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June 16, 2011 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-06-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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new investments,
Israel again is looking to Africa. T

Dina Kraft
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Herzliya, Israel

S

oon after Israel itself was born,
it began investing significant
resources in development assis-
tance in Africa.
Israel's official development work there
waned over the decades, but in recent
years Africa again has become a target
for Israeli development work by non-
profit organizations and corporations.
Particularly in areas like water resource
management, agriculture, renewable
energy, infrastructure and telemedicine,
experts say Israel has much to offer the
developing continent.
"In the same way we are a high-tech
power, we can become a development
tech power because our problems are
their problems and our expertise fits their
needs:' said Aliza Belman Inbal of Tel Aviv
University's Hartog School of Government
and Policy.
New thinking is beginning to take root
that it is in Israel's interest both economi-
cally and as a tool to boost its interna-
tional standing to again look toward
Africa.
"So many things we do are so relevant
for these countries:' she said. "We have
the capacity to help Africa in ways other
countries cannot and to help build a posi-

24 June 16 . 2011

tive agenda to show Israel can offer good
to the world."
Early Israeli leaders such as Golda Meir
had dispatched agricultural and other
experts across Africa in a policy that
mixed altruism with the hope that newly
independent African states might become
staunch allies.
The renewed interest of Israeli humani-
tarians, businesspeople and govern-
ment officials in Africa can be seen in
Israeli medical missions that have gone
to the furthest reaches of war-ravaged
Democratic Republic of Congo and busi-
ness pouring resources into developing
Africa's booming cellular phone market,
which is the fastest growing in the world.
Small nongovernmental organiza-
tions are getting involved, like Jewish
Heart for Africa, which introduced Israeli
solar technologies to produce electric-
ity in orphanages, schools and clinics in
Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.
"Israelis really do like to share their
know-how, and we believe in helping
build African communities:' said Shachar
Zahavi, executive director of IsraAID, a
consortium of Israeli and Jewish aid orga-
nizations that work in developing coun-
tries, including those like Japan and Haiti
that require disaster assistance.
"We are seeing a younger generation
of Israelis who, during their post-army
travels, want to do something meaningful
with their time abroad:' Zahavi said. "At
the same time, we are seeing more and

more companies looking to build and
adapt their products for the developing
world."
On May 29, several hundred people
gathered in Herzliya for an IsraAID-
organized conference on Israeli involve-
ment in Africa. Bob Geldof, the Irish
rock singer who staged the 1985 Live Aid
concert for famine relief in Africa and
its 2005 counterpart advocating for debt
relief, delivered the keynote address.
"It's a great thing you are doing today
because the world knows that this region
is convulsed in its own problems:' Geldof
said. In his speech, he urged Israel not to
use the Israeli-Arab conflict as an excuse
to refrain from engaging in the develop-
ing world.
"The Jewish people for centuries have
used their intellect and culture to be open
— that's what you guys de said Geldof,
who had a Jewish grandmother. "Do not
be forced from turning away from the
world."
Israel's development aid to Africa
shrunk to its current low levels following
the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when most
African states severed ties with Israel.
That ended a period in which Israel sent
some 5,000 experts in agriculture, water
management and other fields throughout
the developing world.
Mashav, the Israeli government agency
responsible for aid programs, was one of
the largest departments in the Foreign
Ministry in the 1960s, but its budget has

Solar panels made with Israeli

technology are being installed at the

Natan School in Nawansekese Village,

Uganda, as part of a project sponsored

by Jewish Heart for Africa.

shrunk drastically. Today, Israel gives
markedly less in overseas aid according
to gross national income than most of
its counterparts in the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development.
Israel currently has relatively little trade
targeted toward Africa. In 2010, Israeli
exports to Africa, excluding diamonds,
reached $1.3 billion, as compared to $8.4
billion to Asia or $12.7 billion to the
United States, according to Dan Catarivas,
director of the foreign trade division of
the Israeli Manufacturers Association.
But Africa's potential as one of the
world's fastest-growing economic areas
is beginning to attract the attention of
Israeli and international firms.
A recent report by McKinsey, the inter-
national consulting firm, suggested that
the future survival of global companies
will depend on their ability to focus on
what they term "innovation to win in low-
cost, high-growth countries" like those
found in Africa. According to McKinsey,
in the next decade such emerging-market
economies, now on the sidelines, will
become central global economic players.

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