This year, the annual celebration of Africa Day is especially festive because Israel and Africa are also marking 50 years since Israel first established diplomatic relations with an African state – Ghana in 1957.
On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a special program and reception in honor of Africa Day, marking 50 years of relations between Israel and the African nations. Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni addressed the invited guests, including guest of honor Mr. Sampson K. Boafo, Minister of Chieftaincy and Culture of Ghana. The festive program was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the Israel-Africa Friendship Society.
Africa Day is celebrated annually throughout Africa and in other parts of the world on May 25, and in Israel. This year, Africa Day is especially festive due to the fact that Israel and Africa are also marking 50 years since Israel first established diplomatic relations with an African state – Ghana in 1957.
Greetings by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni
Honorable Minister of Culture and Chieftaincy of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. Boafo,
Excellency Ambassador of the State of Eritrea and Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps in Israel, Mr. Tesfamariam Tekeste Debbas,
Excellencies the Ambassadors and Heads of Missions, Distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Honorable guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to host this important and special event in the name of the Government of Israel on the occasion of Africa Day, especially this year, 2007, which also marks the jubilee year of the establishment of the first diplomatic relations between Israel and the African continent.
Celebrating Africa Day, a most important event on the continent’s calendar, has become a tradition in Israel. Africa and Israel share more than a geographical border – which is the sole continental one that Africa has. Africa and Israel also maintain a close friendship as well as a similar elements of our history. Indeed, Israel and many of the African states achieved independence from a foreign rule after a long struggle for self-determination and for recognition by the nations of the world.
Concerning the friendship, some African ambassadors have recently manifested it, in a frank and natural manner. They participated in the Jerusalem Day program at the Knesset – not for political reasons but rather for spiritual ones. They simply knew that they were honoring a city which is beloved and cherished by the peoples that they represent.
The diplomatic relations between Israel and Africa began in the middle of the 20th century, in 1957 to be exact, with the establishment of relations between Israel and Ghana. Actually, you might say that they began three thousand years ago, with the visit that the Queen of Sheba paid to King Solomon. It is true that our relations have had ups and downs – they flourished in the 1950s and ’60s, they were severed in the ’70s, and were renewed in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, the relations between Israel and the vast majority of the African states can be qualified as excellent. Our ties have, all over again, been constantly growing stronger since the 1980s and express themselves in cooperation in a wide variety of areas.
In Africa as well as in Israel, the people recognize that the key to economic and social development is to make the most of the country’s human resources. Thousands of trainees from Africa have participated in various programs in Israel, and hundreds of Israeli experts have conducted on-the-spot training programs and projects in the continent. Struggling for their own survival, the peoples of Israel and Africa have, over the years, shared their knowledge and experience in sustainable development areas such as agriculture, health and community development.
Both sides have mutually benefited and continue to benefit from this cooperation. Our mutual trade has been steadily growing, from 400 million dollars in 1988 to $1.32 billion today. But these figures are still far from reflecting our full economic potential. I sincerely hope that in the next future we will see a more significant increase in our reciprocal commercial exchange.
But, beyond political and economic interests, the ties between our countries have always been linked by a deep affinity and mutual concern. Both our peoples have also suffered of racist persecution. Israel cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of innocent people from Darfur who have been turned into refugees in their own country. Therefore Israel is sending aid to the victims of this tragedy, wherever possible and will continue to explore additional ways to help.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to conclude my remarks by extending to the countries and peoples of Africa our warm wishes for a successful future of economic and social development.
I would like to take advantage of this platform and this special occasion to call on the organization that unites the African states, that works for their advancement and welfare and whose "birthday" we are celebrating today – the African Union – to improve and normalize its relations with Israel. It will give a true collective expression to the many bilateral friendships we enjoy with most of its member states. It will mean clear and neat rejection of fanaticism and of extremism by the African Union. It will reinforce the camp of the moderates and it will contribute to create a favorable atmosphere for the building of peace, of security and of prosperity.
In other words, the major needs of the peoples of Israel, of its neighbors and of Africa. Long live our friendship. Long live Israel. Long live Africa.