Now is the time for Israel and Bahrain to form meaningful partnerships in innovation and technology, addressing shared challenges and creating shared opportunities.
Visiting Bahrain in August is an experience. Even for someone who, like me, grew up in the Middle East climate and hot summers of Israel, the Bahraini summer is a challenge. Testament to that was the opening question, accompanied by a slight grin, in almost every meeting we had: “So, how do you like the weather?” But the real experience was in the meetings and discussions we had about strengthening the economic ties between Israel and Bahrain, basing them on collaboration in innovation. The fruitful, concrete discussions we had sure made it worth enduring the heat.Advertisement
Two years ago, Bahrain was party to the signing of the Abraham Accords, normalizing its relations with Israel. Being smaller than the neighboring UAE, both in size of population and economy, Bahrain has been a bit overlooked by the Israeli business sector. While there has been a constant flow of businesspeople in both directions, the volume is low and the economic activity is far from reaching its potential.
Bahrain has embarked on a journey to transform its economy from a commodity-based economy to one driven by innovation and technology. It has already been successful in diversifying its economy by reducing the share of oil and gas to comprise less than 20%, down from 42% twenty years ago, while growing sectors such as manufacturing, financial services and tourism. This makes Israel and Bahrain natural partners. The innovation activity in Israel can contribute to Bahrain’s development into an innovation hub and, in turn, Bahrain can serve as a regional hub for Israeli tech companies.
Business opportunities, while very important in and of themselves, are not the only benefits collaboration in innovation can and should create. Such partnerships create the infrastructure and foundations for strong ties between the two countries. This is innovation diplomacy in action. It forges resilient and long-term relationships rooted in business collaborations that address shared challenges.
And so to set things in motion, we reached out to His Excellency, Ambassador Khalid Yusuf Al-Jalahma. In my career, I have had the opportunity of working with several ambassadors. Few are as proactive in engaging with the innovation ecosystem as Al-Jalahma. His team, together with Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, put together a packed agenda for our visit. In between venturing out in the blistering sun and entering chilled conference rooms, we had great meetings with government and business executives, who shared their eagerness in working with us to integrate Israeli innovation into Bahrain’s economy. Areas such as climate, manufacturing finance, and more are growing sectors in which much can be done by working together.
The signing of the Abraham Accords was the jump start for the relationship between Israel and Bahrain. Its growth and strength depend on creating meaningful partnerships in innovation and technology, addressing shared challenges and creating shared opportunities. Now is the time to invest in such collaborations, to bring both sides together and foster the development of long-term ties. The willingness and openness to do so exist on both sides. To reference an old song, I have to wear shades not just because of the Bahraini sun but because the future’s so bright.
This article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post.