Ghana Blacklisted From World Diamond Trade
GHANA has been dealt a devastating blow as a result of being blacklisted in selling rough diamonds outside its borders with effect from September 1, this year.
The decision to blacklist Ghana can be attributed to a collective negligence on the part of the Ministry of Mines (the government), the Precious Mineral Marketing Company (PMMC) and particularly Parliament to ratify the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) as a requirement to qualify the nation for the world accredited new diamond trading standard.
As at press time yesterday, calls to the Ministry of Mines to speak to the Minister and her deputy proved futile, The Chronicle was repeatedly told by the secretaries of the ministers that they were attending series of meetings.
At the office of the Minister of Mines, Mrs. Cecilia Bannerman, her secretary said when she informed her about our earlier call, the minister remarked that she had already told us everything at her press briefing the previous day.
Also several attempts to speak to officials at the PMMC, proved futile, as The Chronicle was again told that the officials were holding meetings.
But Chronicle sources close to Kimberley Process in South Africa confirmed the story that Ghana had been blacklisted.
The KPCS new world accredited diamond certification was initiated in 2002 by some powerful civil society groups globally, notable among whom are Amnesty International, (AI) Global Witness and Partnership Africa-Canada (GWPAC) and World Diamond Council (WDC).
The motive behind these civil society groups to agitate for the establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification is to block the sale of conflict diamonds particularly from Africa. Generally it is believed that conflict stones from Africa are used to fuel civil wars on the African continent or swell the foreign accounts of rebel leaders in most African conflicts.
After a series of international conferences on KPCS, the signatory countries including Ghana agreed and set July ending this year to ratify the scheme to meet the requirement as member states.
All that the government of Ghana was supposed to do was to put in place a legislative instrument to back the Kimberley Process to qualify the country to continue its diamonds trade.
Chronicle investigations indicate that the authorities in the Ministry of Mines and PMMC have all along shown considerable concern about the nation's involvement in the KPCS.
This concern attests to the fact that in April, this year, the former Minister of Mines, Kwadwo Adjei Darko and Mr. George Asante, PMMC Deputy Managing Director for Operations, were in South Africa, at KPCS headquarters for the conference at which the date for the take off was set.
In recognition of the difficulties experienced by various participants in implementing the KPCS, participants at the special plenary of the Kimberley Process held in Johannesburg, from 28 to 30 April 2003, adopted an administrative decision on a final extension of the tolerance period within which the list of participants would be confirmed.
Relevant documentation submitted by 31 May 2003, was to be assessed by the Chair, Abbey Chikane who, having issued an updated list by May 5, 2003, was required to issue a revised list by June 10, 2003.
This revised list was issued on 11 June 2003. Participants including Ghana had until 31 August 2003, to amend their respective legislation in accordance with this list.
During that period, participants were to continue to trade with states and regional economic integration organizations that had not met the minimum requirements of the KPCS.
This was to ensure that trade in rough diamonds is not unduly disrupted during the transitional phase.
After the 31 August 2003 deadline, no shipments of rough diamonds can be imported from or exported to a non-participant country of which Ghana is a part due to negligence on the part of the authorities.
The Chronicle can report that hours after Ghana was blacklisted from trading in the precious stones outside its borders, a high-profile meeting was convened to authorize PMMC to write to Kimberley Chair, Abbey Chikane pleading for another grace period.
Unfortunately, Abbey had left his headquarters in South Africa for China on a KPCS tour.
Meanwhile at the Diamond House there is a mounting tension among diamond brokers whose fears are that quantity of rough diamonds they have purchased may not be shipped out due to the blacklisting of the country. Should the application for grace period be turned down the nation stands the risk of losing billions of cedis.
Ghana's rough diamond production increased 11.9% in 2002 from $18.5 million to $20.7 million. In carats, rough diamond production increased 14.1 percent in 2002 from 870,000 the previous year to 993,000 carats.
Although Ghana is considered a small diamond producing country, its production is steadily increasing. Ghana mainly exports rough to Belgium and Israel, but is looking to expand its horizons.
Ghana is currently in negotiations with India to supply its industry directly with rough. This would be India's first direct supply of rough from a diamond producing country.