Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kim Kardashian assures America that diamonds in Botswana are just dandy

Kim Kardashian went to Africa this week. I know, exciting, right? You see, having seen Blood Diamond, she was really concerned about the use of slavery in making diamonds. But DeBeers gave her a tour that cleared that right up:
"The Diamond Empowerment Fund has brought us to Botswana to show us how the diamond industry has changed the life of the Botswana people. I used to assume after watching the movie Blood Diamonds that diamonds were not acceptable to buy from Africa. However, it is the complete opposite! When diamonds are purchased, the whole country can survive! In Botswana there used to be 10 schools but the diamond industry has now funded 300 schools!

We went into the largest diamond mine! It was huge! The trucks they use to carry the diamonds are 6 million dollars, and each tire is $70,000! How crazy is that?! Look at how small we look in comparison to the tire! We saw all the raw diamonds and the process they have to go through in order to get them ready to be delivered to stores! Thank you DeBeers for that amazing experience!"
I mean, damn.

So apparently, not only are diamonds (made by impoverished South African forced to live without water, reliable shelter, or fair pay) okay to buy for seven karat diamond engagement rings - they're the opposite! Everyone should buy them! After all, if you don't like diamonds, you're not a real woman.

Kardashian has a point though. Diamond mines are fueling the Botswanian economy. The government, from what I can understand, is not as blatantly corrupt as some, and the country's roads, facilities, and education systems are among the best in Africa.

However, there is an enormous divide that leaves out a huge section of the population. Who, exactly, does that great economy work for?

Yet there is another, more pessimistic side to the story of Botswana’s development. To put the matter simply, diamonds have produced distorted development. Most obvious has been the limited economic spin-off in terms of employment. Debswana, the diamond mining corporation owned jointly by the government and DeBeers, employs about 6,500 people, or just 2 percent of the workforce. To be sure, there is significant secondary employment generated by the company’s contractors and consumption by Debswana employees. The bottom line, however, is that after decades of rapid GDP growth, about 40 percent of the working age population is unemployed. Apart from the diamond industry, no other economic sector has experienced much growth. In the meantime, the educational system, well funded by diamond income, annually churns out large numbers of students who cannot find jobs, even when they have a university education. Top planners in the education have concluded that government must restructure the system to prepare youth for export to the global economy, since few jobs will be available inside the country in the foreseeable future!
This doesn't even address the US-level erasure of the tribal peoples who had the land before DeBeers:
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds.
In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away.
So it's not so much that "Botswana has sooooo many more schools" as "the tribal system of schooling and government was disrupted and colonized, and is beginning to collapse under itself." Rad.

I don't think Kim Kardashian is the worst of the Hollywood worst. I like that she advocates for herself and her figure. But in this case, Kim Kardashian is about as reliable a source as Wikipedia, and the most recent edit was by DeBeers.



  1. as reliable as wikipedia... nice touch

  2. The second-most annoying thing about that quote is probably that Kardashian seems to have a broken period key! If every sentence is emphasized, then no sentence is really emphasized is it?! It's like using a highlighter on every word in a book! I guess it is just one of my pet peeves!

    I don't really get why people are still buying diamonds. Moissanite is cheaper and often mistaken for diamonds, even by jewelers. (IIRC It's almost as hard as real diamond, and shinier.) Plus most of it is synthetic, so AFAIK nobody's being displaced or harmed as a result of moissanite jewelry. If I was interested in dropping a couple hundred bucks on a shiny rock, that's probably the route I'd go.


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