As the West seeks to make further inroads in trade and economic collaboration with developing African countries, a seemingly unlikely frontrunner has emerged in the Middle Eastern nation of Israel. Just today, a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kenyan President William Ruto saw the pair agree to eliminate trade barriers between the two countries; as Ruto went on to state, “We must exploit these opportunities. There are a wide range of exports that deserve to reach the Israel market.” Meanwhile, following a visit last week Israel’s Economy Minister Nir Bakat pledged agricultural investment in Morocco, in an effort to increase the Saharan nation’s access to fertile land. Such efforts to strengthen ties with African nations comes in light of Israel’s broader efforts to increase economic and political collaboration with neighboring countries. In 2020 it ratified “The Abraham Accords” with the United Arab Emirates, in an effort to promote tourism and cross collaboration between the two economies as well as advancing cooperation between the two nations’ militaries. Since its ratification, the Abraham Accords have been extended to Morocco and Sudan, with Prime Minister Netanyahu reflecting, “This is a new era. An era of true peace. A peace that is expanding with other Arab countries- three of them (Sudan, Morocco, and Bahrain as well) in recent weeks.”
Worth mentioning is that Israeli investment has been guided by a greater emphasis on strengthening Arab relations than necessarily African relations, arguably due to Arab nations’ closer proximity to Israel, their significantly larger economic capacity, and perhaps most of all, the need to de-escalate tensions between the Jewish state and its mostly Islamic surroundings. Nonetheless, “It is important to note,” expresses Irit Back with public policy think tank Institut Montaigne, “that in comparison to other Western countries or China, for example, Israel’s foreign policy initiatives remain marginal. For Israel, African states therefore represent a vital opportunity to establish diplomatic relations on an international stage.” While the Middle Eastern country has undoubtedly taken advantage of such an opportunity through its aforementioned examples as well as its larger maintenance of diplomatic relations with over 40 sub-Saharan countries, efforts at further involvement hit a roadblock in February when Israel lost its observer status at the African Union, which it had previously attained back in 2021. Such an ousting, however, largely reflected the efforts of Algeria who had accused Morocco of using Israeli spyware against them.
Overall, however, the future looks promising for African benefits from Israeli involvement, as the two sides further talks over security and agriculture. Israel ranks 16th in the Global Innovation Index, and is set to average stronger economic growth than both the United States and China over the next five years. This, compounded with its comparative advantage in medical technology and computer machinery, could translate to a large upside for African countries who wish to profit off of more complex goods and later stages of supply chains. Although resource rich, many sub-Saharan African countries fail to secure much, if any, of the value added found in the development of raw resources to final goods. If African countries could land deals with increasingly innovative Israeli technology, there remains the tremendous potential to grow economic output and wealth in the historically undeveloped continent.