Israeli design and construction firms are boosting their push in Africa, as markets soften in their longtime Nigerian market due to the falloff in oil prices.

Contractors and engineering companies joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a trade mission to four African countries in mid-July, the first by an Israeli leader in decades. 

The visit to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia coincided with increased activity by Israeli firms in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In early July, the World Bank selected Tzamir Architects and City Planning Ltd. to draw up a national physical master plan for Uganda, a country in which Israeli firms have been active in the past. The Haifa-based firm will be assisted by other Israelis, including leading transport expert Moshe Hirsch of ROM Transportation Engineering Ltd., and will work with Ugandan experts.

“The plan will focus on defining infrastructure needs, ranging from transport to power, agricultural development and urbanization,” said Yigal Tzamir, firm president and founder. He added that the plan, to be completed in 18 to 24 months, seeks to balance industrial development and environmental impact in the East African country.

Israel’s Ashtrom Group, one of the country’s largest construction firms, last month announced that it would start work on a $200-million project in Zambia to build 122,000 sq meters of housing and public buildings as well as related infrastructure in the capital of Lusaka.

Israeli companies also have been active in Ethiopia. Netafim, a world leader in drip irrigation, won a $225-million project in southern Ethiopia, the largest single contract in the company’s history.

According to Israeli publication Haaretz, Israeli solar energy developer Global Energy, which went to Rwanda with a U.S. government grant, now produces 6% of the country's power supply. As a participant in the Netanyahu delegation, the firm signed new power project deals in Rwanda and Ethiopia—each worth $500 million.