Central African Republic Sees Gem-Export Ban Lift on Review

The Central African Republic’s government is confident that talks with the Kimberley Process about resuming diamond exports from the country will resume after an imminent review, Planning Minister Abdallah Kadre Assane said.

The Kimberley Process, which seeks to halt the trade in diamonds from conflict zones, will review the nation’s gem business by the first week of May, Bernardo Campos, the chairman of the certification program, said on April 21. Shipments from the country have been banned since May 2013, two months after the fall of the capital, Bangui, to a rebel assault.

“We are quite confident that the negotiations that will take place within the next couple of weeks in Bangui with the secretary of the Kimberley Process will bear fruits,” Assane said in an interview in Washington with Bloomberg TV Africa broadcast on Thursday.

Central African Republic was engulfed in conflict after the ousting of former President Francois Bozize by Seleka, a mainly Muslim rebel group, about two years ago. At least 3,000 people have died in the fighting, according to the United Nations. Trade in the country’s diamonds was banned after the Kimberley Process said there was no way to determine whether so-called conflict diamonds had been eliminated from shipments.

Central African Republic ranked as the world’s 10th-biggest diamond producer by value in 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Kimberley Process estimates diamond output was worth $62 million in 2012 and $61 million in 2011. The International Peace Information Service, an Antwerp-based research group, says about 30 percent of the country’s diamonds and 95 percent of gold leaves the country secretly.

Government ‘Penalized’

The ban has “really penalized” the government by reducing the amount of funds the state has to rebuild the economy, Assane said. “We really hope that from the month June, why not, if we could start exporting diamonds again this could be of a great help for the future.”

The government is facing a shortfall of 60 billion CFA francs ($98 million) in its annual budget and has managed to raise about 48 billion francs from donors, Assane said. The country is in talks with the World Bank for additional support as it seeks to cover the remaining 12 billion-franc shortfall, he said.

Central African Republic’s economy shrank 36 percent in 2013 and expanded 1 percent last year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates. Growth may accelerate to 5.7 percent this year as the country continues to stabilize after a series of cease-fire agreements, Assane said.

A transitional government led by Catherine Samba-Panza came to power after interim President Michel Djotodia’s Seleka government resigned in January 2014.

The country requires about $17 million dollars to hold elections that must be held by August, Assane said. Last month, the European Union pledged 20 million euros to help fund the vote.

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