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World Federation Of Diamond Bourses

Interview with Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of the Kimberley Process and Executive Chairman of the DMCC

Ahmed Bin Sulayem

Q. This is your second term as Chair of the KP. How will this term differ from your first in 2016?

As Kimberley Process Chair for 2024 my focus will be very clear: to solidify the KP’s ability to operate autonomously and with greater efficiency. 

We are driving forward a ‘year of delivery’ for the KP, focusing on fully establishing the permanent secretariat in Botswana; seeing the completion of the review and reform cycle that is being led by Angola; and future-proofing the KP’s operational structure, including through technology to formalise the digitisation of the KP Certification System. 

It is also important to highlight the good work that the KP does on a daily basis. One example of this is our efforts to eliminate the smuggling of rough diamonds, supporting producer countries to obtain the full value from their natural resource. I will be looking at how we can share knowledge and best practices with other commodities that face similar challenges as the KP.

The UAE remains steadfast in its commitment to a conflict diamond-free industry, and our efforts are as important as ever to ensure we are delivering a positive impact.

Q. What are the main challenges facing the KP and what are your plans to deal with them?

In my remarks at the plenary session in Zimbabwe last year, I said “the challenges we face today within the Kimberley Process are arguably more complex and demanding than ever before”. This holds true today as we continue to witness supply chain disruptions, increasing regionalisation, and multiple geopolitical tensions.

We anticipate there will be difficult moments ahead and complex discussions throughout the year. However, I aim to foster closer collaboration, allowing KP members to stay focused on the things that unite us – the common goal of stopping conflict diamonds entering the supply chain.

Q. How will the G7 sanctions on Russian diamonds and their demand for traceability affect the KP Certification Scheme? Will this create duplication?

The full impact remains to be seen given that the first phase of sanctions was imposed at the start of the year. In particular, details on the traceability mechanisms are limited at this stage, which is giving rise to understandable concerns and resistance, not least from India which is home to 90% of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing. 

Shortly after I assumed the role of KP Chair in November 2023, I voiced my concerns on the unintended consequences of the sanctions for African producing nations, and the dangers of creating a system where all non-Russian diamonds need to go through a single rough trade node. The establishment of a single node model is shortsighted and sets a dangerous precedent well beyond sanctions, which will unjustifiably drive-up costs for producing nations, and in particular all of Africa. The G7 cannot blindly ignore the negative impact uninformed decisions in Belgium are having on Africa. 

I reiterate now that we must enable more collaborative conversations with all industry stakeholders to ensure a system that works for all parties. We urge the G7 to properly consult with the industry and the KP to find a solution that is credible, does not harm Africa with its artisanal miners and works across the board.

Q. How can you ensure the continued relevance of the KP?

The KP is directly responsible for creating a positive impact on millions of people across diamond producing nations. This is as important now as it has ever been.

Delivering on our 2024 goals will allow us to evolve, continue to deliver and create impact in the future. In particular, ensuring we can operate efficiently and autonomously will emphatically demonstrate our ability to deliver on our central goal over the long term.

Q. Let’s look at DMCC. What were the main developments in 2023 and what are you planning for 2024 and beyond?

2023 marked another year of growth for DMCC and our efforts to solidify Dubai’s role in the global diamond industry. DMCC attracted 2,700 new companies to our business district, equating to our second most successful year on record and showing why DMCC is worth 11% of all FDI to Dubai. 

On diamonds, we are still awaiting the full-year figures but evidence from the first half of 2023 shows year-on-year growth in the value of diamonds traded through Dubai. Last year we also introduced the Tender Best Practice Forum Code of Conduct under our Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE), the world’s first bourse-led initiative to advance industry best practice for diamond tenders, and we hosted the first edition of the Lab-Grown Diamond Symposium in Dubai.

Looking ahead, 2024 promises to be another exciting year for diamonds, DMCC and Dubai. The year will culminate with ‘Dubai Diamond Week’ in November, which will include DMCC’s Dubai Diamond Conference on the 11th, the third edition of Jewellery, Gem and Technology Dubai between the 12th and 14th, and the UAE’s plenary session for the Kimberley Process which will be held from the 11th to the 15th.

Q. What do you see as the main challenges to the world diamond industry?

The world diamond industry is facing a number of challenges. 

Consumer spending will be dependent on the ability of key markets such as the US and China to continue to bring down inflation and stimulate growth. We must also improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain in order to mitigate upstream fragmentation and market volatility.

That being said these challenges present opportunities, not least the growing role of centralised trade hubs such as DMCC in concentrating industry innovation, driving knowledge sharing and creating value across the industry.

Q. What do you think will be the future of Lab Grown Diamonds vs Natural Diamonds.

DMCC held the first LGD Symposium in July last year, bringing hundreds of the world’s leading LGD stakeholders together to address the challenges and opportunities of this nascent technology.

In DMCC’s Future of Trade report on lab-grown diamonds published soon after the Symposium, one of the key messages that resonated for me was to “not sell the paint – sell the painting” – in other words, not to sell loose LGD like a commodity, but to integrate the supply chain to sell the finished jewellery. I believe there is truth in this for the natural diamond industry as well. 

It is also vital for LGDs to transition from the affordable jewellery market to high-tech industrial applications. Diamonds represent the ultimate material from a material science perspective, and the lower cost of LGDs make them perfect for enabling the next generation of tech such as AI and quantum computing. Ultimately, this will drive sales of LGDs in the long term.

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