By Russell Simmons – We visited schools both in Botswana and South Africa, such as CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg. We spoke with workers, family members, and visited schools and hospitals in mining communities. We also met with tribal leaders in both Botswana and South Africa who expressed their support of the diamond industry’s contributions to the ongoing development of their communities. We assessed first-hand our observations of how these communities were being positively impacted and the quality of life in these communities was being directly improved as beneficiaries of revenue generated through the diamond industry. We also met with miners, as well as native Africans who were working throughout the chain of the diamond pipeline, specifically those employed in the sorting, cutting, polishing, and valuation of diamonds. These are all highly-skilled workers, and seeing all of these people at work was in direct contradiction to what we were told – that no black Africans were employed in the diamond industry in Africa.
One of the key questions of our fact-finding mission was to determine the extent to which the diamond industry was being accountable to these communities. Of the various industries that extract minerals, and other natural resources from Africa, we were encouraged by how the diamond industry works with communities at the local, regional and national level to adhere to standards of engagement that have led to the empowerment of people and communities where diamonds are a natural resource.
Not withstanding our documenting the current level of support that the diamond industry contributes to Africa, we wanted to build on the foundation that had been laid to engage the international diamond jewellery industry in greater support for Africa, particularly around access to education. The mining that occurs in Africa is just one component of the international diamond and jewellery sector. We wanted to sensitize the entire industry to the needs of the people in the communities in which many of their materials are extracted with the intention that they would get involved to help the cause. Simply stated, the Diamond Empowerment Fund exists to raise awareness and support for greater empowerment through education for indigenous people in diamond producing nations, especially the youth.