From the editor - Innovation: Africa

“We are committed to bring water where there is drought, to bring light where there is darkness, to bring hope and dignity where there is despair,” Yaari said.

August 1, 2019 09:49
3 minute read.
From the editor - Innovation: Africa

Sivan Yaari in Africa. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Sivan Yaari, founder and CEO of Innovation: Africa, was a popular keynote speaker at a well-attended event held at Jerusalem’s World Mizrachi headquarters on July 8, in honor of 11 top South African academics brought to Israel for a week by the South African Israel Forum together with the Hebrew University.
“We are committed to bring water where there is drought, to bring light where there is darkness, to bring hope and dignity where there is despair,” Yaari said in her PowerPoint presentation, summing up her vision.
Yaari, 41, who founded Innovation: Africa as a New York-based nonprofit in 2008 (it was originally named Jewish Heart for Africa), lives with her husband and three children in Tel Aviv.
In the past decade, the growing organization has used Israeli technology to provide light, water and agriculture to more than 1.5 million people in 10 African countries, including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Cameroon, Congo, Senegal and South Africa.
A dynamic personality, Yaari began her presentation talking about how she – a Sabra who moved to France with her parents – ended up coming back to Israel to serve in the IDF.
After her military service, she happened to meet the owner of Jordache jeans, who offered her a job as a quality controller in his factory in Madagascar.
“That is how, 21 years ago, I arrived on the continent,” she said. “And I’ve never left.”
As Yaari began to spend time in villages in Madagascar and other places in Africa, she recalled, “Quite quickly you can see that the main challenge that many people have is due to a lack of energy. Because there was no energy, people couldn’t pump water and schools could not offer a good education.”
The more she traveled across Africa, the more Yaari realized that this was a problem that needed to be addressed. With passion and compassion, she described the harsh conditions with which much of Africa’s population has to contend: lacking access to fresh water and electricity, millions suffer from ill health, insufficient nutrition and poor education.
After getting her master’s degree in energy at Columbia University, Yaari began to bring “simple, cheap and reliable solar systems” to poor villages in African countries.
“Today, Innovation: Africa is a large organization operating more than 250 solar projects in 10 African countries, and just by using solar energy, we are able to bring water and electricity to schools and other public institutions.”
In honor of her work, Innovation: Africa was given the Innovation Award at the UN Global South-South Development Expo in Nairobi, and was granted special consultative status to the UN Economics and Social Council (ECOSOC).
“Innovation: Africa is one of many Israeli organizations that are doing good work around Africa and around the world,” Yaari says, modestly. “Our focus is on energy, water and food. Without energy, you can’t have access to water, and without water, you can’t have access to food, good nutrition and sustainability.”
I asked her to explain what, in her opinion, had made Israel a worldwide leader in innovation, in general, and water, in particular, going back decades to drip irrigation.
“I think that because we’re a small country – and in the 1800s the country was drying up – so out of necessity, we had to create new ways to bring water to the desert and grow crops,” Yaari said. “Today, we are a strong country, and we at Innovation: Africa believe that it’s not enough to just think out of the box, but to share the technologies we develop with others.”
Sivan Yaari is a shining light for Israel, Africa and the world.
Steve Linde

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