Selling Diamonds: Inside Kennedy Hamutenya’s logi

Where dreams are a dime a dozen, Kennedy Hamutenya (NAMDIA C.E.O) is proving that no ambition is too big.

It’s exactly a year to this month that NAMDIA, a new Namibian government company which is entitled to buy 15% of NamDeb’s run-ofmine production for onward sale to discerning world markets was founded. And this anniversary coincides well with Hamutenya’s 50th birthday. As Chief Executive Officer, Hamutenya is the face of NAMDIA. His experience in the diamond industry, his position in the political landscape of Namibia and his stature in the community, are not reflective of the the physical office he now occupies in Windhoek. Whilst waiting for the completion of NAMDIA’s offices currently under construction, Hamutenya and his team of dedicated managers operated from small rented offices in the city.

Kennedy Hamutenya
Kennedy Hamutenya

“The biggest lesson I learned is that you must work On your business not in your business for it to grow. We are moving to the new offices sooner than you think. The contractors are just finishing off the final touches. Like NAMDIA, this building is unique – in both its history and its design. Moreover, it will perhaps be the most secure building in the city. We will not compromise on the safety of our people, nor on the security of our product,” he says. Hamutenya’s journey has been characterised by both humble beginnings and public pessimism.
He was among the young people tasked by the then guerrilla movement, SWAPO, during the liberation struggle, to focus on gaining academic qualifications and experience “so that when we gain independence, we would know what to do with our natural resources,” says Mines Commissioner, Erasmus Shivolo, with whom Kennedy spent time together whilst studying abroad. Namibia today has the largest reserves of marine diamonds in the world and Hamutenya is best positioned to know what to do with NAMDIA.
“Big retailers don’t sell diamonds. They just sell a brand,” he says. We’ve all heard of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” but for Hamutenya, it seems diamonds are also becoming an investor’s best friend. Rough diamond prices have jumped nearly a third since 2005 and rose to another 20 percent by 2017, bolstered by demand in Asian economic powerhouses China and India, according to wealth research firm Wealth-X. Record prices of diamonds have been making headlines lately. A pear-shaped 101.73 carat “flawless” diamond, for example, sold for a record $27 million to luxury jeweler Harry Winston at a Christie’s auction in Geneva. It’s no surprise that many investors want in on the action.

According to net worth data provided by Wealth-X, as of July 15, 2013, the world’s richest diamond owners consist of collectors, dealers, business owners as well as investors who have stakes in some of the world’s biggest diamond mines. So, from being the youngest director in the Namibian Government to becoming the Diamonds Commissioner, a position he occupied for the past 15 years before joining NAMDIA, Hamutenya has the footprints to steer the country’s diamond trade into the right direction. Already, in just over a year of existence, NAMDIA has so far sold close to a billion Namibian dollars’ worth of diamonds and paid some N$60 million in taxes to the State – over and beyond the De Beers Price book. “We have been accused of underselling diamonds. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we are selling 15% of Namdeb Holdings diamonds for over and above De Beers selling price (our invoices are testimony) why spit venom at NAMDIA but not question the sale of the rest of the 85% by De Beers? If our price is higher than theirs that means the bulk of the Namibian diamonds are grossly being undersold. This is simple logic. We have boxes of our inaugural annual report sitting in our office awaiting presentation in Cabinet and Parliament,” Hamutenya tells Us. He has no qualms with those crucifying NAMDIA. In fact, it does not bother him.He remains undeterred by those after him. Having been an integral part of the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) for an increased entitlement of diamonds to the local industry by NamDeb, Hamutenya and diamonds have
become synonymous with success. He was appointed as the Chief Negotiator for Government by Cabinet and this was a unique and welcome opportunity. With his insights and experience in the diamond industry, this position provided an ideal opportunity to correct some anomalies that were holding the Government back from fully developing the diamond sector. Of course, considering he was a leading a team consisting of much senior members, including Permanent Secretaries, he had to be humble and tread carefully, he says. Today more than 50% of all Namibian diamonds (U$430 million out of US$800 million) are earmarked for local polishing. Also, all the big stones (specials) and unique beautiful stones are earmarked for local manufacturing.
This is excluding the $150 million purchase entitlement to Namib Desert Diamonds (NAMDIA). For Hamutenya, this was very crucial to give the Namibian manufacturing industry the oxygen it so desperately needed to make the industry viable and sustainable. So as a result of the Diamond Agreement Hamutenya’s team signed last year, some 73% of all Namdeb Holdings diamonds are working directly for the local economy through beneficiation and direct trade through NAMDIA. His vision for NAMDIA is clear. “I want to create an elite international diamond sales and marketing company and to create a footprint of our beautiful diamonds in the international market. I want to see NAMDIA as a good corporate citizen, essential in helping to empower young people and women in Namibia.

