Tanzania: End of cold shoulder to Israel?

Although the political relations between Tanzania and Israel have been frigid in the past, an increasing number of Israeli companies are setting up operations in the country and the first large batch of tourists is expected to arrive this month to mark the new era. Report by Aamera Jiwaji.


Israeli support for gas
“Everything is looking up for Tanzania at the moment,” says Muthusi from Ernst & Young. “It is an exporter of gold, and the stories coming out of the gas industry are quite exciting.”

Tanzania’s discovery of large fields of offshore gas also opened an avenue for Israeli-Tanzanian relations and Ambassador Haskel confirmed his government had offered to assist Tanzania in developing a tax regime for the sector, drawing on their own experience.

“We in Israel are slightly ahead of Tanzania in the process of offshore gas exploration and use. In the last five years we have had impressive gas field discoveries.” Ambassador Haskel added that Israel has offered to have a dialogue with Tanzania to share its experiences in developing a system of taxation.

Israel’s Leviathan gas fields are estimated to hold about 19 trillion cubic feet. Tanzania’s Energy and Minerals ministry estimates its gas resources at 43.1 trillion cubic feet, and expects it to reach 200 trillion cubic feet in the next two years, which could make it the world’s third-largest exporter of natural gas.

Various non-profit organisations, such as Innovation: Africa and Save a Child’s heart programme, are running medical and health care projects in the rural areas, suggesting that Israel may become more involved in developing Tanzania’s health care sector, which is currently one of the weakest in the region.

This activity by Israeli investors is taking place in the absence of any formal diplomatic presence since Israel does not have an embassy in Tanzania, nor does Tanzania have one in Israel. Israel’s only two embassies in East Africa are in Nairobi and Addis Ababa. The Israeli ambassador has confirmed that as his government strategises expanding in Africa, Tanzania is “definitely on the list of potential embassies”.

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