Sierra Leone’s diamond industry must be reformed – by Julian Lahai Samboma (African Business – May 3, 2019)

African Business

If Sierra Leone’s diamond industry is to make a positive contribution to the socio-economic development of the nation, as envisaged in the government’s new five-year National Development Plan, there has to be a radical overhaul of the way the industry is managed.

At the centre of any such strategy should be a concerted campaign to curb the rampant smuggling of diamonds, which leads to tens of millions of dollars of potential tax revenue being lost each year.

Less remarked upon is the fact that official corruption still plagues the industry. Diamonds were discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930. The 1960s are seen as the post-independence benchmark for probity and proper management of the industry.

By the 1970s and 1980s, due to massive corruption and mismanagement under the All People’s Congress government of Siaka Stevens, most of the country’s gems were being sold abroad illegally.

Statistics show that average official exports under President Stevens and Joseph Momoh, his successor from 1985 to 1992, were below the 200,000 carat mark – barely one-tenth of 1960s figures.

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