Algeria Repositioning Itself on African Economic Chessboard

The International Conference Center of Algiers will welcome the African Investment and Business Forum from 3 to 5 December. Take a look at Algeria’s new position on the continental economic scene and the men behind it.

Algeria is preparing this event as a true show of force and embodiment of its intention to get back onto the continental economic scene. From 3 to 5 December –next, the brand new International Conference Centre of Algiers will host the African Investment and Business Forum, which is simply entitled “Rendez-vous Algiers”. (www.rdv-alger.com/). Several joint preparatory meetings were held during the summer between the government, which has mobilized resources at no less than eight ministries, and the BLF, the co-organizer of the event. The organizers say that they expect nearly 2,500 participants for this first iteration and have called upon the entire African diplomatic corps to assist Algiers to ensure that most the countries of the continent are present during this conference. The activism showed by the organizers reveals that Africa’s economic issues are extremely important for Algeria.

 

Refocusing Algeria’s Economic Foreign Policy

Traditionally, Algeria’s economic cooperation policy was focused on Europe, America and Russia. As a major exporter of hydrocarbons and gas, Algeria has long concentrated on these key markets, while its exchanges with Africa represented less than $200 million in 2014. After the sharp drop in the price of black gold, we are seeing a significant evolution in the discourse of Algeria’s executive branch of government, led by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, who has made diversification of the economy his new battle cry. Behind the scenes, the Business Leaders Forum (BLF), led by businessman Ali Haddad, and the Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), headed by Mohammed Laïd Benamor, President of the eponymous agri-food group, are pushing to put Africa at the top of the government’s economic agenda.

 

Generational Changes and New Faces

It has primarily been the Algerian private sector, led by the few Algerian companies with an international presence, that has put pressure on the government to reform Algeria’s African economic policies and organize a “high mass” in Algiers next December. At the same time, faces of new “Algerian-optimists” have emerged in the business world, like Yassine Bouhara, former head of emerging markets at UBS, which has also helped to shift the center of gravity in Algeria’s economic priorities. As the head of the financial group Tell, Bouhara has during the last few months increased the number of initiatives promoting the notion of a “Winning Algeria”. Last May he helped to organize the first Algeria British Business Forum and mobilized his former colleagues from the City. At the BLF, now is also the time for rejuvenation and pragmatism. Per a source close to the management of the Algerian Employers, the representatives of the private sector have “finally understood that we are no longer the lone wolf and we must now hunt in a pack, and Africa must be given absolute priority.”