Minas de Angola
Minas de Angola


Esta semana, Minas de Angola traz-lhe uma entrevista exclusiva com a Presidente do Conselho Mundial de Diamantes. Há mais de 20 anos na indústria, Feriel Zerouki foi eleita o ano passado a primeira mulher na história da indústria na liderança desta organização.

Defensora acérrima do aprimoramento dos padrões, da promoção do progresso e transparência na indústria de diamantes, a executiva falou ao Minas de Angola sobre os principais desafios da instituição, descreveu o actual estado da indústria e mostrou, entre outros, a posição de Angola na indústria global dos diamantes.

The name “Feriel Zerouki” will always be reminded in the history of the Global Diamond Industry as the first lady to lead the World Diamond Council. What does it mean to you?

It’s not something that I take lightly or for granted. I am honored to be the first woman to fill this role. I also am acutely aware of what it took to get here, both from a personal perspective and as an industry. I also am the first African to fill the position, and that too is a source of great pride.

At the same time, we should never consider a woman or an African at the head of an industry association as exceptional occurrence, but rather as a natural progression. Industry leaders should be selected on their own merits, and industry leadership should reflect the composition of the public its serves.

The diamond industry today is diverse nationally, culturally and yes, also from a gender perspective. So should be its leaders.

Do you think being the first lady to take on this role will force you to work harder so that the industry doesn't have to wait another 20 years to see a woman in a position like this?

While I definitely appreciate the more progressive corporate culture that was introduced at De Beers while I was building my career, I can also ensure you of the massive amount of effort I put in personally to arrive at where I am today. Hard work was required then. It certainly is needed now, and it will be in the future.

Even today, with a growing group of capable and talented women being appointed to key industry roles, we can’t assume that the playing field is absolutely even. Pre-conceptions still exist, which assume that men are more suitable for certain industry roles, even though there is ample evidence to disprove this. Furthermore, a good number of women limit their own opportunities – not through lack of ambition or purpose, but because they have bought into the traditional paradigm, or they assume that they are required to fill the parent’s role more than their partners.

But don’t get me wrong. I love being a mother, and it’s the most important role that I play. It’s just that my husband also loves his role as father.

In fact, when it comes to complicated leadership roles, women in some respects may be better suited than many men. We generally are more likely to listen to different opinions before making a decision.

Hopefully the dam has been broken by the precedent set by my appointment and the appointment of others, and it will not be necessary to wait another 20 years.

You have been defending that it takes courage, and it is not easy to go against the current, but people like you can be the architects and creators of change. Would you please elaborate?

As I have suggested, the barriers that prevent women and others from advancing in our industry are almost never physical, but rather psychological, social, historic and cultural. That is not say that courage isn’t required to shatter those barriers, but once they have been pushed aside, they do not have to return.

A status quo becomes permanent only if it not challenged. Challenging it takes courage, but if you do challenge it and then demonstrate that the alternative is progress, permanent change can occur.

It's been some 20 years since the time you came to the industry. When you look back at where you started and where you are today, what comes up to your mind?

When I joined De Beers, as young North African, the company was on the cusp of what would prove to a period of transformational change.

To its credit, De Beers at the time understood that change was not only desirable, but essential for its future. That required not only rethinking the business models by which it had operated, but also how it interacted with its people, clients and stakeholders. It was a shifting environment in which I was able to flourish and prove my capability.

When I walk into a room today, I no longer feel different to the others who are present, but rather as diverse as the others in the room who are all bringing value to the table. That may seem obvious now, but it was not necessarily the case 18 years ago.

How would you describe the current state of the diamond industry?

The years of the COVID pandemic proved that, even during periods of significant economic pressure, the market for natural diamonds is resilient and stable. Sales of diamond jewelry in 2021, during the midst of the health crisis, not only surpassed 2020, the first year of the pandemic, but also 2019, before the crisis even began. 

However, we now are facing challenges that had already become apparent in 2022 and persisted into 2023. Some are related to the COVID period, during which diamond jewelry enjoyed a relative advantage over certain other luxury categories — like travel and tourism, or experiential luxury — which had seen their sales plummet because of the lockdowns and travel restrictions. Those categories returned to life in 2022, and they benefitted from pent-up demand.

