For mutual respect and a win-win understanding. . .

Current  tensions are only transient according to information collected from important personalities of France acknowledged that “Le Monde committed a blunder by posting the photo of the Algerian president on its first page, he who is not concerned and whose name was not mentioned, as opposed to the Algerian Minister of Industry cited in the ‘Panama papers.  French Prime Minister’s visit to Algiers on 9 and 10 April would be an opportunity for the interlocutors to review their mutual situations.

These repeatably emphasised that intensification of the cooperation with a realistic approach should be based on a win-win partnership away from any commercialism. The two countries must have a common vision of their future so as to contribute to regional stability that is conditioned by a real co-development.  There is no point in obscuring the memory of the common history indispensable for consolidating sustainable relationships between Algeria and France.  It is in the context of a ruthless world where a nation that does not move forwards is bound to go backwards, that the future through mutual respect is prepared.  As far as I am concerned, I always stressed that Algeria would not be bear to be considered a market only.  And it is in this framework that a co-partnership between Algeria and France, must be envisaged far from any prejudice nor spirit of domination.

  1. What is the destination of Algeria’s trade? According to its Customs statistics, Algeria had in 2015 deficit of $13.7 billion due to declining oil prices and the rate of coverage of imports by exports is reduced by 73% vs. 107% in 2014.  Although its trade surplus with the EU decreased in 2015 by -95.7% at $457 million YOY in 2014 by 14.8% to $10.7 billion, with streams of $51.1 billion (-27% 2014), the EU remains the largest trading partner of Algeria with a-36,1% reduction, from $40.4 billion to $25.8 billion (i.e. 68.3% of the total of Algerian exports against 64.2% in 2014).  Algerian imports from the EU increased from -14.6%, from $29.7 billion to $25.3 billion (i.e. 49.2% of the total imports of Algeria).  But the deficit concerns also Asia which in 2015 is the second partner of Algeria, with trade amounting to $14.4 billion (-18.6% YOY).  According to official statistics, it covers 23% of imports while it absorbs only 6.8% of its exports, with a trade deficit vis a vis this region, of -$9.3 billion, an increase of 22.6% compared to that of 2014, when the deficit was only $7.6 billion, because of the imbalance in its relations especially with China.  Exchanges between the Maghreb countries represent less than 3% of their overall trade and exchanges with the Arab countries (Maghreb Union included) represent $4.8 billion, down from 24.8% to 2014, to be 5.0% of Algerian imports and 5.9% of its exports.  Trade relations between Algeria and sub-Saharan African countries are down 19.6% to $ 442, i.e. 0.7% of the imports of Algeria’s and 0.2% of its exports.

Spain in 2015 was the first customer of Algeria, despite a drop of 31.2% of its imports, to $6.6 billion, and Italy its second, with $6.2 billion of imports, down from 25.6% to 2014.  France is the third client of Algeria, with an amount of imports at $4.9 billion (a drop of 29.2%).  Overall, there is a concentration of demand for Algeria’s: its first three clients represent 46.7% of the total exports in 2015 whilst these were only 39.4% of the total in 2014.  France, for the third consecutive year is the second supplier of Algeria, behind China.  The Algerian exports to France were $6.744 billion and imports of $6.342 billion.  Trade for 2014 between Algeria and France are worth from $13.086 billion.  For 2015 France held 10.5% market share, amounting to $5.4 billion, $8.2 billion with China, with 16% of the market; Italy is in third place with $4.8 billion and $3.9 billion for imports from Spain.  France remains yet the first non-hydrocarbon investor in Algeria with a stock of FDI estimated by the Embassy of France in Algiers at more than $2.2 billion; the major items of French exports being cereals (20.2% of the total), motor vehicles (12.2%) and pharmaceuticals (11.1%).  In return, French imports are made up of 95% of hydrocarbons.  According to data from the French Treasury, some 6,000 French companies export to Algeria, 450 creating 40,000 direct employments and 100,000 indirect (1).

