Ayalon to launch two projects in Africa

Warmer ties emerge from Arab Spring fallout, growing Islamic radicalism, Iran concerns.

Danny Ayalon 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Danny Ayalon 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will travel to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia on Sunday and inaugurate two high-profile projects.
The initiatives come as Israel is keen on deepening its ties with strategically valuable countries in the greater Horn of Africa region.
In Kenya, Ayalon will launch a joint program, along with German’s Minister for Economic Cooperate and Development Dirk Niebel, to rehabilitate contaminated regions adjacent to Lake Victoria.
And in Uganda, he will inaugurate an Israeli-established trauma center at a hospital in Kampala.
The projects, according to Avi Granot, deputy director-general of the Africa division in the Foreign Ministry, are part of efforts by Israel to significantly improve relations with various African countries that are increasingly looking to Israel for guidance on how to secure their borders and combat Islamic terrorism.
Granot said that hardly a week passes without high-level visitors from Africa – be they presidents, ministers or top governmental officials. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu postponed a trip to Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan that was scheduled for earlier this summer, but – according to government officials – is trying to reschedule it for early next summer.
Granot said that two processes were under way in African leading to a distinct warming of ties between Israel and a number of African states.
The first, he said, was democratization, stabilization and economic development taking place in countries such as Ghana, Botswana, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Togo, and even Rwanda. These countries are interested in Israeli expertise and investments in all spheres, from energy to agriculture, health and infrastructure development.
The other process at work, Granot said, has to do with Arab Spring, and the upheavals in North African, particularly in Libya.
There is not a country in Africa without an Islamic population, he said. And there is a concern in sub- Saharan Africa of a spread of Islamic radicalism. Furthermore, he said, the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya led to the “leakage” of a massive amount of weapons not only to the Gaza Strip, but also to sub-Saharan states as well.
Granot said the Foreign Ministry on Thursday held an intensive discussion on the situation in Mali, where Islamic radicals have essentially taken over two-thirds of the country. The situation in Mali is worrying its neighbors and other states in Africa that, Granot said, are coming to Jerusalem on a regular basis interested in hearing Israel’s assessments of what is happening in the Arab world, as well as sharing information and learning about how to secure their borders.
“In African eyes Israel has dealt phenomenally well with Islamic terrorism, and they want to learn from our experience,” he said. Granot said that in addition to an interest in intelligence cooperation, numerous African states are interested in hearing how Israel analyzes the situation, because often times they don’t have the same capability as Israel to assess what is happening in the Arab world.
The area where Ayalon is traveling, as well as other Horn of Africa countries of Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti, are especially significant for Israel, he said. Not only do Israeli planes fly over those countries on their way east, and Israeli ships pass by those countries on their way out of the Red Sea, but the region is also turning into an area where Iran is looking for influence, partly as a way of tightening the vise around Israel.
Granot denied that African migrant issue in Israel is straining relations with the Horn of Africa countries, saying that Africa itself is dealing with a massive migrant problem, with an estimated 20 million migrants throughout the continent.