By Deus Ngowi in Arusha
TANZANIA is lacking enough qualified experts in processing gems and jewelry, prompting Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association (TAMIDA) to engage the government in fast tracking permits for foreigners to come and lend a hand.
TAMIDA Chairman, Mr Sammy Mollel said they were taking action in support of President John Magufuli’s initiative of industrialisation, but was quick to add that at present there is need to bring in foreign experts to turn things around and train Tanzanians.
“We must help and support the President in his initiatives so that they are not stopped or thwarted by a few people. We need to see ourselves at higher levels industrial wise by 2025 as a middle income country, with priority on industries,” he said, adding that the country needs experts from industrialised countries to achieve that.
He called upon the government to support TAMIDA by getting rid of bureaucracy in getting the permits, adding that some of the processes take up to two years to complete. Mr Mollel said that in terms of treating the gems and jewelry, it needs highly qualified personnel, especially in cutting and polishing; saying for now most are summoned from outside the country, specifically Sri Lanka.
The chairman said bringing the experts in the country is a good thing because apart from the fact that they add value to the gemstones and jewelry before export, they also import the technology with them and that with time Tanzanians will be able to do it by themselves.
“We as TAMIDA are in collaboration with our counterparts – Sri Lanka Gem and Security Authority since 1996. Together we are after improving the minerals and gem sectors and we have been involved in different exhibitions, so it is easy for us to get experts from there,” he said.
Mr Mollel added that what is needed in the process of cutting and polishing the gems is not a degree from classroom but more of talent in a person who has been in the field, giving an example of the Makonde who are expert carvers.
“It is the same like making carvings. It is an art, but more of a talent. In Tanzania, we know that we have the Makonde in that field. If you go to Kenya, you will find out that most of those involved in cutting and polishing of gems are the Kamba, but worldwide Sri Lankans are famous in that area,” said Mr Mollel.
He singled out ruby and sapphire, saying they need special talent, qualification as well as very modern machines to complete the whole process, claiming that there is no such specialty in Tanzania.
He said a single error in the process destroys everything so one gets great loss because the gem can no longer be sold. Mr Mollel said that in the whole country, there are no more than 300 mine processing machines and that no one can process more than a kilogramme per day.
He said Mirerani produces more than three kilogrammes of tanzanite per day while Rhodolite is produced at a rate of a tonne per day, so it is difficult to process everything in the country under present circumstances