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Israel and East Africa – Five takeaways from the webinar

In a week that should have been defined by our post-AGRF blues, we were rescued by yesterday’s fantastic webinar organized by the Society for International Development (SID) Israel Branch, Herzog Fox & Neeman and the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry.

Once again, we were fortunate to be able to share a platform with some fantastic speakers as we made the case for using Israel’s agricultural expertise, innovations and experience to tackle many of today’s challenges.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are our five key takeaways from the discussion:

1) East Africa is open for business

Proactive efforts are being made to encourage business and economic activity across East Africa.

Ethiopia has passed eight different laws to help attract investments and promote private sector growth. Kenya has set an ambitious 2030 target to grow and develop specific economic sectors. Throughout East Africa, Public Private Partnerships are increasingly seen as a priority and a key means to encourage activity in specific industries. These are but some of the many examples highlighting an important trend.

2) There are many promising agricultural opportunities

Many East African nations have identified agriculture as a priority sector. This is also true of water management, with several speakers highlighting the need for systems and technologies which reduce water use and allow water recycling. The demand for technological means to improve data collection and analysis to better support government policy-making was also highlighted. Considering Israel’s extensive expertise in all these fields, there is no shortage of potential partnerships.

3) Support is available for Israeli organizations looking to take the leap

Tim Bromfield highlighted the work of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change to encourage collaboration between Israel and the African continent. Amongst its many initiatives, it notably has an Israel office which supports such partnerships. The Israeli company SkyLimit also provides a range of services to help companies and organizations take that leap.

4) ‘Localized’ is the name of the game

Vital Capital’s Guido Boysen stressed the need to understand local markets and localize value propositions while Sehul Truesaw (from the Ethiopian Investment Commission) stressed the importance of establishing local links and connections.

This is also true of the solutions offered by companies and organizations. While modernizing farming methods is clearly important, Boniface Akuku (from KALRO) spoke of technology transfer initiatives failing to take root due to insufficient efforts to adapt technologies to local circumstances.

This is at the heart of Volcani International Partnerships’ ethos and our Executive Director, Danielle Abraham, emphasized the importance of favoring technology adaptation and localized innovation guided by agricultural expertise, over a mere technology ‘shopping and implementing’ approach.

5) Adopting a comprehensive value chain approach

This won’t be news to many of you, but effective agricultural initiatives require engagement across the value chain. Improving agricultural yields will be of little use if the market cannot absorb greater amounts of produce. To ensure agricultural activities translate into economic growth, the focus on staple food crops must be broadened to higher value crops, guided by market demand and value addition processes must take place locally and not abroad. This is certainly true in East Africa.

Of course, a whole value chain approach is much harder to implement. It requires a greater measure of investment in infrastructure and a far greater role for government. Yet, as Danielle explained, the Israeli agricultural experience was precisely one that adopted such an approach. The Israeli government played a decisive role in fostering a market driven environment and in enhancing the capabilities of Israel’s fledgling agricultural sector. This is an important lesson that should not be forgotten.


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