THE Zimbabwean government has welcomed Kenako Diamond Processing Company (KDPC)’s investment in a deep boiling facility used to clean diamonds before they are sold on the international market with Mines deputy minister Fred Moyo saying the country had been losing as much as 40% revenue from exporting raw instead of processed diamonds. KDPC is one of two companies licenced to clean diamonds in the country. At the launch of KDPC’s new facility last week, Zimbabwe Independent business reporterTaurai Mangudhla (TM) interviewed KDPC managing director Barbra Mutambanengwe (BM) on the company’s journey and prospects into the future. Below are excerpts:
TM: What inspired your decision to start a diamond processing company?
BM: It was an area that I discovered lacked players. Everyone was rushing into the actual mining and of course cutting and polishing. My technical partners who were already in the industry expressed their dissatisfaction over the state of our product compared to other countries they had visited for auctions. They would tell me our product was fetching pathetic prices because they were not cleaned.
TM: Can you briefly outline your journey from the point you formed your company, highlighting the major hurdles you faced?
BM: My journey was far from being easy. At first, almost all doors were closed on me. This is evidenced by the time it took to finally be where I am today. I would not put the blame on the authorities then because it was a fairly new industry at the time and there were a lot of people who came with possible solutions.
TM: When did you actually start making formal proposals and related processes?
BM: My first proposal was in March 2011 but because of delays and challenges, many possible investors pulled out. I also knocked doors on several banks, but they were also not interested.
TM: What is your professional background?
BM: I am a diamond processor. Trained over the years by my Botswana and their South African counterparts. I have also been trained in India.
TM: What is the quantum of investment you have put into the business so far and in what areas?
BM: We have invested close to half a million United States dollars in equipment and setting up.
TM: How about future investment, where have you identified gaps?
BM: We are still investing more in research and technology. What we are doing now is only the first stage of diamond value management, so a lot of investment is going to be needed to fully complete this venture or rather investment will be an ongoing process.
TM: You spoke about your partners at the launch, who are these partners and what is the nature of your relationship?
BM: Our technical partners are former MD for Debswana (Debswana Diamond Company Ltd, former CEO for De Beers Consolidated Mines SA former chemical engineer and diamond processor (Debswana). These partners have over 40 years of diamond experience among them. Their vast experience brings a lot of wealth in the technical and marketing part of our business.
TM: Who owns KDPC?
BM: KDPC is wholly Zimbabwean and I am the brains behind it.
TM: When did you start operating the plant in Msasa?
BM: We set up in July and August 2015 and did our first test run in September 2015.
TM: What is the processing capacity of your plant?
BM: We have capacity to do 1,2 million carats in a month and we are in the process of acquiring the latest technology that will even do more at the shortest space of time.
TM: Acquiring latest technology implies you need more capacity, how much have you processed so far?
BM: We have so far processed just over 40 000 carats which is way below our capacity. Our target is to do at least 1 million carats per month.
TM: How many people does KDPC employ and what is the estimated multiplier effect?
BM: KDPC employs 11 people, all of whom are also being trained to process diamond, some to be sorters, others to be evaluators and any related work. We hope to employ more once volumes increase.
TM: Going forward what are your major targets?
BM: Going forward, our target is to get more work, research more to achieve the best results. We are also happy that one of our clients commented that we are doing better than they achieved in Antwerp and Dubai. That is a milestone for us. We want to make sure Zimbabwe benefits from this natural resource through proper valuing accountability and transparency.