AJC Connects and Leads the Vision: Innovate Africa
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AJC Connects and Leads the Vision: Innovate Africa

As part of its 75th anniversary, American Jewish Committee sponsored a panel discussion highlighting “Innovate Africa: How Israel, Africa and the U.S. are Shaping the Future.”

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Merle Horwitz, of the AJC Board of Governors, panelist Darren Goebel, and Georgia Tech student Funke Adebola talk about modern harvesting.
Merle Horwitz, of the AJC Board of Governors, panelist Darren Goebel, and Georgia Tech student Funke Adebola talk about modern harvesting.

“AJC’s voice in Africa is not only significant. I consider it catalytic – in terms of gaining a better understanding of our continent from the rest of the world.” – Former Nigerian Minister of Education Oby Ezekwesili

As part of its 75th anniversary, American Jewish Committee sponsored a panel discussion at the Atlanta International School Jan. 24 highlighting “Innovate Africa: How Israel, Africa and the U.S. are Shaping the Future.”

With Africa’s unprecedented growth, the panelists explored how Israel and the United States are using technology and tikkun olam to champion innovation across the continent and working together to strengthen economic and political ties.

Since its founding in 2006, AJC’s Africa Institute has helped African diaspora communities in America interpret their countries to U.S. audiences and leverage their successes in America to benefit their homelands.

The Africa Institute forges ties between the American Jewish community, senior African government officials and civil society leaders. They educate American Jewish leaders about Africa, raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the continent and introducing them to their African counterparts who share common values.

Warming up before the panel discussion are Catherine Zilber; panelist Yoav Zilber; Andre Schnabl of the host committee; and Cedric Suzman, AJC Atlanta life trustee.

Most recently, the Institute has pioneered advocacy for Israel’s reengagement with Africa, linking American and Israeli development specialists with their African counterparts to empower them with international expertise and capital.

“It has been our longtime goal to bring our countries and the African continent together,” said Cedric Suzman, AJC Atlanta life trustee. “Tonight we put politics aside and focus on business in areas like irrigation, health care and communication.”

Merle Horwitz, a member of the AJC Board of Governors, is a native of Paarl, South Africa. She said that the buffet represented authentic transcontinental foods such as samosas, salmon cakes, falafel and curried vegetables.

During the reception, Funke Adebola, a doctoral candidate at Georgia Tech in International Government Affairs, chatted with panelist Darren Goebel about the contrast of machine versus hand harvesting.

Goebel is director of global agronomy and farm solutions at AGCO, representing various equipment manufacturers. He is keenly in tune with solutions from farming education. “After all, I’m just a farm kid from Indiana.”

Later, on the panel, he shared his frightful experience overseas by coming between his Uber driver in a battery acid throwing stabbing argument over the use of traditional taxis, … all this after having lost his luggage. Message being that “sometimes travel can be hazardous without knowing the lay of the land.”

Deftly serving as moderator was Juliana Njoku, chief strategy officer of The Suber Group. She started with her own questions, segueing into audience questions, then playing a “hot potato” round of quick challenges for the panel.

Speakers Yoav Zilber, Eliseo Neuman, Darren Goebel and Laurie Olivier interact with moderator Juliana Njoku.

Panelist Laurie Olivier, who recently arrived from Beijing, is CEO of LifeQ, a global digital health company, and is a partner in a South Africa-based venture capitalist firm.

Educated in South Africa, Olivier served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and as chairman of the former American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the predecessor of Conexx, America Israel Business Connector. “What kind of things can Africa learn from Israel? Start with the technology that Israel reuses 80 percent of its water.”

Israeli Atlantan Yoav Zilber, CEO of Jets Investments, focuses on executing large scale turnkey projects in developing countries. He has worked on deals from Ghana to Angola, implanting Israeli “know how” into Africa.

Panelist Eliseo Neuman expressed optimism at positive shifting geopolitical dynamics between Israel and the African continent. Improved relations stem from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent interchanges with Chad and Mali, aided by leaders in the Arab world working more closely with Israel. “Israel has been a leader in helping them avoid bad practices and scandals, realizing that bigger gains are better achieved long term. … Countries like Senegal and Rwanda are walking away from corruption,” said Neuman, attorney and director of AJC’s Africa Institute.

Neuman’s summary was most compelling. “It’s in Israel’s soul and DNA to want to help by sharing knowledge. Golda Meir stated that ‘Israel was a young country helping another young country.’ …We want no one to go hungry, but neither Israel nor any one country can do it alone.”

Moderator Njoku said, “By 2025, half the world’s population will live in Africa, which is predicted to become sixth of the top 10 fastest growing economies. Its working age population is expected to surpass that of China’s within the next decade. Why Africa? … Why not Africa?”

Learn even more about AJC work in other countries. Mark your calendar for Feb.  28, U.S.-Japan-Israel foray into artificial intelligence and its impact on the future.

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