The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Ethiopian government’s Institute of Foreign Affairs foreign policy think tank signed a memorandum of understanding this week to collaborate on national security issues, including water and food security.
According to government statistics, nearly 40% of Ethiopian children are malnourished.
“The very first thing we should do is conceptually move food security from the social and economic realm to the realm of national security,” explained Dr. Yechiel M. Leiter, director-general of the JCPA. ”National security is not just a matter of tanks and planes and soldiers – it is bread. It is the ability to feed the people of one’s sovereign territory.”
Israel and Ethiopia have a long-standing relationship, which some consider to date back to the biblical narrative of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Leiter said that since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there had been a strong connection between Israel and the African continent.
Moreover, around 170,000 Ethiopian immigrants live in Israel today, according to recent data by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Ethiopia sees itself as a gateway to the African horn, which includes South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Kenya, JCPA President Dan Diker said, and it would like to develop into more of a global diplomatic power.
“If we can combine Israel’s tech power with their resources, they can become that power,” Diker said. With the signing of the MOU, the center will work to find Ethiopian Israeli technology partners that could help the country better leverage its resources.
Ethiopia has abundant natural resources, including fertile soil, water and wildlife. However, according to an article published in the journal Environmental Systems Research, many of its resources are either not adequately identified, well managed or fully exploited.
“Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the 2 or 3 that they produce today,” said Leiter. “Imagine the establishment of an agriculture industry that grows alternatives to wheat. Imagine a fish industry based on fish pond production.
“Israel has proven technology in these and other agri-areas, and we’re neighbors,” he said.
Ethiopia could become an exporter of wheat
Specifically, Leiter recommended that Ethiopia could become an exporter of wheat, which would help nearby countries like Egypt, which imports most of its grain from Europe and has been hard hit by the Ukraine-Russia war.
The Ethiopian delegation was in town as part of a program run by JCPA, which hosted an event from March 27-29 called “Trusted Regional Partnerships at a Time of Shifting Alliances” that included top-level visitors from across Africa.
On Monday, the center held a day-long conference that included opening remarks by President Isaac Herzog. Topics of discussion included prospective African-Arab-Israeli partnerships, how government can assist in deploying innovation-based solutions to enhance food and water security, and compliance and its implications for commodity industries.
JCPA began its relationship with the Institute of Foreign Affairs in November when representatives were invited to attend a conference in Addis Ababa with the support of former MK and deputy minister for national security Gadi Yevarkan.
“Academia and think tanks can – indeed must – play a key role in fostering responsibility,” Leiter said. “We are unencumbered by politics and political interests like government so that we can think and plan with wholesomeness and integrity. Nor do we have private interests at our core, like the private sector.
“Imagine we bring together a think-tank plan that’s a collaborative effort: We bring together the financial resources of the Gulf States, the technological resources of Israel, and the human resources of Africa,” he said in conclusion.
“The future is here, on this continent – but we must prepare for it.”