The Israeli effort to court Africa diplomatically is picking up steam, as Bibi is setting up a diplomatic barnstorming tour of several African countries. While many Sub-Saharan African states have been traditionally hostile to Israel, this is changing, as the Times of Israel reports:
[E]conomic progress in many African countries has begun to change the dynamics, while the threat of Islamic extremism in parts of the continent has left governments in search of advanced defense technology.
Certain countries would be especially keen to benefit from Israeli agricultural and water technology, said Na’eem Jeenah, head of the South Africa-based Afro-Middle East Center research institute.
“The manner in which Israel has presented itself to these governments is in terms of huge opportunities,” Jeenah said, adding that he believed “many countries” would be interested.
Netanyahu’s planned trip, the first by an Israeli premier to Africa since Yitzhak Rabin visited Casablanca in 1994, is a culmination of years of rapprochement.
As the memory of colonialism fades in Africa, collaboration and cooperation with Western-aligned nations will become ever more attractive. In the 1960s, African countries aligned themselves with the Arab world against the Israelis, buying into the Arab line that Israel was essentially a settler colony of Europeans intruding into the Third World. Israeli ties with apartheid-era South Africa and the United States led anti-colonial (and anti-American) despots like Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe to offer material and rhetorical support to Palestinian terrorists.
However, now that African states are facing intensified religious and ethnic conflict, African countries are less likely to look down their noses at Israel’s long experience dealing with the Palestinians and more likely to take notes. Israel’s military and defense establishment have 60 years of relatively successful counterinsurgency experience and a level of technological sophistication that far outstrips most all African countries.
The advanced technology Israel brings with it will be a welcome boost both for African conventional military capabilities and for African economies. In return, Israel hopes for a more pro-Israel African bloc at the United Nations. Sustained Israeli engagement in the region would be an encouraging sign. These developments, if they hold, are good for Israel, good for the United States, and good for Africa.