Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with at least 15 leaders and representatives of African countries on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York. The meeting was part of Israel’s continuing bid to renew and rejuvenate ties with African states. These efforts have included high-level visits to African countries in recent weeks, as well as efforts to restore or strengthen ties with several Muslim-majority countries on the continent.
The meeting was followed by an “Israeli Technology and Innovation for Africa” exhibit attended by Netanyahu and “dozens of African leaders” at which, the statement noted, Netanyahu and his wife Sara “were welcomed with applause.” The event brings Israeli tech firms to present their products to African leaders attending the GA.
Earlier this week, Israeli media reports claimed Netanyahu was hoping to meet with the president of Chad at the General Assembly. The meeting between Netanyahu and Idriss Déby could take place on the sidelines of the GA, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday. The Muslim-majority Republic of Chad, in central Africa, cut diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in the 1970s. Some 55 percent of Chad’s 13.5 million residents are Muslim. About 40% are Christian. Last month, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold paid a visit to Chad for talks with senior officials.
Netanyahu has declared the establishment of diplomatic ties with all African nations a strategic goal for his government, and visited sub-Saharan Africa last month. During his August trip to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia — the first prime ministerial visit to sub-Saharan Africa in three decades — Netanyahu announced that Tanzania intended to open her first-ever embassy in Israel. He also said the leaders of his host countries vowed publicly to push for Israel to regain observer status at the African Union.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Netanyahu recently met with the president of Somalia, Hassan Shekh Mohamud, in the first high-level contact between the two countries. Somalia, a mostly Sunni Muslim country and a member of the Arab League, has never recognized the State of Israel.