Hon. Hilik Bar, Former Deputy Speaker, the Knesset, Israel
Until 2019, Hon. Hilik Bar served as a Member of the Knesset and the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, and was formerly Secretary General of the Israeli Labor Party. He is the founder and chair of the Knesset caucus for resolving the Arab-Israeli. He has taken part in advocacy and coexistence missions around the world, in the course of which he met with US Presidents, the Pope and many other world leaders in the western the Arab world. He lives in Jerusalem and holds a MA in political science and international relations from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
First, it’s a huge pleasure to be here at the ILC conference of the UPF, discussing one of the most important global topics there is – the future of Africa.
I have to admit that since the day I took some small break from politics, after quite a lot of years in politics, I gave a big part of my time to Africa.
I have to admit, I fell in love with Africa and its People, within the few visits that I had in Africa in my political career, among them in Uganda, where I met Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, my good and talented friend.
During the last year, I also took time out of my business to be an activist in an amazing organization named “Empower Africa”, an Israeli international organization founded by Mr. Ezi Rapaport who moved from the United States of America to Jerusalem, where he himself founded “Empower Africa” with the vision of promoting and advocating for development in Africa.
So, our first mission as Israelis, who want to empower Africa, is first to create a significant and deep awareness of Africa.
We want to make people realize that currently Africa is in many ways geographically the center of the world ,and it is important to note and understand that by 2050 , 1/3 of the people under the age of 30 will live in Africa. This is huge.
People worldwide should realize that Africa is a continent with 54 countries.,
People worldwide should realize that Africa is a huge and highly important continent, strategically, politically, and economically.
People worldwide should realize that there is a lot of transformation happening in Africa and that Africa is home to some of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world - not a lot of people know this.
So, after creating this awareness, it is very important for us to emphasize the importance for the international community to increase their attention and actions toward Africa.
The international community should understand that there are around 600 million people - as we speak - many of whom are living without clean water and electricity - and with the population growing, we should ask ourselves - where are we going to be by 2050?
The international community should understand that People in Africa today are moving more and more from the villages to the cities in search of better healthcare facilities, water, education and electricity and in order to advance their lives, but tha those cities are not necessarily ready to absorb these people.
Therefore, it is important that we as international leaders deal with this matter - now, not tomorrow.
So, as Empower Africa, and as Israelis who act in Africa, we should first focus on highlighting all the positive things in Africa, we should choose to focus on the advantages that Africa has and mainly on the huge potential that Africa has, and in the opportunities that Africa has to offer.
There is a tremendous potential in Africa and there are a lot of amazing and highly smart and highly committed people in Africa who are waiting to fulfill this potential together with us.
One of the main ways to empower Africa and fulfill its potential is through business, high tech and innovation.
The only way to drive sustainable and scalable solutions is through strengthening the African economy and not through charity.
So, what we should do is to build mutually benefitting partnerships and relationships, not only between federal governments, but mainly between local governments, between local companies, and between the grassroots and the people.
Empower Africa is about enhancing positive awareness of Africa, without focusing only on the narrative of corruption, extreme poverty and civil war, which the media tends to negatively highlight many times.
Empower Africa is about emphasizing the importance of acting now, with a focus on trade, sustainable solutions and mutually benefitting partnership relationships, while also highlighting the specific opportunities that Africa can offer.
So, as an Israeli community, we feel that we should think beyond ourselves and be part of a greater community that has a positive viewpoint on Africa, its potential and the mission and vision to be able to work hand in hand with people in Africa and be able to do great things together.
What we mainly try to do is to gather and unite the right people, unifying very qualified communities across the world in order to empower Africa.
Our aim is to unify leading companies in the world in sectors that support empowerment of Africa and people’s ability to maximize their potential in Africa, and also to bring a lot of diverse experts in many sectors of importance.
I personally believe that Empower Africa is also about creating value in human connections. As an individual, I can create value for you and also connect you with other people that can add a lot of value to you. That’s the whole idea. Our ability to connect people that can add more value to each other is what Empower Africa is all about.
If there is a problem that needs an agricultural solution, we should get the best experts in the field that can bring tremendous value to the table.
In other examples, we connected the CEO’s of billion dollar companies with local African companies that add value to many other people.
So, in summary, as non-African people who want to Empower Africa, we are focusing on connecting people and optimizing the communication between them.
Our goal is to help people come to Africa in an ethical and transparent business manner and then help local companies to also get international exposure and consequently attract international investors that can support them.
The diversity of Africa is powerful, and Israel is known as an innovation hub, transforming sectors such as agriculture, health and education, and how we are distributing this into other markets that need it is the most important thing.
Empower Africa is about driving innovation and distributing solutions in this important and emerging continent by creating a network, optimizing communication and ensuring tangible results.