AfREC Industry Coordinator, Dr Muza Gondwe and over 60 representatives from industry, academia and civil society, participated in the East and Southern African Coloured Gemstones Forum in Nairobi on 10-12 July 2019. The forum shared good practices and discussed innovative and practical solutions to advance dialogue and collaboration on coloured gemstones.
Many East and Southern African countries contribute to the global coloured gemstone market with yearly estimates of coloured gemstone retail sales valued at $18-billion to $21-billion. However, little is understood of the value chain as the industry is highly fragmented and opaque. This Forum is timely as there is increasing global pressure for improved transparency and traceability and a number of governments are pursuing policies to enhance local value addition.
The Regional Forum focussed on the theme "East and Southern African Coloured Gemstones – From mine to market – challenges and opportunities." There were keynote panel discussions on understanding the value chain, as well as and sessions on legal frameworks; women's participation; health, environment and safety; marketing and value addition; and the contribution of mining to development in host communities.
The Forum – the first of its kind brought together current and future leaders who are gemstone miners, gemmologists, lapidarists, geologists, policymakers, mining engineers, women in mining, buyers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, researchers and community development practitioners from Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, France, India, Dubai, Canada, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Namibia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, UK, Australia and USA. Many delegates commented that gemstone producing countries have common problems and therefore common and regional solutions should be developed.
This event was jointly organised by Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance –a partnership between The University of Queensland and The University of Western Australia with funds from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and sponsorship from Australia Awards Africa, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Gemfields.
A majority of the participants have attended Australian-funded mining courses in the past, and are part of the Australian funded Mining Alumni Network. John Ball, Chargé d'affaires of the Australian High Commission in Kenya, expressed the Australian government's commitment to improving resource governance in the mining sector through funding short courses and postgraduate training programs.
John Omenge, Permanent Secretary State of the Department for Mining in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining of Kenya, shared how the government is improving the sector through the development of the Voi Gemmology Centre. The Centre offers training, value addition and operates as a buying centre.
Value addition was a key issue discussed with Gemfields, a global leader in gemstone mining and marketing represented by Mr Algy Strutt, Manager – Projects, sharing their mine and market strategy including their experiences in cutting and polishing.
One of the highlights was the Inspire! Marketing Coloured Gemstone Pitch Night that saw six finalists pitch ideas on how to market coloured gemstones.
Ms Domoina Ranjatoelina, the Founder of Green Heritage Madagascar Designs, won the $10,000 prize sponsored by Gemfields with her pitch on African Gems Portal (AGP). AGP is "an online platform where the coloured gemstones community can safely, formally and ethically interact, trade, network and get educated about the industry."
Associated events also included a basic gemmology workshop, the Kenya Gemstone and Jewellery Fair and a visit to women-owned mine sites in Taita Taveta.