Okavango Diamond Company and UB agree on development of Home-Grown Diamond Sorting Technology

ODCAs the diamond industry becomes more sophisticated and competitive, the need for new technologies and innovative ways of doing business has become more imperative. Companies that constantly reengineer their processes and keep innovating are certain of staying afloat besides unlocking more opportunities to become big global market players.

It is against this background that the Okavango Diamond Company (ODC) wants to collaborate with the University of Botswana in the development of home grown technologies in addition to reengineering its processes to grow Botswana government’s market share in the global diamond industry.

Consequently, ODC Managing Director, Mr Mmetla Masire, revealed during a visit by a University of Botswana team led by Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, on August 11, 20022 that although technology was more advanced in the diamond cutting and polishing industry, less could be said about the rough diamonds sector.

That, he said, was because diamond sorting was still done manually. Apart from time consuming, it was tedious especially when the process involved large volumes of rough diamonds. To that end, Mr Masire appealed to the University of Botswana to use its expertise to develop a technology that would improve ODC’s diamond sorting capability and efficiency.  

He reckoned that for ODC to remain competitive and be able to expand its global market share, it would be prudent if it developed its own home-grown technologies particularly in handling, sizing, valuation and pricing of diamonds.

ODC is a rough diamond marketing company that is wholly owned by the Botswana Government. It offers its global customers base open access to scale supply of the full range of rough diamonds sourced from Botswana. With access to 15 percent of Debswana's run-of-mine production, ODC is an important supplier to the market with sales in the region of US$500 million per annum.

“When you go into contracts, you have to get the price right,” observed Mr Masire, noting that the technology they desired would further mitigate the probability of errors during sorting. Improving the traceability of diamonds was also another factor that Mr Masire said would help ODC sustain its sale of diamonds at an ethical level as per the Kimberly Process requirements.

Mr Masire further expressed hope that the University of Botswana would be able to do research to come up with a process of identifying the right colours for diamonds because currently there was no technology or any means of doing such.

In response, Professor Norris described the visit to ODC as an eye-opening experience that had also presented the University of Botswana with bountiful of opportunities. Professor Norris highlighted the importance of partnerships between the University of Botswana and industry, saying it was through such linkages that advances in technology were realised.

ODC2He added that given the University of Botswana was on a trajectory of reinventing itself, its role in society must be defined by the impact it had on the country’s development agenda. The University of Botswana, he noted, must assume a leading role in growing Botswana’s economy hence the diamond industry another area where the university could provide training.

Professor Norris was reacting to a concern that training in Botswana’s diamond space was haphazard because each company conducted its own training and a such a coordinated effort would ensure proper skills development.

Meanwhile, Professor Norris was accompanied by the Deans of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Professor Edward Dintwa and of Science, Professor Ishmael Masesane as well as Senior Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, Mr Moeng Segaetsho. The UB team was taken on a tour of ODC labs during which they were briefed on the various aspects of diamond processing and sale.

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