African ministers in Israel for first-ever agricultural summit

Top officials from 13 West African states come to Jerusalem to discuss sustainable productivity in arid and semi-arid regions

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Delegates from West Africa at an agricultural conference in Israel, December 5, 2016 (courtesy Mashav)
Delegates from West Africa at an agricultural conference in Israel, December 5, 2016 (courtesy Mashav)

In a sign of growing ties between Israel and Africa, Jerusalem is hosting seven ministers and many other top officials from over a dozen Western African countries at an agricultural conference in Israel this week.

The three-day conference which began Monday, entitled “Enhancing Sustainable Agricultural Productivity in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions,” is co-organized by Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and the Economic Community of West African States, a union known as ECOWAS.

“During the conference, the ministers and delegates will learn about agricultural technology produced in Israel, with an emphasis on dealing with arid climatic conditions, a topic which African agriculture ministers are particularly interested in due to a similar climate prevailing in their countries,” said Jonathan Blum, a spokesperson for Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who will address the group.

“The conference is held against a backdrop of warming relations between West Africa and Israel, and constitutes fertile ground for the further development of relations both on political and economic levels,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry read.

The delegates to the conference are the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Cape Verde, Gambia, and Sierra Leone; and senior officials from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal.

Improving ties with Africa has been one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key foreign policy priorities, which led to his July visit to four countries in Eastern Africa, where he met with seven heads of state. Two months later he held a meeting with more than 15 African leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Two weeks ago, he announced that “in a few months” he would be going to West Africa to meet another 15 African heads of state. Netanyahu had planned to attend the ECOWAS summit in Nigeria this month, but the government in Abuja apparently blocked his participation.

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