The move by Diamond Trading Company (DTC) International (Aggregation) to bring its operations to Botswana next year has been hailed as the single most significant migration of commercial activity from Europe to Africa in recent times.
"Just the sheer volume of diamonds aggregated in one place is enormous," said the CEO of De Beers Botswana, Sheila Khama. "In money terms, that is a volume of about US$6 billion worth of diamonds."
Speaking in an interview with Monitor Business, Khama said the coming of aggregation to Botswana will pump more money into the economy.
De Beers expects DTC International to be fully operational in Botswana by the middle of next year. Khama said installation of the necessary processes and systems will start early next year.
DTC International is currently in discussions with government because "we will need help with certain things," she said.
"Our discussions with government (so far) show they are fully on board and supportive. We therefore have every reason to believe we will implement the project on time and successfully."
Aggregation is about combining diamonds sourced from various producer countries, including Russia. The resulting blend is called an aggregated mix.
De Beers owns mines in Canada and Tanzania. It also has joint venture partnerships in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
Khama said under the new dispensation, about 45 million carats of a combination De Beers' worldwide production will be sorted in producer countries, then come to Botswana where it will be mixed into parcels and sold.
Aggregation will be the last leg of the migration of some of De Beers' commercial activities that have been located in London for the past
Khama said the relocation of DTC International will be a milestone development reversing whole processes in which Botswana mined diamonds and exported the stones in rough form. The new dispensation will see Botswana sort, cut, polish, aggregate and sell to the wide world.
Khama said if Botswana could successfully do the same with its soda ash, coal, copper and nickel, its example would be a trend worth following and emulating by other African countries and the rest of the developing world.
"Botswana could very well be saying to the world: 'This is the new way,'" she pointed out. When producer countries play a role in the value chain of their natural resources in that manner, "you could quite literally be looking at a different economic order".
But Khama acknowledged that there are specific challenges that Botswana might present to shareholders' vision of developing a sustainable downstream industry.
"Our biggest task is to combine the advantages and disadvantages such that when we look at the bigger picture, nothing of value is compromised," she said.
DTC is the rough diamond distribution arm of the De Beers family of companies and is the world's largest supplier of rough diamonds, handling around 40 percent of the world's supply by value.