By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK The NamGem factory at Okahandja recently celebrated its eighth anniversary, making it the oldest diamond cutting and polishing plant in Namibia. NamGem provides 130 badly needed, and relatively well-paid jobs in the economically depressed satellite town of Okahandja. The diamond production plant is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Namibia’s main diamond producer Namdeb, which in turn is owned in equal shares by the Namibian government and international diamond giant De Beers. Speaking at the anniversary celebrations, the Chief Executive Officer at the town, Regina Alugodhi thanked Namdeb for establishing the factory in Okahandja and for continuing to support it for eight years. She said it was good for the social and economic development of Okahandja that most employees of the factory came from the town. “The development of our country cannot only depend on providing opportunities in Windhoek and the other big towns. The best measure of a country’s growth and development is the level of development that takes place outside the major cities,” Alugodhi said. The factory not only provides employment to the town, but it also utilises local suppliers and services as well as providing income that is spent in the local economy. The skills developed by employees of the factory will also enable Namibia to diversify its technical base and become a player in the world of cutting and polishing. Alugodhi deplored the country’s dependence on goods that are not produced locally, and will forever make the country dependent on other countries. Countries have a duty to strive for self-reliance, which is important for creating jobs, contributes to development and ensures the country can sustain itself. Namibia has to carve out a competitive niche for itself, which will set it apart from others. “As CEO of Okahandja it, is with a sense of pride that I say NamGem may well provide Namibia with the best opportunity to carve out that competitive niche through diamond cutting and polishing,” she said. She added that Namdeb, with its production, was achieving high levels of quality improvement with the output receiving positive comment for its workmanship throughout the world. The transfer of skills at the factory is clearly evident, particularly in terms of career opportunities for previously disadvantaged groups. She was especially pleased to note there is a large complement of young women in the factory. The international diamond-marketing group Lazar Kaplan International (LKI) is a technical and marketing partner of NamGem. LKI has played a prominent role in improving the polishing quality in NamGem’s factory, and has been responsible for marketing NamGem’s diamonds abroad. The company is currently in the process of negotiating a revision in the agreement it has with NamGem with the aim of becoming an equity participant in the company. The company has indicated that if it is allowed to become a shareholder in NamGem, it will inject an additional N$175 million for the expansion of NamGem.
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