Netanyahu with Togo FM Robert Dussey.
(photo credit: CHAIM ZACH / GPO)
Between 25 and 30 heads of African states are expected to attend a summit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Togo in October, Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dussey said on Monday, after extending a formal invitation to Netanyahu to participate.
“There is a China-Africa conference, a France-Africa conference, and Togo thinks we need an Africa-Israel meeting between the heads of state,” Dussey said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post after meeting Netanyahu. The prime minister accepted the invitation.
Dussey said that while some countries, such as South Africa, were not in favor of the summit, others, such as Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, were very supportive.
He said that the hope was that a group of countries would emerge that would then support Israel in international forums.
“We are 54 countries in Africa,” he said, “and we will invite 54 countries. We are expecting between 25-30 heads of states, not only from West Africa, but from all over Africa,” he said.
He added that a colleague from a North African Arab state also expressed interest, though he said it was unlikely that the head of that particular state would attend.
The Togolese foreign minister arrived in Israel on Sunday, and following his meeting with Netanyahu left Monday evening for the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa.
He said that he intends to drum up support for the summit at the meeting.
He said that Togo will also work at the AU summit for Israel to get observer status in the organization, a step that has been blocked by South Africa, which currently holds the chairmanship of the union.
A new chairman, however, is to be elected in the coming days, something that will improve Israel’s chance of regaining this status that it lost some 15 years ago. The Palestinian Authority, by contrast, does enjoy this status, which gives PA President Mahmoud Abbas the ability to address the body each year.
According to Bruno Finel, a French national with close ties to the Togolese government, who was a driving force behind the Africa-Israel summit, its goal is to gather African and Israeli leaders together to bolster political ties and business relations. The summit has been some 18 months in planning.
The summit, to be held in Togo’s capital of Lome from October 16 to 20, will focus on security, counter-terrorism, economic ties and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, health and education as well as new technology.
The parley will take place some 60 years after Israel established formal ties with Ghana, the first African country with which it did so, in 1956, and at a time when Netanyahu has made strengthening ties with Africa one of his top foreign policy objectives.
Togo is among Israel’s closest friends in Africa, with Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe having visited here three times since 2012, including last August and then again in September for the funeral of Shimon Peres.
Israel currently has diplomatic ties with 40 of the 48 sub-Saharan states.