Netanyahu to travel to Africa for second time in year

After last summer’s historic four-country tour through East Africa, PM now heading to June 4 economic summit in Liberia

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board their airplane to Africa for an official state visit in the continent on July 4, 2016 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board their airplane to Africa for an official state visit in the continent on July 4, 2016 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Liberia next month for a one-day summit of 15 West African nations.

His trip, scheduled for June 4, will mark the second time in a year that the Israeli prime minister has visited Africa. In early July 2016, Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier in decades to travel to the continent when he visited four East African nations: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Next month, Netanyahu is slated to attend the annual conference by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization that includes 15 nations with a combined population of some 320 million. The prime minister was invited to the 51th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Community in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.

Besides economic cooperation, ECOWAS also deals with regional security issues.

In December, Jerusalem hosted seven ministers and many other top officials from over a dozen Western African countries at an agricultural conference in Israel, which was co-sponsored by ECOWAS and Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. “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,” the Foreign Ministry declared at the time.

Starting in early 2016, Netanyahu has made strengthening ties with Africa one of his main foreign policy goals. Besides seeking new markets for Israeli agriculture, hi-tech and security know-how, the prime minister was also keen to improve African nations’ voting record on Israel-related matters in international forums such as the United Nations Security Council or UNESCO.

“In seizing the future, Israel is coming back to Africa in more than a verbal way,” he said in February.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to attend a Africa-Israel summit in Togo in October, where the prime minister is expected to meet with the leaders of 25 African countries to discuss cooperation in the fields of high-tech, security and development.

Last July, ECOWAS President Marcel Alain de Souza became the first leader of the organization to visit Israel. He met with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin to discuss economic cooperation and regional security issues.

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