Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw a signed agreement on Monday with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), opening the way for Israeli companies to access lucrative contracts in its Power Africa program.
Meeting at the posh King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Netanyahu sat down with Power Africa Coordinator, Andrew Herscowitz, along with the US Ambassador David Friedman and multiple African ambassadors, to join the multi-billion-dollar electrification aid project.
“I believe in Africa,” Netanyahu said at the press conference. “I believe in the partnership with Africa. And what better partnership we have, than having USAID, the US government, Israel, and African countries working together to secure a better future.”
The agreement opens the door to dozens of Israeli clean-energy firms and seeking contracts facilitated by Power Africa. The aid program seeks to provide electricity – via private companies – to some 60 million Africans by 2030.
For Netanyahu, the project portends a chance to boost his reputation – as he is currently under police investigation – as the humanitarian project electrifies broad swaths of the continent along with providing major returns to Israeli companies.
The Power Africa project could revitalize ties between sub-Saharan countries and the Jewish state, recalling the heyday of strong ties during the mid-20th century.
“It was a wonderful partnership in the ‘60s, derailed, now back on track. This locomotive is going very fast,” Netanyahu said, remarking on how in the past 18 months, he has gone to Africa three times.
According to opinion polls conducted online, public perception of Israel among everyday Africans is quite strong.
“We asked 54 countries, all over the continent; what do you think of Israel,” Netanyahu asked. “Do you think it has value, it’s an asset? Do you think your countries will benefit from contacts with Israel?”
The premier answered: “So we get startling developments that reflect changes in Israel’s international position. Because of our technological prowess in betting the lives of people in so many areas; energy is one of them. Water, agriculture, IT [information technology], security, all the elements that are important for the maintenance and development of a good, safe life.”
Ambassadors from a number of African countries attended the signing ceremony, including from Zambia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire.
According to a businessman who has been involved for years with Power Africa, not only Israeli power utilities will benefit. A number of African policy makers are looking at acquiring the latest agricultural and water-management technologies from Israel.
One Israeli-American firm, Energiya Global, is poised to invest $2 billion into wind, hydro and solar projects in 10 African countries over the next five years. Its CEO, Yosef Abramowitz was a founding partner of Power Africa and helped liaison between the Israeli and American governments.
Power Africa was set up in 2013 and it is one of the largest public-private partnerships in the world. The aid program manages some 84 projects, according to Herscowitz, with commitments totaling more than $54 billion.