I want to see NAMDIA helping to build vulnerable communities. I want to see Namdia as a partner in education by helping to build infrastructure. I want NAMDIA to be an incubator of diamond knowledge and technical diamond skills to especially our young people. I want communities to say we are better off because NAMDIA is here. I want NAMDIA to contribute its part towards revenue generation (taxes and dividends) that would facilitate socioeconomic development,” Hamutenya tells Us. In simple terms, he wants to see Namibian diamonds selling at Maddison Square Garden, The Mall of the Emirates, and proudly displayed around the necks of Hollywood’s biggest stars. “Because of our constraints we have been forced to sell the entire shipment to no more than two clients per every shipment. We have been trading from the NDTC space and we are only allowed to bring in no more than two clients. It is a very difficult job for one person to split the shipment without sorters. We are busy recruiting and by early next year we would have moved into our building and our processes would be more efficient and optimal,” Hamutenya says. It has been a roller-coaster ride – billion Dollar sales, a skeletal staff working around the clock
to drive the engines of success, with not even own offices to operate from. Yet success continues to beckon. But it has come at a cost. Only the first year with NAMDIA and he has already had to miss Christmas with the family, globetrotting to open new markets, some in countries that know no Christmas. He admits his family life has been impacted by the teething phase of NAMDIA, and his two daughters and wife Thusnelde have had to contend with such a lifestyle. “I feel bad as I am missing out on important family milestones. I have children from my previous life and I try very hard to ensure that they have a good education and to ensure that their needs are taken care of. But most of all, I try to make time to share in their lives. They too are growing fast.
But mostly the important thing is that me and my wife are God fearing people and we want to bring up our children in an environment where we promote family and Christian values,” he says. It is through life’s tragedies that Hamutenya has become stronger. In 1998 his father lost his life in a hit-and-run tragedy around Katutura hospital. The culprit was intoxicated, it turned out, and the death was a low blow for the young corporate who was trying to reconnect with his father, after 20 years of life abroad. They were just five years into their bonding as father and son. Worse still, the suspect was never apprehended, having skipped the country to Zambia.

Namdia Management Team
Namdia Management Team

“No apology was offered. I was very bitter for many years but I have made peace with God and I have let it go. I used to have the Police case number on my pin board but I have since thrown it away. It is between him and his God now,” says Hamutenya striking a subdued tone. And yet, despite all this, Hamutenya’s star continued to shine and he rose through the ranks swiftly. Again, as he was helping NAMDIA cut its teeth in the international arena, double tragedy struck again last year. “I lost my uncle, Hidipo as well Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, my first boss at the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Both these tragedies impacted me and allowed me to zero in on my purpose in life and what my role is in the development of this country. These were selfless men who gave up everything for us to be here. I used to write Tate Ya Toivo’s speeches and travelled with him across Namibia and the world, so we developed a very strong relationship. He also knew my late grandfather – Aaron Hamutenya – my late uncle Hidipo and my mother’s father. I have fond memories and great adulation for these men. The most important attribute of the late Ya Toivo was his humility. For a man who sacrificed the majority of his life for our freedom and independence he was so humble and never asked to be treated like a King.” Such experience has been intertwined by Hamutenya into NAMDIA’s cause, and history will be the judge of his legacy, just like his two idols.

 

Source – Us Namibia 

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