India, Israel and the possibilities of collaboration in Africa

The combination of Israeli innovation/conceptual abilities and India’s “collective effort, inclusive growth” approach can provide the right direction to sustainable development efforts in Africa.

Meron Reuben joins Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel on July 4. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Meron Reuben joins Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel on July 4.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Africa, the world’s second largest continent, has the enormous potential for development and growth. A strong alliance with mutual objectives and clear intent is crucial. The joint efforts of India and Israel can speed up the pace of development in Africa.
Today Africa is becoming more stable and African nations are joining hands to take the responsibility for their development, peace and security. With economic reforms, infrastructure development and sustainable use of resources, African countries are reviving their economies. According to the Doing Business 2016 report, a number of African countries have made some good attempts to improve their business environments. Five African countries are listed among the world’s top 10 improvers, namely Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Senegal and Benin.
The improvements in the regulatory environment, young demographic dividend, ongoing urbanization and a growing middle class are some of the key factors that make Africa a land of opportunities. Africa is eager to participate in the global mainstream of innovation.
Mobile and digital technology ventures such M-Pesa, MedAfrica, AgriManagr and Kilimo Salama, etc., are active in the remotest parts of the Africa. During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Israel visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked about the possibilities of the collaboration for Africa, saying: “We’re talking about also cooperation in third countries and actually working together to better the future of the people of Africa.”
India’s recent activities in Africa
During the past two years, Prime Minister Modi has visited six African countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius and Seychelles. India’s approach to cooperation with Africa is demand-driven and free of conditions. In 2015, the third India-Africa summit was held in Delhi and was attended by all 54 African countries. During the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, India offered $10 billion for development projects in Africa and a grant assistance of $ 600 million.
Solar Energy is one of the key areas India is actively working on in Africa. The Indian government has allocated $2b. for solar projects in Africa. The “Solar Mamas” initiative, which is supported by the government of India, is providing vocational training related to fabrication, repair and maintenance of solar lanterns and household solar lighting to women from Tanzania and few other African countries. Every year 80 African women receive training in India to work on solar panels and circuits. Each woman is responsible for electrifying 50 houses in her community on return. This program is for illiterate or semi-literate women. These women also learn several other skills, like basket making, bee keeping, and kitchen gardening during their stay.
India’s pan-Africa e-network project has covered 48 African countries. It is one of Africa’s biggest ICT projects. This project links seven Indian and five African universities, 12 Indian and five African super-specialty hospitals and 53 telemedicine and tele-education centers in Africa.
In 2012, India launched the Cotton Technical Assistance Program for African Countries. The project is being implemented in six African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda. India is engaged in developing capacity building institutions, infrastructure, public transport and manufacturing capabilities in Africa.
India-Africa trade has doubled in the past five years. India is the fifth largest country investing in Africa. The bilateral trade between Africa and India is expected to reach $117b. by 2021. Some 34 African countries enjoy duty-free access to the Indian market. Rural development and agriculture, energy, education and skill development, regional connectivity and quality of life are some of the key priorities of the Indian government’s cooperation programs in Africa.
Israel’s recent activities in Africa
In early July 2016, Prime Minister Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier in decades to travel to Africa when he visited four East African nations: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Since then the frequency of talks, exchanges and bilateral visits has increased. Israeli entrepreneurial spirit and innovation can play a crucial role in the development of Africa. Israel can prove to be a great partner for the young African entrepreneurs who are harnessing the power of technology. The approach of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) in Africa is integrated and sustainable, with a focus on food security, water safety, sanitation, healthcare, economic growth, community building, women’s empowerment and education.
MASHAV is working to reduce neonatal and maternal mortality in Ghana and has established the mother-and-baby neonatal unit in that country. In Ethiopia, MASHAV is involved in horticulture, healthcare, clean energy and other sustainable development programs through its Centers of Excellence. Last year, MASHAV and USAID launched the IV Phase of the Joint Cooperation Program in Smallholder Horticulture in Ethiopia. In 2016 MASHAV also launched the first Israel-Kenya Steering Committee on Water Cooperation.
Israel is also cooperating technically and financially in the Galana/ Kulalu food security project, which is one of the largest irrigation projects in Kenya. The goal of this project is to provide water for sustainable farming through development, rehabilitation and modernization of irrigation and drainage. The cooperating parties in this project are the Kenyan government, MASHAV through CINADCO, and the Israeli company Green Arava. Initiatives such as “Training the Trainers,” Project TEN, the “Kangaroo System” introduced by Israeli medical trainers, and other Israeli organizations’ projects on solar energy, drip irrigation, water and food safety, etc., have received a good response in Africa.
Last year MASHAV and ECOWAS hosted a conference related to sustainable agricultural productivity in arid and semi-arid regions. Ministers and many other top officials from a number of Western African countries participated in this conference. An Africa-Israel summit is scheduled for the coming October, too. Over 100 Israeli companies are expected to participate.
Africa is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Africa has 60% of the world’s arable land reserves. The combination of Israeli innovation/conceptual abilities and India’s “collective effort, inclusive growth” approach can provide the right direction to sustainable development efforts in Africa. Clean and renewable energy, healthcare, agriculture and rural development, vocational/technical education, and entrepreneurship promotion are some of the key areas where India and Israel need to collaborate for a better future for Africa.
The author promotes advanced technologies, startup ecosystems, and government business- and technology-related initiatives like Digital India, Make ain India and Startup India, etc.