Ambassador Haskel said, “Many of the challenges and needs of Tanzania as a growing economy are compatible to Israeli specialities, particularly in the fields of agro-industries, water management, port services, and IT.”
One key area in which Israel has established a foothold is, therefore, the agriculture sector, driven in part by Tanzanian’s emphasis on agronomy for economic growth through the Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First) campaign. “Tanzania has high tracts of good quality land so the field of agri-business is extremely attractive to the Israelis,” says Muthusi.
Balton Tanzania has developed a sound reputation in the agribusiness sector and in 49 years has set up a national presence with offices in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and plans to open in Mbeya in 2014. Like its sister company Amiran Kenya, Balton supplies agro-inputs including seeds and smallholder greenhouses to farmers.
Another young Israeli company that recently entered East Africa through Tanzania is Kijani Agro. The company manages Arabica coffee farms for Olam International, wheat farms for industrial conglomerate the Bakhreesa Group and a vegetables and grapes farm for a private investor in Dodoma.
Because of the dependence that large-scale agriculture has on water, many Israeli agri-business ventures co-specialise in the two, and so Balton sets up irrigation systems for farmer groups. Engineering group Yodfat is also involved in water supply projects in Tanzania, and Netafim, a global leader in smart drip and micro irrigation solutions, runs a number of irrigation projects including one in the tea plantations in the southern highlands.
The Tanzanian government is also in talks with Israeli company IDE Technologies about a water supply project in Dar es Salaam, according to Yohana Monjesa, director of urban water supply in Tanzania’s Water Ministry; the project is designed to alleviate national shortages. IDE Technologies is one of the world’s three largest manufacturers of desalination plants.
Linda Byaba, head of business development and public relations at Balton, explained that while Balton was better known for its agri projects, the company is expanding into electromechanicals – an area that is attracting increased attention given Tanzania’s chronic power shortages. Tanzania currently places a lot of emphasis on hydro energy but this has been unreliable due to long periods of drought brought on by climate change.
Balton’s solar heaters and portable generators, however, are a small-scale solution; renewable energy projects, like the kind Ormat Technologies is involved in, offer a more sustainable panacea to Tanzania’s power needs.