FOCUSING ON SKILLS: A 30-carat rough diamond is viewed at the offices of a polishing factory in Antwerp. De Beers wants to increase cutting and polishing skills in South Africa. Picture: Reuters

Black South Africans are set to benefit from a R6 million (about $440 000) enterprise development project for beneficiators.

This announcement was made recently by De Beers Sightholders SA, an arm of diamond-producing giant De Beers.

Beneficiation entails adding value to raw materials by transforming them into finished products, which have higher export sales value.

De Beers Sightholders SA's senior vice-president Mpumi Zikalala told African Independent five small businesses which beneficiate raw materials had been selected for the pilot phase of the enterprise development project.

They would be assisted with sourcing rough diamonds; gaining cutting and polishing skills and creating a distribution network for their products.

“We felt that for a real player to operate, they need to have other skills as well.

"They need to understand the general business environment and be able to work on their own business plans and be able to – towards the end of the month – balance their finances and understand the potential impact that that will have in terms of their business,” said Zikalala.

“We also felt that, critically, they need to understand the distribution element (of the business) because, if you have a business but you have no one that is (buying) your end product, then you will not generate income,” Zikalala said.

She said all five beneficiators were black-owned businesses and three of them were owned by women.

At a diamond summit held in South Africa late last month, South African Mineral Resources Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant said factors which hindered the country from achieving its beneficiation goals included, inter alia, inadequate skills and limited access to international markets.

Zikalala believed, in addition to the problems brought up by the deputy minister, there was a lack of technology in the South African market, which could help beneficiators compete on an international scale.

“When one looks at the competition with external markets, what you compete on would be productivity. And one of the biggest influencers from a productivity perspective is technology,” she said.

“Those are some of the things that we are exposing the team (of five) to, for them to ultimately look at being players that will not only compete from a small-scale perspective, but players that will look at growing and, ultimately, be able to compete on a significantly bigger scale.”

Zikalala said they were still fine-tuning their pilot phase before considering expanding the enterprise development project to their other two African markets, Botswana and Namibia.

De Beers’ 2016/2017 Shining Light Awards were launched in Namibia in August. Jewellery designers from Namibia, Botswana and South Africa have been invited to enter to stand a chance of going to a De Beers’ jewellery design centre in Milan, Italy, for an internship.

Zikalala said these awards were an attempt to develop local talent in their three African markets in the field of jewellery design.

“We do understand that we have talented people within the three countries.

“Ours is to then look further by developing it and giving people an opportunity to design something in line with our theme – and for the winners, look at assisting them with regards to their development by exposing them to globally recognised skills in jewellery design,” she concluded.