Africa eyes Israeli agtech to boost yield, food security, bilateral ties

The goal is to "build a highway" between Africa and Israel so that Africa can better benefit from the Start-up Nation.

 The African Leadership Summit took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from July 31 to August 3, 2023. (photo credit: HEARTLAND INITIATIVE)
The African Leadership Summit took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from July 31 to August 3, 2023.
(photo credit: HEARTLAND INITIATIVE)

Africa aims to leverage Israel's advanced agricultural technology to enhance its organic produce yield. This surplus could be marketed to both Israel and global markets, simultaneously strengthening domestic food security, according to Segun Olusegun Olanipekun, president of the African Leadership Summit (ALS).

Earlier this month, Olanipekun headed a delegation to Israel comprising over 50 African leaders, including politicians and business people. Their primary objective was to explore the potential of harnessing Israeli innovation.

"We want to seize the opportunity and build this highway," said Olanipekun, also the CEO and founder of the African Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC). 

The delegation participated in a multi-day business summit as part of a collaboration with Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, Mountain View Consulting Agency and the Heartland Initiative. The events were hosted at the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv and the Ramada Hotel Queen Sheba Conference Hall, along with several site visits.

The participants came from various corners of Africa, including South Africa, Nigeria, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and Angola.

 The African Leadership Summit took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from July 31 to August 3, 2023. (credit: HEARTLAND INITIATIVE)
The African Leadership Summit took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from July 31 to August 3, 2023. (credit: HEARTLAND INITIATIVE)

Olanipekun launched the AICC 10 years ago, hosting its first summit in 2013 in Jerusalem. The goal is to "build a highway" between Africa and Israel so that Africa can better benefit from the Start-up Nation.

"We have observed the start-up culture, the way Israel uses entrepreneurs to unlock the Israeli economy, and we want to see that in different parts of Africa," Olanipekun explained. 

Continued visits to the holy land

The group tries to visit Israel every two years so African leaders can experience what is happening in the Holy Land firsthand. It also allows them to meet with potential partners and close deals. 

Historically, these trips have benefited companies operating in the energy and agriculture sectors. Additionally, they have fostered valuable connections between Israeli officials and their African counterparts.

Overseeing these efforts is Yonathan Ben Yisrael, the driving force behind the Heartland Initiative, a US-based public policy platform. The initiative is tasked with identifying prospective companies within relevant domains for collaboration with their African counterparts while crafting the tour itinerary.

Olanipekun emphasized that now is the time for establishing a more balanced and reciprocal relationship, including Israeli companies visiting Africa.

"We want to create a platform where persons can come to Africa and mentor people who want to be entrepreneurs like you are in Israel," Olanipekun said, adding that he does not want to see Israeli tech helicoptered into Africa but instead adapted to meet the country's unique needs. 

Ben Yisrael said he hopes to bring a first delegation of around 20 business leaders and senior officials to Africa in the coming months. 

On Wednesday, Kenya News Agency reported that the country's Nakuru County government sought Israeli waste recycling companies to invest in curricular economy solutions for zero waste. 

According to the report, the announcement came as part of a conference call with Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Michael Lotem about the prospect of partnering with Israeli companies to provide clean water to residents and enhance wastewater reuse in the county. 

Kenya already plans to inaugurate its first "Zion Forest" in Machakos County next month to celebrate Israel's 75th anniversary and 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The project, a partnership of the Office of the First Lady of Kenya Mama Rachel Ruto, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund, the Kenya Forest Service and the Machakos County Government, is expected to include a minimum of 5,000 trees, Yahel Margovsky-Lotem, a diplomat and the wife of ambassador Lotem, told The Jerusalem Post last month. 

Kenya, like Israel, has a semi-arid climate, making it challenging to plant. In 2017, Kenya and KKL-JNF signed a memorandum of understanding to work on growth initiatives.

Olanipekun told the Post that the signing of the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain has made it easier for Africa to have normal relations with Israel. 

Moreover, he said, he believes that Africa's growing Christian community can help find common ground with Israelis because they believe in the same God. 

"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is our God," he said. "For over 2,000 years, we have had a history of hostility between Jews and Christians. Now, it is time to find common ground and forge ties that can bless the whole world.

"We need to be committed to building bridges, not fences," he continued. "The future belongs to Israel and Africa."