On Africa Day, it is important to think about the future of the African Union (AU) and the people of Africa.
In a previous opinion piece published in 2021, I submitted that the admission of Israel to observer status at the African Union notwithstanding, dissent from at least four out of the 55 African countries was a significant recognition of the strategic centrality of Israel to African countries.
I argued the accession to the observer status of Israel should serve as a clarion invitation to those dissenting African countries to join the Israel-Africa engagement and enjoy enhanced collaborations between African and Israeli communities.
Disappointingly, the decision by the AU to deliberate and investigate Israel’s observer status in February, was erroneously promulgated without recognising the enduring historical and developmental dimensions between Israeli and African communities, which dates back to the 15th century and biblical scriptures.
It is not in doubt that to this day, Israeli organisations continue to operate in almost all African countries, harmoniously working with their African counterparts to implement an assortment of socio-economic support programmes, which help sustain community livelihoods across the continent.
These are far-reaching and go as far as to include food security programmes in semi and arid areas in African countries, such as in the Turkana region of Kenya.
Closer to home, an Israeli programme working across South Africa has recently restored clean water access to 500 000 South Africans. The recent century has also witnessed a global surge of interest in Africa’s sustainable development, enlisting heightened interest from countries, such as the United States and China.
Nonetheless, the enduring Israeli-Africa historical engagement has culminated in a renewed interest by leaders of Israel to continue supporting Africa’s sustainable community-based development projects through the use of Israeli technology and innovation.
It is common knowledge that on 22 September 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s former UN ambassador, Danny Danon, met with African leaders on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly to discuss avenues for supporting Israeli innovations in Africa.
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Netanyahu told leaders that “Africa excites our imagination; we would like to propose a friendship and partnership with every one of your countries”.
The friendship proposal resulted in the signing on 8 December 2016, of a joint declaration of intent in Jerusalem between the Jewish International Development Agency, Mashav and the West Africa Economic Community Ecowas to promote bilateral agricultural cooperation in accordance with the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Danon, in essence, I still believe, signifies the commitment of Israeli and Jewish political leaders to the Africa-Israeli engagement partnership, grounded in the enduring historicity between Jewish and African communities.
The Africa-Israel engagement seeks to improve sustainable and social equity through the promotion of more accessible agricultural technology in areas stricken by poverty, drought and hunger, including the promotion of entrepreneurship as a major tool in reducing poverty, creating sustainable communities, and reinvigorating the environment as the best way to deal with the challenges of poverty and job creation in African countries.
The decision ignored to take into consideration the positive effects of the historical Jewish-Africa engagement, with particular focus on broad socio-economic issues, such as agriculture technology transfer to improve food security, irrigation systems – including water – and sanitation.
This decision is also misguided to the extent that decision constrains the ability of many meaningful Africans from engaging in the exchange of views on the beneficial importance of the Israel-Africa engagement on food security, nutrition, water, sanitation and technology transfer in African countries.
The future of our continent for which the current leaders will not be held accountable should not be crafted on the basis of the decisions of our current political leaders, who lack effective foresight for Africa’s future.
The finalisation of Israel’s observer status at the AU must be implemented. And we must motivate for all African countries to join the call to increase engagements between Israel and Africa so that our people may benefit from an enhanced historical and developmental collaboration between African and Israeli communities.
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