Longer term, the COVID period also created supply chain backlogs and shortages of skilled labor, from which all industries have suffered. These contributed to supply and demand imbalances, which led to higher inflation and reduced economic growth. They also have been exacerbated by geopolitical problems, with the most acute being the war in Eastern Europe.

The result has been pressure on diamond prices, particularly at the downstream end of the pipeline, and this has been complicated by concerns about consistent supply of rough goods, because of the geopolitical situation.

These are more than likely temporary phenomena, with the natural diamond market expected to prove its resilience and rebound. But, with younger consumers increasingly concerned about the social value of their purchases, we need to be ever aware of the need to ensure the integrity of our product, so that our industry can secure its long-term future.

In your first official speech on the KP as chairman of the WDC, you said that rather than weakness, diversity should be seen as the “source of strength for the KP”. Do you think opposing opinions have divided the industry? Why did you say that?

FERIEL ZEROUKI: In my speech to the opening of KP Intersessional Meeting in Zimbabwe I pointed out that, historically, the KP’s ability to take action has been hampered by the existence of different camps, which were formed mainly as result of countries grouping together because of common geography, history and economic development. It created a culture of  “us” and “them” in the KP family, frequently concealing what we have in common, and the degree to which all are co-dependent.

Difference of opinion can splinter an organization. On the other hand, embracing diversity of opinion can unite it, and make it stronger.

In my speech I expressed my belief that  we can work together by agreeing to just two cardinal principles. The first is that natural diamond resources need to provide fair and equitable benefit to the people and countries from which they originate, and this includes enabling those people to utilize those resources for their own wellbeing and long-term development. The second is that the success of the natural diamond economy is dependent upon the product maintaining its status as an aspirational purchase from a consumer perspective.

 I stressed that those two principles are not independent of one another. If the one is not met, it’s unlikely the other will be.

Today, we have a more developed industry and at the same time with adverse situations. But if, on one hand, we see improving standards and promoting progress, such as blockchain technology, on the other hand, we still watch sanctions such as Russia's. How is the World Diamond Council prepared to deal with situations like these?

The World Diamond Council promotes the adoption of measures that robustly prevent the infiltration into the distribution chain of natural diamonds associated with conflict. And, in our opinion, this includes expanding the definition of conflict diamonds so that it is able to meet today’s challenges. This is why we place so much faith in the current Review and Reform Cycle, and in the leadership of Angola as the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee overseeing the process.

Once we have agreed on the scope of the conflict diamond definition, we need to ensure that the process itself is efficient, equitably applied, and above all transparent. We hope that the establishment of the Permanent KP Secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana, will support operation of a well-oiled mechanism. At the same time, we need to make sure that mechanisms, facilities and programs are in place to support the formalization of the artisanal mining sector — to make sure that not only are its members able to access the legitimate chains of distribution, but also that they get paid fair value for what they have mined, so that they may able to support their families, dependents, communities and countries.

What does the World Diamond Council think about dealing with restrictions and sanctions on Russian diamonds?

The World Diamond Council is a professional association, focusing its attention on issues exclusively related to the Kimberley Process and the diamond industry.

That said, we believe in the strict rule of law, and thus have advised all members to abide meticulously to all sanctions and other measures required in the countries and legal jurisdictions where they are active.

It’s important to stress that this is a dynamic situation, with requirements and restrictions in different countries changing periodically.  Members of the industry need to stay up to date, always being aware of current legal situation where they operate.

There are those who argue that the concept of “Blood Diamond” today ends up not making much sense for diamonds of African origin. If so, will institutions like KP, for example, have to redefine their role?

We have not called on the Kimberley Process to redefine its role, but for many years already we have advocated for it to review the definition of conflict diamonds. The KP Core Document, which was first formulated in 2002, has retained the original definition without change, even though the situation on the ground has evolved substantially.

The conflict diamonds definition limits the purview of the Kimberley Process to those rough diamonds being used to finance violent uprisings by rebel groups against sovereign governments. It is a definition that  was relevant in January 2003, when the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was launched. It certainly was relevant for Angola at a time, where a civil war was raging, and anti-government forces were selling rough diamonds that they had illegally obtained to fund their militia. Indeed, the drying up of funding because of the certification scheme helped bring an end to the civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and several other countries.

But today, the only country where the current definition applies = is the Central African Republic, and we hope that the KP will be able to help the country like it has for past countries in securing their mineral resources...

