The King and Queen of Belgium were on an official visit to South Africa, including a tour of diamond manufacturing facilities, from March 22 to 27 to promote bilateral ties between the two countries.
The King toured the “diamond and jewellery precinct” in the Gauteng Industrial Developmental Zone (GIDZ), including a visit to the new Pluczenik diamond polishing facility.
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) has maintained strong relations with the South African diamond industry, with a near doubling of diamond exports from South Africa to Belgium in recent years.
South Africa produces on average 9 million carats a year, valued between 1.3 and 1.8 billion dollars. In 2021 diamond exports represented 21.35% of the total South African exports to Belgium, making it the biggest export product to Belgium.
Empowering a new diamond generation
On the 24th of March, the delegation visited the GIDZ, a freezone in the vicinity of the airport of Johannesburg, that can foster sustainable growth for local industries, including the diamond industry.
Here they had a roundtable discussion with young industry professionals, from designers to manufacturers and traders in diamonds, to discuss the future and the development of the South African diamond economy.
Ari Epstein – CEO AWDC:” AWDC has an undeniably strong relationship with South Africa. The fruitful cooperation between Antwerp and South Africa is particularly noticeable in the exports from South Africa to Antwerp growing from 1.4 million carats in 2019 to 2.9 million carats in 2021, making diamonds the most important export product of South Africa to Belgium. It’s our ambition to continue growing our diamond collaboration by supporting these young professionals by creating educational opportunities, capacity building and sharing best practices from the Antwerp diamond industry.”
AWDC has maintained strong relations with South Africa, nurturing the unique and historic partnership, for example through the organization of the African Diamond Conference. Together with South Africa, AWDC created awareness surrounding the necessity of creating a sustainable diamond industry, the emergence of lab-grown diamonds, organized training on diamond valuation and shared knowledge on import and export best practices.
Ari Epstein, CEO of AWDC will be joining the roundtable conversation with the King of Belgium, representing the Antwerp diamond community. Ari Epstein said: “We see a lot of opportunities in the future of the South African diamond industry and considering Antwerp’s expertise and experience, we believe we can be an added value to reaching that full potential.”
Almost 40% of the export of South African diamonds goes to Botswana where De Beers, one of the biggest diamond producers in the world and owner of several diamond mines in southern Africa, consolidates all its diamonds for further distribution. Through the system of long-term contracts, so-called Sightholders, a large portion of these diamonds find their way to Antwerp. More than a quarter of all De Beers’ Sightholders have roots in Antwerp.
A flourishing polishing industry creating jobs and economic development
The second part of the visit focused on a trip to the Pluczenik diamond polishing factory within the GIDZ.
The factory that is being constructed is a joint venture between Antwerp-based diamond trading and manufacturing company Pluczenik, with deep historic roots in South Africa, and a South African entrepreneur, providing jobs and training for at least 100 workers, with the potential to go up to 200.
Pluczenik is one of the largest buyers of rough diamonds and has been a De Beers Sightholder for 75 years.
The delegation was shown around the facility and engaged with the student apprentices who follow the training programme at the factory.
After the visit, the event continued with a reception and a panel of speakers, including the South African Minister of mining, zooming in further on how the future of the diamond industry in South Africa can be strengthened.
Chaim Pluczenik, CEO Pluczenik diamond company, said: “The Pluczenik diamond company finds its roots in South Africa, founded by my father in 1948, but we have now been headquartered in the Antwerp Diamond District for many years.
“This year we are celebrating 75 years as a Sightholder of De Beers, one of the biggest diamond companies in South Africa and worldwide.
As a large trader with De Beers, it makes sense to do our polishing in South Africa and contribute to the local diamond industry through job creation and job training.
“It’s that collaboration between our two countries that gives South African diamonds the maximum value.
“With this visit, we hope to re-energize the South African diamond industry and put the spotlight on an industry that can play an important role in the future development of South Africa.”
Belgian diamond companies have a significant impact on the local job market in the South African diamond industry. 7 out of 10 polishing factories are owned by Belgian diamond companies. With these Belgian diamond companies investing in South Africa, the positive results of that partnership are becoming evident: a rise in polished diamonds, manufactured locally, exported to Antwerp, from 196.50 million dollars in 2019 to 248.46 million dollars in 2022.