Netanyahu (centre) with different east african heads of stage

Mgeni njoo, mwenyeji apone. This a Swahili proverb meaning, “Let the guest come so that the host or hostess may benefit (get well).” This rings true with Israeli Prime Minister, BENJAMIN NETANYAHU’s recent 4-day visit to East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia) from 4th– 8th July 2016. With this historic visit, he became the first Israeli prime minister to visit the continent in at least 30 years.

Diplomatic relations between Israel and African countries date back to the 1960s, but ties with most nations in the continent were severed in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Netanyahu’s visit is therefore suggested as an open quest to change decades of shaky African-Israeli relations. However, for whatever reasons fuelled his return, his arrival signalled good tidings to come for Africa. Among the list on his agenda included diplomacy, business, health, agriculture and security issues.

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On July 4th, the first day of his visit, Netanyahu went to Uganda, where an emotional moment was experienced due to the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Israel’s rescue operation, in which Netanyahu’s brother was killed in 1976. Therefore, while in Uganda, he emphasized how Israel will assist African countries in the area of anti-terrorism. In line with this, Israel pledged their willingness to share intelligence information with Kenyan security forces. “The best way to fight terrorism is reporting any suspect activities to relevant authorities,” Netanyahu said.

On the business side of things, Netanyahu’s office confirmed that Israel is launching a $13m aid package to strengthen economic ties and cooperation with African countries. Netanyahu was accompanied by approximately 80 business leaders from more than 50 companies in order to forge commercial ties with African companies and countries. Kenyan businessman ALBERT ATTIAS, chairman of the Jewish community in Kenya, told Al Jazeera, “With the visit of the prime minister, I believe that the relations of Kenya and Israel will be solidified and expanded.”

While in Kenya, the Israeli Prime Minister also highlighted his intention to encourage more students from Africa going to Israel for training. Kenya’s President Kenyatta said, “We are working to ensure our education evolves to meet the needs of our local market and the global market of the 21st century. Again, that’s another area where I hope we will learn from Israel.” Netanyahu and Kenyatta flagged off a group of 100 students at State House, Nairobi, who are going for a training programme in Israel to learn irrigation and automated agriculture technologies.

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His last stop, Ethiopia, saw several meetings held where delegates of both countries discussed ways to increase their bilateral cooperation. Key cooperation agreements were signed by the two countries during business summits conducted between the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Israeli Export Institute.

These agreements, where, including other things, visa restrictions are lessened, should see business thrive between Israel and Africa. A sea of opportunities has been unveiled and it is up to the East African people to take the null by the horns. “Come and invest in Kenya; the opportunities are great, there is an inflection point where the economy can take off. You can be part of the yeast in this cake,” Netanyahu urged his countrymen.

However, Israel cannot compete with the amount of resources China is pouring into Africa. According to an organization known as AidData, China has backed over 1600 projects in Africa worth an estimated $75 billion. Israel, though, boasts her competencies in security, agriculture and business are top of the line. This could be a learning curve for Africa. However, this should be a mutual partnership. “I said ‘Israel also needs Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, all the countries,’” Netanyahu said.

Following hot on the heels of Netanyahu, India’s Prime Minister, NARENDRA MODI visited Kenya. He too came with a bag of goodies. There’s no better time to be a businessman on the African continent.

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