CURRENT AFFAIRS

EMERALD SECTOR STRIVES FOR TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND EQUITY

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Transparency is the key to developing Zambia’s gemstone sector and ensuring the nation’s industry is a leading player on the world’s stage.

Kagem and Gemfields Executive Director Sean Gilbertson at the Zambian Emerald Summit

Kagem and Gemfields Executive Director Sean Gilbertson at the Zambian Emerald Summit

The need for open dialogue between industry and the government, and full disclosure of revenues and profits and well as export quantities and values was a central theme during the two-day Zambian Emerald Summit in Lusaka this week.

Such disclosure would ensure a level playing field for miners, and clamp down on the illegal trade in stolen stones and unlicensed extraction, explained Sean Gilbertson, Executive Director of London-listed Gemfields plc, which was principal sponsor of the summit and owns 75 percent of the Kagem mine in Lufwanyama in partnership with the Zambian government.

“Transparency is the key to this industry and its development. We would appeal to government to make available the data so that everyone can see what is going on. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. We have to have the information to make the right decisions,” said Mr Gilbertson, who also called for a stable regulatory environment to enable the sector to offer the market a consistent, reliable and secure supply.

His sentiment echoed that on the first day of the event from Deputy Minister of Finance Hon. Keith Mukata, who said: “The growing amount of lively public debate on the benefits of natural resources to Zambia as a country and the local communities in particular, where these resources are found, calls for striking the right balance between harnessing a conducive environment for private investment to thrive in and maximising benefits to our people and posterity. We cannot over-emphasise the point that an enabling business environment should be underpinned by interventions that will consolidate social, political and macroeconomic stability so that there is no impediment to business.”

“The gemstone sub-sector in Zambia has for a long time now remained shrouded in mystery and secrecy. This unfortunate scenario has been exacerbated by the wanton propensity not to declare correct volumes of production and sale values by some unscrupulous miners, as well as illegal buying and exporting of gemstones. It is our inescapable duty however, to demystify the issues at play in the gemstone sector and I wish to assure this gathering and the nation that the Patriotic Front government remains committed to putting in place specific measures aimed at ensuring that Zambia reaps maximum benefits from our gemstone endowment,” he added.

“It is only with increased investment in our economy that more jobs can be created so that poverty is squarely fought,” said Hon. Mukata. “The government is committed to providing policy clarity, stability and predictability in the gemstone sector so that we anchor confidence in the Zambian gemstone industry.”

More than 100 delegates attended the two-day Zambian Emerald Summit, which was aimed at facilitating meaningful dialogue between key stakeholders in the emerald industry and providing an opportunity for industry outsiders to better understand the emerald sector.

Local industry stakeholders, international gemstone and policy experts, and government representatives met to explore how the Zambian emerald sector can best be developed into a world leader whilst ensuring that the relevant revenues and profits accrue within Zambia.