The Kimberley Process has evolved, however, and in 2021 approved a declaration on supporting principles for responsible diamond sourcing as best practices, what is known as the Frame 7. It defines the key requirements for responsibly sourcing rough diamonds in our supply chain. These are the protection of human rights and labor rights, and also community building, the protection of the environment, anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and differentiating between natural diamonds and synthetics.

What we fervently hope for is that, with the current Review and Reform Cycle underway under the chairmanship of Angola, the spirit of Frame 7 will be translated into an expansion of the conflict diamonds definition.

We came close to achieving this during the previous Review and Reform Cycle, but we fell just short of consensus. Hopefully this time we will be successful.

Does it make any sense today for the World Diamond Council to have the same role as it did 20 years ago?

From the beginning, the fundamental mission of the World Diamond Council has been to protect the integrity of natural diamonds and their distribution chain. Over time, we have broadened our perspective, in line with changing conditions.

Representing the diamond industry within the Kimberley Process always has and remains a primary focus of our activity. The KP is an unprecedented enterprise, encompassing the globe and covering almost all rough diamonds being produced each year. We have been openly critical about the limited scope of its mission at present, but nonetheless recognize its potential — as a coalition of governments, industry and civil society — to underwrite an ethical and responsible distribution chain.

As a matter of principle, we have sought to complement the Kimberley Process, extending the reach of the certification scheme to cover polished as a well as rough diamonds, and to monitor KP compliance not only when diamonds cross borders, but every time ownership changes hands. This is what we have done with our System of Warranties.

In 2021 we upgraded the System of Warranties so that it addressed certain of the shortcomings that we had identified in the KP Core Document. Thus, members of the diamond trade who now apply the revised SoW also commit to ensuring that the diamonds are not associated with human rights and labor violations, money laundering and corruption, as well as being KP-compliant.

We will continue to act on behalf the industry, doing what we can to protecting the integrity of natural diamonds and their distribution chain in what is always a fast-changing changing world.

You know the Diamond Industry well, and you also know which direction the industry should go. What changes do you intend to bring to the World Diamond Council in this regard?

I believe strongly that I personally am reflective of the younger generation of our industry, which is more diverse in terms of its geography, as it is in terms of who are making the critical decisions and driving the business.

It is no longer possible to pigeonhole an industry member according to where they come from and who they are.  A young African today could be a miner, a manufacturer, a rough or polished dealer, a jewelry designer, jewelry manufacturer or retailer.

The WDC must reflect that diversity, listening to and acting as a platform for the many voices that are now heard in our industry. At the same time, we must be cognizant that many of our new colleagues are first-generation members. We thus must place a special emphasis on education, and on upholding the tenets of responsible sourcing and sustainable business, which protects the fabric of our industry and the stakeholders for whom we are responsible. 

Continuity is important as well. My predecessor as WDC President used to repeatedly say that, in whatever we do, no one should be left behind. It’s a principle that I too intend to abide by during my term in office.

In your official speech at the Kimberley Process Intersessional Meeting, you mentioned the Angolan government as one of the examples of change in the industry. What role does Angola currently play in the global diamond industry?

Angola is a country with almost unmatched potential in the diamond industry. Not only does it contain within its territory what is most probably the largest untapped natural diamond deposit on the face of the earth — a resource that should provide untold economic and social benefit for its citizens for many generations to come — but it is a proven and experienced industry leader.

Possibly more than any other major producer today, Angola’s leadership has a sensibility that could have only come though experiencing civil war, and learning first-hand what the Kimberley Process is able to contribute in terms of security, stability and nation building. It indeed was remarkable that, just 12 years after the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was first launched in 2003, the Angolan government became the Chair of the KP, the very body that gave its economy and people a new lease of life.

And even after its term as KP Chair ended, Angola has continued to play a central role in the Kimberley Process. It headed the previous Review and Reform Cycle that ended in 2019, and it has renewed that role in the new Review and Reform Cycle that began this year.

Minas de Angola

A nossa linha editorial assenta no relato de informação sobre o sector dos recursos Minerais (Não Petrolíferos) em Angola, com incidência nas actividades geológicas e minerais, nomeadamente, a prospecção, exploração, desenvolvimento e produção de minerais, distribuição e comercialização de produtos minerais, protecção do ambiente.



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