Algeria And now?
After six months of mobilization, the Hirak, popular movement which claims the dawn a new Algeria, is far from being slowed down. The young Algerian entrepreneurs, on the first line, are also changing the face of the national economy. Challenges and analysis with Yassine Bouhara, president of Tell Group, and vice-president of the Algerian Chamber of Trade and Industry (CACI) -France.
Interview by Bilkiss Mentari
As an Algerian from the diaspora, what do you think of the events that Algeria is facing these last six months?
Despite the end of the Cold War, the Arab Springs, the globalization, the technological revolution, a population whose education level is with no measures with previous generations, a young population urbanized at more than 70%, centralized politics failed to emerge Algeria in its proper place. The political paralysis, the lack of freedom, corruption, and predation, led to a situation where a chock was inevitable. It is with substantial hope and pride that we are living the events of the last six months a movement held by youth, whose dynamism and modernity surprised the world. The Hirak reconnected the Algerian diaspora with the Home country. The diaspora is an integrated part of the movement.
Six months, the mobilization is still powerful. The transition process is still on, or is it facing an obstruction between the « street » and the « system »?
On the restructuration plan of the political scenery, the transition process is at its beginning, there is, undoubtedly, a long road to reach the street expectations of a system removal. The dichotomy between the power and the population is in the electoral agenda, a presidential election based on the actual constitution followed by a constitutional reform or the other way around. Concerning the fight against corruption, the corruption crackdown, relatively advanced, will irretrievably change the practices which are the source of social discomfort.
You are an economic actor as well. Precisely, the actual situation, might it not, slow down the diversification of the economy which just started
We think that the actual situation will be the catalyst to the gnarled diversification by corruption and predation. Today, we see an opportunity, because the next Algerian government elected will have at the center of its mission, reforms which will finally allow the Algerian economy to be open to its healthy and vital forces inside and outside. The opportunity is enormous, Algeria is a vast country, rich in the subsoil and unexploited skills, an unsatisfied internal demand. If the framework conditions are met, the development of Algeria will be inevitable.
This said florets of industrial tissues had been indictment (Cevital, Condor…).A situation that is worrying inside and outside the country ?
The fact that leaders of private companies are indicted is not an unprecedented situation in itself. The fact that these companies are now at risk, or that their bank accounts are frozen, with all likely repercussions is a demonstration that all the processes of governance must be updated and modernized. The fight against corruption operation must be accompanied by a bunch of administrative measures and procedures at all levels. It is that process of restructuration of the economic governance which will allow regaining confidence and by then, catalyze economic development. It is essential to mention that economic growth needs a substantial restructuration of its spine which is the financial sector. The recast of the bank system is essential if we want to develop the Algerian economy to the necessary level to create the expected value.
Meanwhile, the Algerian youth, on the first line of this movement, is also changing the Algerian economy picture. We can count more and more of entrepreneurs…
Young Algerian entrepreneurs are very dynamic in the economic actors. Ultimately, they will change the Algerian economic picture; they must be supported by an ecosystem way better structured, principally on the financial transactions, access to public command, access to distribution, to the logistics, reduction of bureaucratic process but most important, total and final elimination of corruption. The setup of electronic means is essential to counterbalance the sclerosis of the banking system, the lack of Stock exchange, the complexity of the foreign exchange control (only about thirty countries in the world which still operate under the foreign exchange control system in this 21st century) while currencies and cryptocurrencies are quickly developing. Despite the outcome of the last decades, the country is equipped with unique infrastructures on the Africa continent. Algeria must extract values of not only energy and mineral resources but also monetize infrastructures.
Same for diaspora waiting to play a role in this Algerian renewing. Which is one of the missions of Caci France …
The diaspora expresses a significant interest in the Algerian market because France needs new markets. We can’t look at the African markets without looking at Algeria, the African economic giant, but a sleeping giant. Facilitated access to the market will allow the diaspora to play the natural link role between Africa and Europe.
Caci France has also invited French SMEs to grab opportunities Algeria is offering. Did they respond to the invitation?
Caci France actively promotes Algeria to the SMEs and big French groups but Europeans and international as well. Many companies in the world and notably in France are interested in the Algerian market, which continues offering unique opportunities. Above the law 49-51 and the exchange control, the corruption was an obstacle to the development of European companies and notably France and to facilitate access to Algerian by the companies of the country or the one in the region less regarding. French SMEs are in observation mode, and it will be the politic process resolution in transition progress that the economy will be operational. We are optimists not only on the attractivity of the Algerian market but also on the interest that the French companies will be having.
On the same subject, how, on this transition period, how is the relations Africa-Algeria is progressing, complex. The development of the economic ties will open a way to this new page of this history?
The franco-Algerian couple is a unique couple between Europe and Africa. The Algerian diaspora in France is about 7 million people having a relationship with Algeria; it is the most prominent connectivity between two Europeans and African countries. It will be natural that the ax Paris-Alger be ultimately the central ax between Europe and Africa. Effectively contrary to other Turkish and Chinese diasporas, the Algerian diaspora does not consume Algerian products. This represents a considerable opportunity for Algerian companies, due to purchasing power differential of the diaspora, the French market is probably as big as the domestic market. Unfortunately the case of all the African diasporas.
Algeria is an African giant, you said. Still, the relations with Moroccan are still challenging, and we see less Algerian entrepreneurs on the continent…
Algeria is an economic giant. It represents a massive opportunity for companies of the rest of Africa, capitalising on its energetic advantages and her internal market for which the demand is not satisfied. Despite the perception, Morocco and Algeria remain, despite actual difficulties, reciprocally their biggest economic partners in Africa. The intra-African transactional flows remain extremely weak. We are just at the beginning of the market development in Africa, Algeria still has all the chances to develop in the continent. In the 70s, Algiers was the Mecca of revolutionists, and we hope that in these coming years, Algiers will be the Mecca of investors.