficiation Manager, revealed that the first cohort of the programme, which graduated in 2019, successfully guided five small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) in cutting and polishing through three years of intensive incubation, training, and mentoring.

As a leading supplier of rough and polished diamonds, De Beers initiated this programme recognizing its pivotal role at the start of the diamond value chain. Fredericks emphasized the importance of looking beyond just cutting and polishing rough diamonds, considering the entire journey to the end-customer. “Our focus is really on value addition, covering design, manufacturing, and retail,” he stated.

The 2020 cohort of the programme notably included a jewellery manufacturing and refinery business alongside designers and retailers, marking a significant expansion in its scope. A critical aspect of the programme is to encourage participants to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by refining their vision and value proposition.

During the three-year incubation period, remarkable innovations have emerged. For instance, a refining business in the programme saw the potential to expand into jewellery manufacturing, aiming for better margins and diversifying its customer base.

The programme’s strategic focus has led to substantial innovation in business models within the diamond sector. One company, initially involved in diamond trading, evolved to focus on educating diamond buyers, leveraging the owners’ expertise gained from the De Beers-sponsored Kimberley International Diamond and Jewellery Academy.

Succession planning is another key learning aspect within the incubation, as evidenced by a mother-and-daughter team who successfully transitioned leadership roles within their business.

According to a report by The African Miner, Fredericks also noted that the expansion of the programme to cover different phases of the value chain has fostered collaboration among participants. For example, cutters and polishers are now working closely with jewellery manufacturers in co-creating the final products.

One participant, initially trading in rough and polished diamonds, successfully branched out by targeting new markets and developing jewellery for specific segments, including corporate long-service awards.

Each business in the programme is unique, reflecting the diversity of diamonds themselves. One participant in the cutting and polishing trade has developed a direction by integrating her interest in art with her diamond work, curating art that resonates with the diamond story.

Despite the competitive nature of diamond cutting and polishing, the programme has aided participants in this trade to significantly grow their turnover in the second year, with De Beers supplying rough diamonds after establishing commitment in the first year.

Fredericks concluded by emphasizing the programme’s goal of building sustainable entities that will transform the sector and fulfill participants’ diamond dreams.

This initiative by De Beers represents a significant step in adding value to the diamond industry, potentially transforming how diamonds are processed and marketed globally. It also underscores the importance of nurturing small businesses in this sector, fostering innovation, and creating sustainable business models.

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