Africa is abundant in gemstones with about 1,900 gem variations, but limited government support for small scale miners means millions are lost through smuggling and investors remain cautious due to poor legislation. Ciara Lee reports on Kenya's plans to make the sector a more substantial revenue earner.
Blue sapphire, aquamarine and rubies - just some of the precious gems mined in Kenya. Most sell off their finds in uncut forms. But the government has a plan to boost their value - exporting the finished product instead. It's opened a new centre in the south of the country which will enable the cutting and polishing of stones for export. And at the same time growing the sector and creating jobs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MINING CABINET SECRETARY, DAN KAZUNGU SAYING: "This act is set to promote mining as an all inclusive sector, hence to improve the standards of living for Kenyans, especially those in mineral rich communities as under it, mining resources are distributed fairly by the national government, and we've put this in law." The announcement came as the country hosted its first Gems and Jewellery Trade Fair, attracting investors, miners and buyers from around the world. The number of artisanal miners in Africa stood at 30 million in 2016 up from about 10 million 15 years ago. But Kenya's mining sector is a relatively small contributor to national output, accounting for less than 1 percent. (SOUNDBITE) (Swahili) GEM STONE MINER, ATHANAS SENJA, SAYING: "If the government supports us and continues holding these events to educate us and link us with investors and buyers this will really help the sector grow." Millions of gems have been lost through smuggling over the years and poor legislation has left investors cautious. The government is hoping this fresh support will help get more small scale miners licensed. And in return put an extra shine in Kenya's economy.