Marie-Chantal Kaninda, Executive Director of the World Diamond Council: « The diamond trade generates $7.6 billion in direct revenue for Africa annually ».

Marie-Chantal Kaninda, a Congolese woman (DRC), has been the Executive Director of the World Diamond Council since March 2017, having worked with the largest international mining groups (Ashanti Goldfields, AngloGold Ashanti, De Beers, Rio Tinto…). A key institution that represents the interests of the industry, particularly in the context of the Kimberley Process. As one of the few women to hold a position of responsibility in a predominantly male sector, the leader, whom Resources met, explains in detail her mission and the many issues facing the CMD.

Resources: What is the role of the World Diamond Council (WDC)?

Marie-Chantal Kaninda: We represent the diamond industry as a whole, from production to jewellery. But even more importantly, our mission is inseparable from the Kimberley Process (see insert below, editor’s note), which was set up in the early 2000s to prevent the trade in diamonds from conflict zones (particularly in Africa: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola), and in which we are the voice of the players in the sector. It is thanks to the Kimberley Process (KP) and its certification scheme (KPCS), which we co-created with the UN, that we are now able to guarantee the « authorized » source of exported rough diamonds.

R : How is the diamond sector in Africa doing ?

M-C. K.: The diamond trade brings $7.6 billion a year in direct revenue to Africa, but the stakes are very different from one country to another. In summary, the continent could be divided into three categories. The first is Botswana and Namibia, which have only industrial production. These two countries are characterized by high production standards, a good reputation and a real inclusive development. In Botswana in particular, the diamond industry is the second largest national employer and the associated revenues have made it possible to invest massively in infrastructure, public services (schools, roads, health centres, etc.), education and vocational training. For example, when diamonds were discovered in 1966, there were only three secondary schools across the country. Today, thanks to diamond mining revenues, there are nearly 300 schools and primary education is free. Finally, this sector has also made a significant contribution to reducing the proportion of people living with HIV. The second category includes South Africa, Lesotho and Angola, characterized by a predominantly industrial production, with nevertheless a small artisanal production that they are trying to eliminate through formalization programs. Finally, the third and last category is made up of countries with mainly artisanal production: DRC, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe. These countries are facing major problems related to the implementation of a system for the formalization of artisanal mining.

R : What are the main challenges facing the continent?

M-C. K.: The majority of African miners remain artisanal miners, working in difficult conditions and earning on average less than two dollars a day. However, KP member countries do not always seem to understand the need to make efforts in this area. However, this is crucial insofar as, increasingly, the buyer integrates into his supply requirements not only traceability, but also working conditions in the countries of origin… Finally, because of its use (mainly jewellery), diamond is considered on consumer markets as a luxury product, without which people can live, especially since there are more and more alternatives (synthetic diamonds, NDLR). A « non-essential » dimension that must be integrated by producing countries, for which diamonds are often a contrario a source of income and a fundamental factor of development.

R : In terms of results, what has been the most important achievement of the World Diamond Council so far?

After 16 years of the KP, the CMD can only welcome the almost total elimination of conflict diamonds. This is undoubtedly a major step forward. The only country still affected by this type of stone is the Central African Republic (CAR), in its northern part. And even then, everything is done to contain the problem. Thus, in order to avoid contamination of the rough diamond chain from CAR and neighbouring countries, the CMD, in close collaboration with the Central African government, has put in place a well-established process to separate diamonds from « green zones » – and therefore authorized for export – from diamonds from « red zones », i.e. impacted by conflict diamonds. The CMD has also published its new guarantee system, which extends the traceability of diamonds beyond rough diamonds, as set out in the Kimberley Process. All these actions have been taken to ensure the sustainability of a responsible sector capable of providing sustainable economic opportunities for local communities.

R : Let’s talk about the future. What are your priorities today as head of the Council?

M-C. K.: They are based on three axes. First, we need to expand the definition of the Kimberley Process, it is the only way to go further in the efforts already made and to better protect the populations of the producing countries concerned. Secondly, it is necessary to establish a permanent secretariat in order to achieve better institutional functioning and more professionalism in the follow-up of recommendations. Finally, we would benefit from strengthening the peer review mechanisms; this would allow a better application of the minimum requirements and would push for greater sanctions for countries that do not comply with the recommendations. For the CMD, these three points are the future keys to strengthening the Kimberley Process.

Main diamond producing countries (in millions of carats, 2018)

Source : USGS