Interview: Jean-Pierre Raffarin

How attractive is Algeria to French industrial firms?

JEAN-PIERRE RAFFARIN: France is Algeria’s main economic partner, which proves how close the ties are in trade, investment and technology. Shared interests in employment and wealth creation underline our determination to contribute to the development of Algeria. This is being reflected in the realisation of major joint projects.

Algeria needs to diversify and intensify its economic fabric, and industrialisation is vital because this country has young and qualified human resources, a key geostrategic location and abundant hydrocarbons. The potential is there and so is the willingness to move forward, so we must implement new ways of working together by partnering with suppliers from the two shores of the Mediterranean, facilitating the transfer of know-how, setting common approaches to third markets and identifying the best way to address the challenges of rising global competition for advanced industrial products. This requires going beyond our traditional attitudes, seizing opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Franco-Algerian relationship.

Is France likely to meet increasing competition from China as it strengthens its position in Algeria?

RAFFARIN: Increased competition should help our businesses focus on the most promising niches of the Algerian market, including products, industrial services, equipment and agro-industry. French assets – such as training and sharing of added value – are recognised on the global stage and distinguish us from others.

Chinese competition should be a stimulus and encouragement for cooperation. Of course, competition rules need to be respected by all and should take into account all dimensions, including quality of services, social and environmental responsibility, transfer of know-how, training and the development of the local economic fabric. These should not be concealed protectionist measures but normal concerns. It is through a partnership that is respectful of each party that France and Algeria can combine their strengths and mobilise them against competition, which is not only related to China but is in fact truly global.

How can efficient sharing of added value between French and Algerian firms be ensured?

RAFFARIN: France has industrial know-how and a remarkable pool of companies which know they face competition in France, and must adapt to the market. They also know there are strongly growing markets abroad and that they must go there to seek opportunities and revenue. Algeria, a market which has major potential, must also strengthen its industrial skills and competencies. We must create close and sustainable alliances between our companies. The governments of both countries must improve the institutional framework and ensure that best practices are complied with. All this is happening, and the recent visit of the French president to Algeria has enabled further progress.

Can we expect increased bilateral investment streams between France and Algeria?

RAFFARIN: The sharing of know-how, research and development activities for the production of innovative products, market research, training and mobilisation of networks are tracks where cooperation could bring added value. France needs foreign capital for the development and internationalisation of its small and medium-sized enterprises, which are invaluable sources of innovation. Opportunities to acquire shareholding interests exist and Algerians are more than welcome to invest in France. This is not incompatible with domestic investment, and in some cases is a complement to it. The objective is to form sustainable ties and shared interests between the countries. Creating jobs together and acting together can be categorical imperatives for large projects or the development of some sectors. This requires analysing our shared interests and adapting the way institutions function. I have confidence in the authorities of both countries, and in the capabilities of their companies, to seize these opportunities.