Kenya is the best placed country in Africa to be the continent’s gem trading hub
Profile story Compiled by Linda Ogwell-Teunissen
Kenya is slowly and surely becoming a force in the mining sector in the East African Region. This industry has generated a lot of ianterest. It is estimated that its full potential, the industry should contribute to at least 10% of the country’s GDP. We had a chat with Alice Muthama, one of the key players in the sector to give us a short outlook of the industry.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?
My name is Alice Muthama. I am a director of Rockland Kenya Limited and the Managing Director at Rockland Jewellers. I serve on the Board of Directors of the International Coloured Gemstone Association as well as the Board of the Association of Women in Extractives in Kenya. My academic background / qualifications are LLB LAW with an MA International Public Relations both from Cardiff University in Wales.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO MINING?
That’s an interesting question. For me – coloured / precious stones have been the family business for as long as I can remember. My father, Sen. Johnson Nduya Muthama founded Rockland Kenya Limited over 25 years ago, and has been in the gemstone industry for more than 35 years. From an early age, my school holidays were often spent at the mines or working on stones in the office and so I knew precisely where my future lay, in the family business, in coloured stones and the mining in general.
WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO?
From 2005 – 2015 I was actively involved initially as the Deputy Managing Director and thereafter as the Managing Director for Rockland Kenya Limited – the mining company. Post 2015, I serve as a Director of Rockland Kenya Limited, and have since 2016 focused on the establishment of Rockland Jewellers, which is a high end, customer focused and there custom made retail space. We pride ourselves in offering the custom made service – which is itself a unique service in this market. At Rockland Jewellers, we take the time to get to know you, so as to ensure that the final product is not only unique to you – but has a story to it as all jewellery should be – special, exquisite and personal.
WHO IS YOUR TARGET?
We target all Kenyans. Our access to cut coloured stones is unrivalled in the local industry, and we have invested in a cutting factory which processes all rough material. Because, we mine and cut for ourselves our prices are very reasonable and we are able to create a product that will suit every pocket. It is important for Kenyans to know, appreciate, understand and consume local product – which is a push that we are also working towards. It is amazing to consider that a majority of Kenyans are not aware of the mineral resource within the country – that is accessible to them. We believe the more – they know / are aware of the same – the more likely they are to purchase and this can only lead to growth within the local retail industry.
WHAT KINDS OF MINERALS / PRECIOUS STONES DO YOU DEAL IN
At Rockland Kenya Limited, we are actively engaged in mining Ruby. We also trade in Aquamarine, Spinel, Tanzanite, Tsavorite, Amethsyt, Red Garnet and Colour Change Garnet.
HOW HAS YOUR JEWELRY BEEN RECEIVED IN KENYA?
The reception of our jewelry has been well received, and we are looking forward to growing our presence and market share. We offer a unique and different way to purchasing jewelry and our prices are reasonable thus giving is an edge / niche that is ours.
WHAT IS YOUR ANALYSIS OF THE MINING INDUSTRY IN KENYA AS A PLAYER? ESPECIALLY AFTER THE PASSING OF THE MINING ACT IN 2016?
The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Mining states that one of its goals is to make Kenya into a gem trading hub that will see the industry achieve its full potential in its contribution to the country’s economy. However, there remains a substantial amount of work that needs to go into realizing this goal. The industry through the Kenya Chamber of Mines and the Association of Women in Extractives is currently very active in engaging the Ministry to try and address some of the challenges within the Act and the Regulations that the industry is facing to ensure that Kenya offers a viable trading atmosphere and market. There remains quite a number of regulations that we are engaging the Ministry on to ensure that the same is achieved. In addition to the same – through the Association of Women in Extractives – we launched the Kenya Gem and Jewelry Fair, whose first edition took place earlier this year. This is a step in the right direction – and it is our belief with more events like this as well as the push from industry and stakeholders and the governments support that we will achieve the objective of making Kenya a Gem Trading hub.
WHAT ELSE DO WE NEED TO DO TO CATCH UP WITH COUNTRIES LIKE TANZANIA?
I am believer in Kenya and I genuinely believe that Kenya remains the best placed country in Africa to be the continent’s gem trading hub. In the past, Kenya held this position, and there is no reason why we cannot reclaim it. As mentioned above, the industry and other stakeholders are engaging with the Ministry not only on the regulations, but also on the support of events such as the Kenya Gem and Jewelry Trade Fair to ensure an enabling environment for foreign investors, miners, dealers and buyers, where Kenya is the place to go in order to access the mineral that Africa has to offer, which is a great deal.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO DURING YOUR FREE TIME? DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
I am a mother of two beautiful daughters. In my spare time I like to engage in charity work – especially working in the low income areas and in informal settlements.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE ASPIRATIONS
My future aspirations are to see Kenya realize its potential in terms of the growth within the Gemstone trading and mining industry, and to create a recognizable and trusted brand for Jewelry that Kenyans will associate with, trust and be the go-to for that special gift.