Interview: Ramtane Lamamra

What scope do you foresee for strengthening ties with Asian economies?

RAMTANE LAMAMRA: Over recent years many high-level visits took place with our Asian partners. Indeed, relations between Algeria and many Asian countries date back to the 1950s, with long-standing ties based on mutual respect, solidarity and cooperation.

The Algerian government has initiated a series of reforms aimed at diversifying the economy to make it more attractive to foreign investors. The trend appears to be moving towards more substantive commitments from Asian companies in Algeria, and while our partners continue to invest in oil and gas, they have also shown their willingness to invest in various other sectors that are of paramount importance to us.

In an effort to improve economic ties, what sorts of challenges do Algeria and France face?

LAMAMRA: Algeria and France established a high-level intergovernmental committee during former French Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault’s visit to Algiers in 2013. This visit led to the signing of a bilateral high-level political dialogue agreement. More importantly, we also created a bilateral economic committee, which has held two meetings so far, one in Paris in November 2013 and another in Oran in November 2014.

The French concept of “co-localisation” means that both countries contribute to creating joint ventures in Algeria in full compliance with Algerian law. But rather than talking about “co-localisation”, I prefer the concept of “direct partnership” between Algerian and French companies, such as the Renault production plant in Algeria, a direct partnership between Renault and Algeria’s National Company of Industrial Vehicles, which led to Algeria producing its first car.

We face many challenges, especially related to education and the transfer of knowledge, which is why we decided at the second meeting of the high-level intergovernmental committee to create four industrial training institutes to enable our youth to learn the skills necessary to manage companies and enterprises. The diversification of our economy is another challenge; we cannot remain an oil-dependent country. In the immediate term we need to promote innovation and diversify our exports away from oil, which emphasises the importance of direct partnerships. The industrial, agricultural and tourism sectors will be the focus in the implementation of our diversification strategy.

What bilateral and regional measures are being taken to improve security in the Sahel?

LAMAMRA: The Sahel region is vulnerable due to the immensity of its territory and the aridity of its climate, and has thus always been fertile ground for the spread of terrorism, organised crime and all types of trafficking. The fall of the Libyan regime in 2011, as well as the fighting in Mali, has only aggravated these problems.

The period of difficulty faced by Algeria in the 1990s instilled in us enough wisdom and determination to move forwards in the fight against terrorism and its consequences, including organised crime and the trafficking of drugs, arms and human beings.

Along with its regional partners, and in coordination with the international community, Algeria has thus initiated programmes to fight all forms of insecurity in the Sahel region using an approach that combines security and socio-economic development. A high-level conference on partnership in the field of security and development between core countries and extra-regional partners was held in September 2011 in Algiers.

We set up an operational joint military staff committee, a merger and liaison unit for the exchange of intelligence, a political committee for diplomatic coordination and a technical committee for strengthening existing cooperation mechanisms.

Furthermore, at the request of the African Union Peace and Security Council, the heads of states of the Sahel-Saharan region met in January 2013 to begin a consultation process aimed at strengthening security cooperation and enhancing the Nouakchott Process.