Of the top 10 diamond producing countries in the world, seven are African. Several have billion dollar diamond industries, selling diamonds on the international market at some of the highest dollar-per-carat prices in the world. Diamonds are a vital source of foreign exchange for cash-strapped African countries. Here are 8 of the top diamond producing countries in Africa, based on figures from 2014.
Guinea, 160,000 carats
Guinea produced 160,000 carats of diamonds in 2014, almost half the 300,000 carats found in 2011. Between 2006 and 2012 Guinea twice exceeded estimated carat production. This boom in output forced the government to strengthen internal controls on diamond exports.
Sierra Leone, 620,000 carats
Sierra Leone is where the term “blood diamond” began. Cross-border diamond tracking was to blame for the civil war. Blood diamonds were sold for over a decade before the West became aware of the turmoil that went into acquiring their engagement rings. An estimated one in five diamonds sold in the West in the 1990s came from a conflict area. The government has since cracked down on diamond trafficking.
Lesotho is blessed with colorful type II diamonds, which are nitrogen free and highly sought. The country is home to the Gem Diamonds-owned Letseng mine, the highest dollar-per-carat kimberlite diamond mine in the world. Some of the largest diamonds ever discovered were found here, with some stones estimated at 600 carats uncut. Diamonds contribute 10 percent of the country’s GDP, and Lesotho plans to open four new mines in 2016.
Zimbabwe, 4.7 million carats
Zimbabwe is one of the top 10 diamond producers in the world, bringing in $300 million in 2015, down from 2013, which earned $678 million. The government recently shut down almost all Zimbabwe’s diamond mines saying the companies that ran them failed to renew their licenses. The government hopes to bring them under a new state-run entity– the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Corporation — in an attempt to keep diamond wealth at home.
Namibia, 1.9 million carats
The Namibian diamond industry is valued at over $1 billion, and its diamonds are valued at around $600 per carat meaning it has the highest value per carat diamonds in the world. Most of Namibia’s diamonds come from the ocean. Significant resources go into mining these diamonds. They’re mostly collected by boats and barges that haul material from the seabed.
South Africa, 7 million carats
In 1866 a 15-year-old found the Eureka Diamond on the banks of the Orange River, prompting the diamond rush. Since then, bigger diamonds have been found including the Cullinan I or Star of Africa. The largest cut diamond in the world, it was cut from the largest diamond ever found and has 74 facets.
Angola, 8.8 million carats
The Angolan diamond mining industry is expected to be worth $7.5 billion by 2018. The industry barely existed during the 1975-2002 civil war. Now Angola is trying to attract further international investment. The CEO of Angola’s national diamond company Endiama says 90 percent of diamonds are still undiscovered in Angola.
Botswana, 24.6 million carats
Botswana was the top diamond producer in the world until 2014 when Russia outdid them. Diamonds in Botswana are becoming less accessible, and have seen a price drop. Diamonds make up 75 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and 30 percent of its GDP, so this hit the economy hard.