07 Feb Africa…Between Magal and Kimberley
During preparations for my doctoral dissertation in political science entitled “Iranian-Israeli relations and its impact on the Arab interests- from 1979 to 2018”, I learned Hebrew and little of Persian, a matter that helped me read some old references that their authors did not manage to translate into other languages.
In her memoirs, the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir says”We went to Africa to teach Africans what we had learned, and we set three criteria for every project that we formulated in questions; is the project welcomed? Is it needed? And whether Israel can succeed in it. From that point on, Africa came to realize that we are capable of resolving its problems.
I came across the word “Magal” for the first time in West Africa and it meant two things for me: in the Wolof language of Senegal it indicates “commemoration” and is associated with a religious occasion where the Muslims of West Africa gather annually in the Senegalese town of Touba to honor the memory of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba and observe religious rituals; this occasion is called “Magal Touba”. In Hebrew, it’s the world largest manufacturer of security systems.
Since its foundation in the past century’s 1960’s, the Israeli name of Magal was linked to the technology of physical and cyber security, manufacture of space aircrafts and the development of electronic security systems. Afterwards, it shifted to the field of constructing the so-called smart fences where it assumed the construction of the West Bank Separation Barrier and will also be responsible for the construction of the barrier separating Kenya and Somalia, which if completed will split some Somali cities bordering Kenya into two divisions with the largest part going to Nairobi.
Magal was the company behind Cameroon losing the chance to host the African Cup of Nations, 2019 under the pretext that the country lacks convenient stadiums, but the truth is the rise of some national voices in Cameroon who refused that Magal take over the organization of the tournament scheduled to be hosted by Yaoundé. Also, Magal was the company selected by Washington to implement the Border Wall separating the US and Mexico, something that credited the company to an unprecedented level after being subject to attacks and condemnation even by Jewish organizations in Mexico which threatened to terminate Magal’s branches business operating under various names in South America.
Magal is pioneer in the field of security protection in Africa for it built the Fortis System in Gabon besides Laser and X-Ray detectors in the gates of the Kenyan port of Mombasa. But Magal today confronts two obstacles that it recently felt to have begun to escalate in the face of its aspirations in Africa; the first is the rise of the Turkish company operating in the physical and cyber security field in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, especially that it’s a member of the Defence and Aerospace Industry Exporters’ Association and that managed to expand its business, which in turn paved the way for establishing international partnerships concerning technology transfer and information security in addition to providing training in the field of security systems improvement. The second obstacle is the manufacture by Magal of products containing the so-called “Conflict Diamonds”, which put Magal in a real deadlock and forced them to submit a report detailing the origin of these diamonds; especially that Israel is a member of the Kimberley Process established by the UN in 2003. The Kimberley Process seeks to halt trading in the so-called “Blood Diamond”, which is diamond produced in conflict zones in Africa.
This agreement is the only one in the world with a tripartite representation that includes the government, the diamond sector and civil society. Israel has already been accused directly and openly of illegally trading in blood diamond, and as such, Tel Aviv has begun to view these accusations as a potential reason for profit drops in the future in this sector. This will consequently have negative impact on its military and security industries especially that the Israeli diamond trade contributes significantly to the industries carried out by Magal both inside Israel and through its branches across the world which usually operate under different names.
Magal is now looking forward to lead the security market in the Middle East and Africa by providing one store for all security solutions. Although it has succeeded to some extent in that but it feels it has not yet reached what the Israeli press prefer to call “Beth Tikvah”, meaning “The Gate of Hope” for future Israeli strategies in the African continent.
Dr. Amina Alarimi
UAE researcher in African affairs