Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent Tuesday “recruiting” business and investors for Kenya at an economic forum held in Nairobi.
A delegation of some 80 Israeli entrepreneurs from more than 50 leading companies joined their Kenyan counterparts from more than 150 companies, mainly in agriculture, water, communications and homeland security.
The forum was aimed at increasing bilateral economic cooperation to boost Israeli exports and strengthen bilateral ties. It was hoped both sides would benefit from increased opportunities for business meetings and work contacts.
“Come closer, come and invest in Kenya,” Netanyahu cajoled from the podium. “This is an opportunity. We have strategic interest, we have national and international interests, but I wouldn’t be asking you to do this if I didn’t think that you would benefit.
“The opportunities I think are great. I think that there is an inflection point, in a certain point that an economy can take off. You can be part of that, the yeast in this cake. And I think that when you have the backing of our governments together, we can help you.”
Prudently, Netanyahu did not deny the risk involved in doing business in Africa. But he also said the investment would be worth the risk, and he said Israel — and its partner, Kenya — would do their best to help.
“We can help reduce some of the risk. We can’t eliminate it altogether. For God’s sake, you wake up in the morning, you take a risk by crossing the street. But cross the street. We’ll help you cross the street. We can do that. And you should recognize that there are opportunities both vis-à-vis the Kenyan government and vis-à-vis private companies here. And that includes security.
Security means that you could operate vis-à-vis the Kenyan government with our support, but you could operate also vis-à-vis private companies, security companies that will have that relationship with the Kenyan government and the various tasks and needs that are here.”
The prime minister also shared with his audience the steps being taken to provide support and assistance for Israeli industry in penetrating the Kenyan market.
For a start, a bilateral economic cooperation agreement was signed on Tuesday, and the two sides agreed t o open a commercial attache’s office in Nairobi in the coming year.
“The Cabinet has [also] approved a plan to assist exporters to Africa” with funds for marketing and participation in fairs, and for feasibility studies, he added. In addition, Kenya and Israel are due to sign a financial protocol that is expected to lower the risks entailed in doing business in Kenya.
A similar seminar is slated to be held in Ethiopia on Thursday. The seminars are under the aegis of the Kenyan President, Ethiopian Prime Minister and the Israeli Prime Minister.
Israeli companies held successful meetings with approximately 100 Kenyan companies and relevant government representatives, according to one member of the delegation. He added that deals between Israeli and Kenyan companies were closed Tuesday and that many others were due to be closed as a result of the day’s meeting.
Prime Minister’s Office Director General Eli Groner said there was good infrastructure for productive work between the two countries’ business sectors. “Israeli businesspeople are known for not hesitating to fly around the world for commercial opportunities,” Groner said.
“In Africa they found potential customers who are thirsty for cooperation.”
Hana Levi Julian