After exporting gemstones to the United States, the Lusaka-based gemstone company Jewel of Africa is targeting the Chinese market and promoting its “home-grown” precious stones. The family business runs its own mines, cuts and polished gems, and operates retail stores, employing approximately 100 locals. The Zambian jeweler is looking to expand further into the lucrative Chinese market.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) allows sub-Saharan African countries to enter the U.S. market tariff-free. Jewel of Africa has also already taken advantage of this act.
The next step is to further enhance their appeal in China. Sandra Kasaby, Jewel of Africa’s marketing and operations manager, said: “Many Chinese go to African gemstone companies to buy our gems, especially emeralds.” She added: “We think this is an opportunity for promotion.” Recently, the Chinese Embassy in Zambia chose Jewel of Africa to represent the country at exhibitions in China.
According to a report by the Gemological Institute of America, Chinese consumers “are getting more and more knowledge about gemstones and jewellery, and they are becoming more sagacious when buying”. According to the report, China is the second largest consumer of jewelry in the world.
At the same time, an African industry body is also actively urging Chinese companies to work with Zambian gemstone miners to explore the huge potential of the country’s gemstone sector.
According to Victor Kalesha, president of the Emerald and Semi-precious Stones Mining Association, Chinese companies have the expertise and technology to develop the Zambian gemstone sector.
The official expressed optimism that the added value of the rich Zambian gemstones would create hundreds of jobs for local people and emphasized that there are more than 400 scale mines in the industry.
He said that some mines are currently idle and urged the government to arrange partnerships with Chinese companies to revamp these mines. Some Chinese companies have been conducting exploration work in the gemstone sector.
However, the business does face some resistance. In Zambia, financing can be a problem and trade policies can also create some obstacles.
Mining is very expensive and it is difficult to obtain credit here in Zambia. Jewel of Africa sometimes works with foreign partners to try to get lower interest rates.
Another issue concerns the ATA Carnet system, which provides a framework for temporary import and export. Zambia is not a member of this system, which affects the ability of African jewelry enterprises to bring jewellery for exhibitions duty-free and tax-free. Kasaby said that attending a trade fair with expensive jewellery usually means paying a large deposit to the customs, which may affect cash flow.