On April 29, 2014, the United Nations Security Council voted to lift a long-standing ban on diamond exports from Côte d’Ivoire. Ending the nine-year-old ban will encourage greater transparency in Côte d’Ivoire’s diamond sector and potentially move an estimated $12 to $23 million annually from the illicit diamond trade into the formal economy.
To lay the groundwork for the removal of the ban, USAID supported the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to develop the systems and procedures necessary to comply with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme—the international program to certify shipments of rough diamonds and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the world’s markets. As part of USAID’s Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) project, USAID sent a technical adviser in March 2013 to work with the Ivorian government to establish a system to eliminate conflict diamonds from the import/export stream of rough diamonds, create a legal and regulatory framework to support compliance with the Kimberley Process (KP), and establish appropriate penalties for transgressions. Through a new iteration of the PRADD program, which commenced in September 2013 and is financed together with the European Union, USAID hopes to expand trade and reduce conflict in this critically important sector. These efforts fit squarely within the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which seeks to improve the enabling environment for trade and investment, prevent transnational criminal threats, and promote poverty reduction (among other goals).
“A year ago, Côte d’Ivoire was still a diamond trouble spot,” said Terah U. DeJong, the technical adviser who is now Country Director of the Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD II) project, recently launched in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. “The government was able to integrate best practices and lessons learned from PRADD’s earlier work. The challenge now is to build on that foundation.”
At the latest Kimberley Process Plenary session, Ivorian Mining Minister Jean-Claude Brou expressed thanks to the United States and other countries that assisted Côte d’Ivoire in becoming compliant. He noted that compliance was not an end in itself, but a key step in the long-term goal of ensuring that mineral resources benefit the country and the mining communities.
PRADD II will continue to support the government as it addresses challenges and issues that are expected to include:
- ensuring responsiveness from the Ministry of Mines in continuing key reforms;
- establishing diamond-buying houses and needed law enforcement actions;
- preparing for diamond buyers who are likely to descend on the country when the embargo lifts.
PRADD II will clarify and strengthen property rights in areas where diamond mining is occurring in order to minimize the potential for land use conflicts as the diamond economy recovers. To help improve transparency in the diamond value chain, the project will map supply chain actors and distribute diamond weighing scales to active artisanal mining cooperatives to improve the accuracy of KP production statistics. The project will also help rehabilitate former mining areas by teaching local people how to convert exhausted mine sites to fish ponds.
By creatively using radio programming, PRADD II is raising awareness about the diamond industry. The project is also engaged with the government to consider additional support for local communication campaigns on the Kimberley Process—especially law enforcement issues—as it will be important to respond to the possibility of an increased interest from diamond buyers and prospectors in the coming months.
As Côte d’Ivoire’s diamond sector transitions from a black market to a legal industry the value of its rough diamonds should rise, bringing more buyers to the country and, it is hoped, greater prosperity to miners and their families.