Africa has immense yet un-harnessed potential in gemstones! This was the resounding consensus at the recently concluded inaugural East and Southern African Coloured Gemstones forum in Nairobi. Under the theme ‘From mine to market – challenges and opportunities’, the forum held on 11-12 July 2019, brought together Australia Awards alumni and professionals working at various levels across the gemstone value-chain. These included miners, gemologists, lapidarist, geologists, environmentalists, researchers and policymakers.
Speaking at the opening plenary Jonathan Ball, Deputy Head of Mission, Australia High Commission, Kenya, noted the need to maximize the benefits of gemstones ‘to ensure that miners get a fair price for their product.’ He reiterated Australia’s willingness to continue supporting innovation and capacity strengthening in the extractives sector, ‘as stakeholders continue exploring ways to improve international market access and stimulate local markets for coloured gemstones.’
Delegates from 15 countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Australia, Canada, France, India, United Kingdom and USA) shared best practise and practical ideas that could help improve the current state of the coloured gemstone industry. These ideas revolved around the need for a regulatory framework to manage gemstone production in African countries, tools to modernise artisanal and small-scale mining activities to increase productivity and strategies for building a successful online brand.
The forum brought together 60 delegates, 18 of whom were alumni that have participated in the Australia Awards masters and short course programs. The two-day conference included a pitch competition on marketing coloured gemstones that saw five finalists who had been shortlisted ahead of the forum, compete for the coveted $10,000 prize.
Domoina Ranjatoelina, the founder of Green Heritage Madagascar Designs, won the pitch competition through her initiative – The African Gems Portal. This is an online repository of information on gemstone mining. It is aimed at reducing ‘corruption and unfair practices in the East and Southern African mining industry, through the integration of technology and social media.’
The forum was funded by the Australian government through the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance (MEfDA), Australia Awards, Australia Africa Partnership Facility (AAPF) and the International Mining for Development Centre (IM4DC).