The Shmooze

Israeli Entrepreneurs Flock To South Sudan

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Israelis are known to be impatient, and when it comes to how fast they are moving to establish business relations with the new country of South Sudan, the stereotype is holding true.

Israeli companies seeking contracts in industries such as agriculture, security, medicine and infrastructure are being welcomed by the leadership of the world’s newest nation. Under-the-radar support given to the Christian South Sudanese rebels by Israel in recent years is helping to smooth the way to the quick establishment of economic ties. South Sudanese rebel leader John Garang was even treated for an eye injury in an Israeli hospital.

South Sudan has turned to Israel for security advice as well as for expertise in how to train its new army and police force. A company based in Ramat Hasharon has reportedly been asked to put in a bid for the contract to provide protection to the new president of South Sudan.

Solel Boneh is examining the possibility of paving roads and building infrastructure in South Sudan, and the medical supply company Sarel is looking into opening operations there or entering contractual agreements to help with setting up the country’s health care system.

And it’s not just big companies that are getting in on the economic opportunities in the nascent state. Israeli entrepreneurs who had been already operating quietly in the area of South Sudan for a couple of years are going above ground now.

Tamir Gal of the Kfar Vitkin moshav and his business partner Rafi Dayan, owner and CEO of Yarok 2000, are planning to assist the South Sudanese government with major agricultural projects. These include fruit and vegetable farms and poultry operations that would enable the country to begin producing its own food. South Sudan currently imports 99% of its food, following the destruction of its agricultural capabilities by the northern Sudanese army and Muslim militias.

Israeli entrepreneurs will also be helping to put in place farming communities of South Sudanese soldiers along the border with North Sudan, recalling the kibbutzim along Israel’s borders with hostile neighbors.

South Sudan’s first Internet provider, Bilpam Telecommunications, was set up with the assistance of Israeli entrepreneurs.

The Marker reports that Gal expects his company alone to work on projects worth $20-25 million by 2012. Many believe there are hundreds of millions of dollars more to be made by other companies, with payment guaranteed by the international community.

And it’s not all work and no play, either. Israelis are also known for their desire to travel outside of their own small country. With South Sudan as the newest potential destination for Israeli tourists, Aharon Efroni, of the Jewish-Arab institute at Beit Berl College, is putting together vacation packages to South Sudan for Israelis who can’t wait to go there.


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