Fashion and Entertainment mogul Russell Simmons will be traveling to South Africa and Botswana later this month to tour the two nations’ diamond mines in preparation for the launch of his Diamond Empowerment Fund, the New York Daily News reports. According to Simmons, who owns The Simmons Jewelry Company with his estranged wife Kimora, the Fund will seek to teach native Africans the skills needed to cut and polish diamonds themselves. Currently, the majority of the world’s precious gems are processed in countries such as Belgium and Israel. “I want to give my money back to the people in Africa. We’re starting the Diamond Empowerment Fund to teach Africans how to cut and polish diamonds on the continent, instead of taking the diamonds out. We want more of Black Africans to become executives. The diamond industry should be the leader of African empowerment,” Simmons commented.
The diamond industry has come under fire in recent years as a result of heightened public awareness of human rights offenses stemming from the trade of conflict diamonds. Conflict diamonds are gems that are mined in areas under the control of rogue factions opposed to internationally recognized governments, and used to fund military opposition to those governments. Next month, Warner Bros. studios will release the Leonardo DiCaprio film Blood Diamond, which is set against Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s. Def Jam/Sony recording artist Nas has signed on to contribute to the film’s score.