  1. What are the prospects? Trade could be intensified in all areas such as agriculture, industry-services, tourism, education not to mention cooperation in the military where Algeria can be an active player as demonstrated by its stabilisation efforts of the region.  Intensification of the cooperation between the two countries would be possible – whilst not forgetting the duty of remembrance – only if Algeria and France have a realistic approach to their collaboration in a win-win partnership away from any mercantilism and spirit of domination.  The two countries have a common vision of their future.  The symbiosis of the contributions of the East and the West, the dialogue of cultures and tolerance are sources of mutual enrichment. The latest events should better make us think, avoiding this confrontation of religions because Islam, Christianity and Judaism contributed enormously to the development of civilization; keeping up this tolerance by condemning any form of extremism.  Globalization is a blessing for all humanity, provided it integrates social relationships and not be focused on merchant relationship only, by synchronizing the real and monetary spheres, through their economic and social dynamics.  At the time of consolidation of large groupings, the challenges of globalization, the rapprochement between the whole of the Maghreb countries is required for an intensification of cooperation with France and Algeria via Europe to be commensurate with the weight of history that binds us together.  The integration of the Maghreb should serve as a bridge between Europe and Africa, the comparative advantages to medium and long terms for the two countries in Africa, the continent of the future and strong potential, subject to regional sous-integrations, the valorization of the knowledge economy and better governance. On the other hand, we must not forget the number of residents of Algerian origin in France, estimated at 4 million, including 2 million of binationals in 2012.  Whatever the number, the diaspora is an essential element of the rapprochement between Algeria and France, because it conceals some significant intellectual, economic and financial potential.  The promotion of relations between Algeria and its emigrant community should mobilize in various stages of intervention initiative of all concerned parties, namely the Government, diplomatic missions, universities, entrepreneurs and civil society. As noted by Professor Jean-Louis Guigou, delegate of the Ipemed and Adviser to the French President, it must be clear that, in the interest both of the French and the Algerians and more generally the North Africans and Europeans and all South-Mediterranean populations, the boundaries of the common market of tomorrow, future Schengen borders, the borders of the social protection of tomorrow, the boundaries of the environmental requirements of tomorrow, must be South of the Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, South and East of Lebanon of Syria, Jordan and Turkey, passing through a sustainable peace in the Middle East, where Arab and Jewish populations share a history of peaceful coexistence.
  2. In business, sentimentalism is not appreciated for entrepreneurs are driven by the logic of profit only. But the implementation of healthy business, as for the running of a country, is no longer based as in the past on custom relationships between heads of State or Ministers, but must be the result of decentralized networks, including through the involvement of civil society, NGOs and dynamic innovators.  It is that is being witnessed worldwide in an evolution of past accumulation based on a purely material vision, characterized by rigid hierarchical organizations to a new mode of accumulation based on the mastery of knowledge, new technologies and flexible organizations networked like a cobweb around the world with global chains segmented production where the investment, in comparative advantages, realizing in sub-segments of these chains.

But we must avoid any vision of pessimism, the situation being different from that of 1986, (debt less than $4 billion and foreign exchange reserves of $143 billion as at January 1st, 2016 with a respite of three years), Algeria can overcome its current difficulties provided its governance is renovated.  The success of national and international industrial partnership is not feasible without another type of governance and a coherent vision based on structural reforms (including the rigid labour market) political, social and economic.  One should refrain from seeing the external enemy everywhere because reforms depend on all Algerians if we want to benefit from the global comparative advantages.  Tactics must fit within the service / strategic objective which is to maximize the social welfare of all Algerians.  The purpose of a Government is not to be necessarily popular (short-term populist vision) but to engage into structural reforms which could hoist Algeria to an emerging country in the medium and long term.  To do this, the dominance of the bureaucratic approach should leave it to an economic operational approach with social and economic impacts futures. This implies a deep rearrangement of the structures of empowerment.  Also, facing the new global changes, Algeria, facing the transition towards a productive economy closely linked to the energy transition, needs above all a managerial and technological accumulation.

In summary, according to the latest international reports, Algeria is a key player for the stability of the region, subject to its deepening of the rule of law and democratization of society in order to achieve sustainable development.  The current tensions between Algeria and France are only transient according to information collected from important personalities of France recognizing that “Le Monde” committed a blunder and that we need to move on and  undertake together in mutual respect. It is in this framework that must return a win-win partnership between Algeria and France, far from prejudice and spirit of domination.

Paris, 8 April 2016  –  Professor, International Expert Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul.

(1) – On the occasion of the visit of the French Premier, Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul gave an interview to the weekly Point Afrique (24/03/2016) and the French weekly L’Express (07/04/2016 Paris) on the prospects for the Algeria-France cooperation highlighting weaknesses but also the important potential of Algeria. This theme was developed by the University Professor who was the guest of honour for Algeria 7 April 2016 in Marseille by the international organization «The Mediterranean Villa» where he has hosted a conference on the theme “the win-win partnership and the dialogue of cultures in the framework of co-operation Algeria/France, factor of stability in the African and Euro-Mediterranean region” in the presence of hundreds of political and economic figures, international experts, the Consul general and of the diplomatic staff of the Consulate-general of Algeria in Marseille.