Israel now has relations with 44 African nations, more than at any time in the country’s history. “This is the dawning of a new era in relations between Israel and African states,” according to Lynn Schler, director of the Africa Centre at Ben-Gurion University. During summer 2012, a vast array of high-profile African leaders visited Israel, and Israeli leaders visited partners in Africa, in the hopes of fostering closer economic and agricultural ties. And in May, the first-ever Nigerian delegation of high-profile businessmen attended Agritech Israel 2012, an international agricultural technology exhibition.
Since then, Israel has hosted Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi of Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara, Ghana’s King of the Ashanti tribe, Otumfuo Osei Tutu, and South Sudanese Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Betty Achan Ogurau, to name a few.
In July, South Sudan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation Akec Paul Mayom attended a ceremony in Israel celebrating the first economic agreement between Tel Aviv and Juba, capital of Africa’s newest state. It was a collaboration focused on water infrastructure.
“We see great potential in Africa, stability and openness to foreign investment,” said Avi Granot, head of the Africa Division of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “In the last year we’ve seen deeper connections being made.”
In June, Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Orite Noked, visited Rwanda and declared that Israel would soon establish a Centre of Excellence, a hub of agricultural development and innovation, in Kicukiro District, Rwanda.
“Israeli companies are looking to follow the lead China has taken in Africa,” said Schler. “From green energy to infrastructure and agriculture.”
Central Bank Governor of Swaziland, Martin Dlamini, spoke hopefully of ongoing cooperation with Israel after a meeting with Israel’s Minister of Finance, Yitzhak Cohen, in June.
“We are an agriculturally dependent economy,” Dlamini told the press. “It is important for us to meet with agricultural innovators in Israel and businessmen who would be willing to invest in developing our agricultural market.”
However, Middle Eastern investment has not always benefited African peoples.
In recent years, Arab and Jewish businessmen alike have been participating in the “African land grab.” Foreign businesses and elites now own much of Africa’s natural resources, such as mines, arable land and oil.
According to the Africa Report, Israeli diamond oligarchs – Dan Gertler, Beny Steinmetz, Lev Leviev and Arcadi Gaydamak –still dominate Israel’s public commercial presence in Africa.
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Image of water and rural agriculture in Africa via Shutterstock