I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that in Setswana, the word ‘Pula’ means both money and rain. Not just because both are valuable resources, but also because of how a financial investment in a person or a business can create a ripple effect through the economy just like a raindrop in a reservoir. The story of De Beers’ partnership with Government has been told many times before. We are rightly proud of the part we have been able to play in supporting Botswana’s leaders in developing the nation, but we recognise that we need to do more to create an even bigger economic ripple effect. As a business that has so many touchpoints with different parts of Botswana society, simply contributing through royalties, dividends, taxes and employment is not enough for us. We need to look constantly for ways in which we can embed the opportunity for further economic development and diversification. And one important way in which we can provide direct support to Botswana’s businesses is through putting the supply chain to work. The more we can source the required goods and services from local providers, the more economic benefit can be retained in-country from our diamond exploration, mining, sorting and sales activities. Last year De Beers Group and its joint ventures spent P4.3 billion with Botswana-based suppliers. This represented more than 80 per cent of our total procurement spend in the country and helps to ensure that other enterprises in the country can grow alongside us. For example, working with Debswana Supply Chain Management, five existing local suppliers were identified and supported in 2016 via the Tokafala programme, increasing the viability and sustainability of their businesses. And of course there are other ways that we can assist local enterprises outside of our core business. Another success of the Tokafala enterprise development programme in 2016 was the continued delivery of business management workshops.
These workshops focused on tailored advisory and implementation support, including financial record-keeping, financial management, investment, marketing and HR. As such, they can play a vital role in accelerating the growth of small and medium-sized companies that may not have the existing expertise in-house. In fact, through the help of Tokafala, the businesses it supports recorded an average of 39 per cent growth in revenues in 2016. Overall last year, De Beers Group and its joint ventures invested more than P124 million in community support programmes and, through the Tokafala enterprise development scheme, supported more than 100 businesses and 570 jobs. But despite the early successes of the Tokafala programme, we recognise that challenges remain and we must not rest on our laurels. We will use the lessons learned from partnerships to date to keep improving the programme and aligning it even more closely with national development priorities. Youth unemployment will therefore be a major focus of Tokafala in the years ahead as we seek to support a brighter future for Botswana’s younger generation. In this vein, De Beers Group and its joint ventures made some important strides last year as we partnered with the Botswana Innovation Hub and the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture to host the inaugural Youth Innovators Conference, to develop entrepreneurs among young people. Yet we will keep looking for ways to do more. And while we try to help create a sustainable economic future in Botswana, we will also look to play our part in making sure that the country’s environmental wealth is preserved for the generations of tomorrow.
Take the white rhino, for example, which is very much a symbol of Botswana but is also at risk of becoming extinct. Illegal poaching of rhino horn has long been a major threat for the species. However, efforts on rhino conservation in 2016 have helped to protect a significant proportion of the country’s white rhino population. Last year, De Beers Group and the Government also raised the profile of the white rhino’s plight in the United States, where it garnered financial support from leaders in the international conservation community. Though it is still too early to talk of a permanent reprieve, there is hope on the horizon for the white rhino. And this in turn supports the future of Botswana’s growing eco-tourism sector, which can help provide further diversification opportunities for the nation. It gives me great pride to see that big business has been able to make big differences to enterprises of all sizes in 2016. We know that we don’t have all the answers, but we will ensure we continue to do all we can to maximise ‘the Pula effect’ in the years ahead, making as many raindrops create as many ripples as possible.
CEO, De Beers Group