Back from a nine day fact-finding mission to South Africa and Botswana, hip-hop mogul and owner of Simmons Jewelry, Russell Simmons held a press conference announcing that the Simmons’ jewelry business will help the African people by donating 25 percent of proceeds from their new line of jewelry called the ‘Green Initiative.’ The donations will be made to the Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F.TM.) - a fund set up by the Simmons Jewelry Company.
D.E.F.TM. will support skill development schools, colleges, and other institutions. The idea, according to Simmons, is to enhance the economic development of South Africa and Botswana and to empower the African people.
Simmons said that “in Botswana, 25 percent of the population is employed directly or indirectly by the diamond industry.” Another statistic he learned during this trip: “In Botswana, diamond revenues enable every child to receive a free education up to the age of 13.”
During the trip, Simmons met with Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, he toured the country’s largest diamond mine, Jwaneng, and visited the Eurostar diamond cutting and polishing facility.
“I have witnessed, firsthand, that diamonds can be, as they are in Botswana, the difference between extreme poverty and total stability,” Simmons said at the press conference.
There is speculation, however, that the timing of the trip is no coincidence as the controversial Hollywood movie, Blood Diamond, is set to open on Friday. Simmons’ visit to Africa was sponsored by the Diamond Information Center.
Human rights groups Global Witness and Amnesty International criticized Simmons’ trip. They warned that Conflict Diamonds are still a problem despite the industry’s assurances that 99 percent of diamonds are “clean.”