You would think a country that is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and two biblical wonders – the Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias and the Dead Sea, would not experience any water crisis. But until the 1950s and early 60s, Israel suffered from insufficient water supply for drinking and farming. Even after 1964 when the government completed the construction of a water transport system that was mainly dedicated to agriculture – an important sector in Israel – the country could not provide for its water needs. It wasn’t until Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu revolutionilised how water would be supplied to agriculture. The two had, in 1959, begun developing a drip irrigation technology, which was a simple but ground-breaking invention; the method slowly applied water directly to the roots of crops through a network of tubes, valves, and drippers. This delivery method meant that plants absorb 95 per cent of the water applied to them—much more than sprinkler irrigation, surface irrigation, or flood irrigation. By 1965, the year following, the completion of the National Water Carrier, Blass, and his son began distributing their novel drip irrigation system throughout Israel and established Netafim, still a world leader in the field. Today, drip irrigation waters 75 per cent of Israel’s crops and is used worldwide. Still, how is it possible that Israel produces 20 per cent more water than it needs? Is it solely because of drip irrigation? Not at all. A trip inside one of the world’s largest seawater treatment plants in the capital Tel Aviv could give you a hint of how technology has enabled Israel to go above and beyond to plan ahead. At this desalination plant, saltwater from the Mediterranean Sea is pushed into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But the downside is that microorganisms in seawater quickly colonise the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. To overcome this, Israeli researchers developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. The plant now serves the majority of the country’s water needs. The government has already built Ashkelon, Palmachim, and Hadera desalination plants in addition to existing plants, which will serve the country for the next 50 years. Alas, much of Israel is covered by desert. That means from time to time the country experiences prolonged dry seasons, which, given advancements made in technology, is no longer the case. In Negev, south of Israel, one innovation hub, DeserTech, is pioneering innovations, some of which have already allowed the country to deal with desertification challenges. One entrepreneur here has invented a climate impact intelligence platform that forecasts extreme weather conditions, allowing authorities, companies, and people to make timely decisions. The startup uses an artificial intelligence model to forecast droughts, floods, frosts, and heatwaves one hour to 120 days ahead or a week to six months ahead. Think of how much difference this makes; SpaceX Dragon couldn’t land three billionaires on the moon because they didn’t anticipate frosts. In South Africa, strong winds carried expensive racing bicycles away and stopped the 2017 Cape Town Cycle Tour from happening for the first time in 40 years. Such technology would have saved SpaceX or Cape Town from this. Until last year, more than 300 Israeli startup companies were reportedly developing technologies either specifically geared to, or potentially adaptable for desert environments. 66 of these startups that focused on addressing desertification challenges as part of their core business had raised $374 million in the last five years. There were at least 72 desert technologies that were mapped across Israel. These technologies have now allowed Israel to irrigate the Negev desert with recycled sewage water (Israel recycles 85% of its sewage water, the leader in the world). The Negev region alone, despite comprising 60 per cent of Israel’s dry land, is a major food supply of the country. The same concept that created DeserTech conceived Cyber7, a community of entrepreneurs innovating for cyber security in Israel. Cyber7 is one of the world’s most active communities, having raised $8.8bn in 2021 alone. Consider that 41% of cyber security firms' investments around the world were invested in Israeli companies in 2021, in addition to the fact that over one-third of the world’s cyber unicorns are Israeli. Don’t even get me started with healthcare, because how on earth is it that telemedicine is basic among 80 per cent of Israeli homes? At least almost all Israelis can make hospital appointments online, and access medical records from mobile applications and many patients own health tracking devices. At Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, Dr Gal Goldstein, the director of Paediatric Hematology and Oncology, told me that advancement in technology is allowing Israeli doctors to better understand the interactions between genes and the environment, and provide a more precise diagnosis. The survival rate of children with cancer in Israel is at 85-90 per cent, thanks to technology. A few miles away sits another hospital, Sheba Medical Centre, the largest hospital in Israel and one of the world’s leading in medical technology. This is where more than 25% of all Israeli medical clinical research takes place at Sheba. For example, The Sheba Cancer Research Center is using highly advanced technologies such as gene sequencing, microarrays, bioinformatics, molecular cytogenetics, and stem cells, to study new cancer drugs. The technology ecosystem in Israel overall boasts 8,000 active companies, 500 active investment organisations, and 400 multinational research and development centres, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Last year, investors scaled down on their investments on fears of global economic headwinds. In 2021, a year in which startup companies attracted significant investments, Israeli technology startups raised $27.4 billion, according to the Israel Innovation Authority. Part of those investments went to emerging and disruptive sectors such as health-tech (6.1 per cent), as well as agro-tech and food-tech (2.5 per cent). Israel is already investing in sectors that will shape the future such as artificial intelligence, bio-convergence, and quantum computing. There are companies that are reimagining the future such as Remilk, which is creating alternative milk without a single cow. Remilk copies cow genes to make yeast that is used to produce milk protein that is 100% identical to that of a cow, but without negative elements like lactose, cholesterol, growth hormones, or antibiotics. This is a major breakthrough given that the current dairy industry is an extremely inefficient sector that produces a lot of missions. Livestock farming is the second highest source of emissions, greater than all forms of transportation combined, second only to energy. Another Israeli company born a year and a half ago is creating salmon without using salmon, but plant-based. Why? Because the world is running out of fish – 38,000,000,000 kilos of marine life is killed every year, according to World Wildlife Fund. You would think of Israel as a living laboratory of science and technology. The success of these innovations, implemented mostly through hubs and centres, is hinged on deliberate efforts that innovators and entrepreneurs should work together with universities, organisations, R&D institutes, as well as the government to collectively identify critical challenges, prioritise resources and direct investments where they must be, other than working in silos and replicating the same things, which is often the case for most of our African startup ecosystems.