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November 30, 2020
Voi Gem and Value Addition Center
Kenya is well known for gemstone mining and more than 60% of annual national production is attributed to Artisanal and Small- scale Mining. Taita Taveta County is one of the country’s main gemstone producing areas. Located within a gemstone belt that spans Kenya and Tanzania, the county produces high- and middle-value gemstones, including green and red garnets, ruby, blue and pink sapphire, green and yellow tourmaline, rhodolites, and kyanites. In Taita Taveta County, the most valuable mined stone is the Tsavorite.
Access to markets have proven to be a challenge for artisanal and small scale miners all around Kenya. In Taita Taveta County particularly the supply chain varies based on size of producer and type as well as quality of gemstones being sold. For instance;
• Medium-size companies sell their production to international traders based in the country or export it directly to international markets.
• Most of the gemstone production is sold to local traders by producers.
• Quality gemstones are primarily sold to local traders, who later resell the gemstones to exporters in Nairobi or informally export them to traders in Arusha.
Where gemstones are mined by citizens or smaller companies, complex and informal networks of brokers leverage relationships to match local supply with international buyer needs. In these cases, gemstones tend to change hands many times between the point of extraction and the destination where they are cut and polished.
Mine site traders also trade directly with individual miners and they primarily resell in Voi. Only a small part of the Kenyan production is locally cut before being exported. The cutting industry in Kenya is small and cutting skills have been low for a long time. Because of its high value, Tsavorite accounts for the majority (83%) of the cut gemstones officially exported. The transformation of rough gemstones into finished products increases the gemstone market prices by around 50 percent, on average.
Gemstones are an over-the-counter market, where there is no set international price; rather, the quality of gemstones determines their value. Valuation of rough gemstones requires special skills, practice, and background. This market’s complexity allows traders to have more commercial power, especially in an informal market where transactions take place in secret. Consequently, traders’ margins can be as high as 100% of the buying price (also because of the high risks assumed by the buyer on the final quality).
As the main global source of Tsavorite, Taita Taveta County is uniquely positioned to establish a signature gemstone market with significant development potential through support to ASM. As described herein, achieving such an aim will require a complex, multi-faceted approach to invest in appropriate production methods, technical skills and incentivizing the development of a regional gemstone value addition and facilitating access to the global markets.
About the Association of Women in Extractives in Kenya
The Association of Women in Extractives in Kenya (AWEIK) is a membership organization that facilitates opportunities for women in the gemstones value chain, to position Kenya as a gem-trading hub and the gateway for gemstones and colored stones in Africa and provide regional and international market linkages for Kenyan artisanal and small-scale women miners in the gemstone industry. Therefore, to harness support for the women who, against all odds, are mining in these hardship areas, AWEIK in partnership with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining (State Department of Mining) is preparing to host “Gems Africa 2021” – a continental gem and jewelry fair.
AWEIK has, through experience from hosting Kenya gem and jewellery fairs since 2017 noted that there is a disjoint between market requirements for gemstones i.e. quality and quantity vs what is available locally in terms of production. Additionally, the women engaged in artisanal mining, labor hard to produce gemstones however, the mine-to-market value chain is fraught with unscrupulous brokers who malign them as they lack access and knowledge of the markets for gemstones.
About Tsavorite Week
In light of the forementioned, AWEIK shall be hosting the Tsavorite week in November 2020 as a Mini Gem Expo in preparation of Gems Africa 2021. The aim of the mini expo is to provide artisanal and small-scale miners with the exposure to expectations and standards that international markets require. It will be multi – faceted to include trainings on efficient production, value addition and marketing aspects.
1. Bridge the gap between grassroots women miners and viable local markets eliminating the need for extortionist middlemen and brokers.
2. Explore the opportunities for partnerships with international programs or companies (including public-private partnerships) that can assist in local development including provision of tools and equipment
3. Effect skills transfer to women working within the gemstone value chain
1. Better understanding of expectations of buyers in the broader African region and international space ready to do business with women gemstone miners across their value chain.
2. Increased visibility of scalable businesses, particularly those that are women-led, in the gemstone value chain in the region
3. Appreciation of the gemstone business ecosystem by the larger businesses (corporates, banks, investors) interested in doing business with gemstone miners in these regions
4. Increased awareness by grassroots women of existing business opportunities from international companies ready to do business with them