Dar es Salaam. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarked on his first trip as premier to Africa, on his main agenda was a fresh bid to seek new trade partners. The trip came following the approval by Israel’s cabinet, of a proposal to open offices of Israel’s Agency for International Development in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
It is the same agency that coordinates development ties between Tanzania and the Middle Eastern country. But where exactly do relations between the two nations currently stand, after the Israeli Prime Minister’s promises last year of a “big return to Africa”?
When will Israel reopen its embassy in Tanzania?
About a year ago, the Israeli government opened a visa office in Dar es Salaam. The next move – hopefully next year – will be the establishment of Consular Services.
This is now important – especially because of increased traffic of Israelis visiting Tanzania for various purposes. We see the numbers of tourists and businesspersons from Israel to Tanzania going up.
How are relations between the two countries currently coordinated?
On the part of Israel, most development relationships with developing countries are handled through a department within the Israeli ministry of Foreign Affairs bearing the acronym MASHAV, which stands for Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.
Most of the development support to Tanzania, for instance, is coordinated via MASHAV. This is in such areas as agriculture, education and technology transfer. On social services, MASHAV established the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Centre (MCTC) aimed at training women and men from developing countries in different professions.
Let’s go to education. How ‘open’ is the educational system of Israel to outsiders?
In Israel, we believe that we don’t own knowledge. Knowledge is there to be shared. We even have a saying that translates as ‘a candle for one is a candle for all’. It is on this basis that we offer scholarships to various groups of people from different countries across the world. Those winning our scholarships have all their expenses in Israel covered. They only pay for airfare… and the reason for this is so that they would also feel committed to the responsibility of their education.
Is there a possibility of businesspersons from both countries running joint ventures?
Sure, that possibility is there. Israeli investors are highly-disciplined, and get impatient when efficiency is compromised. Their co-partners need to understand as much.
What is your quick evaluation of Tanzania’s efforts towards development?
Things are moving forward. The government is doing an impressive job in many areas – but more specifically in infrastructure. Tanzania is getting more connected via reliable and passable roads; the standard gauge railway is taking shape, and there is a huge expansion at the Julius Nyerere International Airport.
What is the health sector in Israel like – and what can Tanzania learn from it?
Our government has invested massively in public health to ensure that it provides the best services possible. One may seek services from a privately-run facility – but that is not because the public health facilities offer less in terms of quality.
This is what I see Tanzania trying to push. Take, for example, the Jakaya Kikwete Heart Institute at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam. It offers standard services. This is the ideal standard which, I believe, Tanzania is seeking to achieve. The Israeli government has been supporting the Institute by running medical camps. Under the capacity-building arrangement, we train Tanzanian nurses at JKIC. Israel – working in collaboration with the government of Tanzania – is about to build a modern Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Benjamin Mkapa Hospital that is housed within the University of Dodoma.
Is there hope for permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
Definitely. But this needs the two sides to come together and talk in earnest. Peace will come via dialogue. There is no need of involving other/external parties in this.