Interview: Ali Haddad

How does the FCE help strengthen relations between local businesses and foreign companies?

ALI HADDAD: By representing more than 6000 companies, FCE maintains a close relationship with several similar entities abroad, including the Movement of the Enterprises of France, the General Confederation of Italian Industry, the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations in Spain, the National Mauritanian Employer’s Union, the Libyan employers and the Ivory Coast Business Forum. Numerous meetings that were held with these associations showed a mutual wish to strengthen cooperation, enhance trade, identify investment opportunities, and develop economic relations and sustainable partnerships on both sides. These relationships allow Algerian companies to contact foreign ones directly, forming a solid basis for economic trade.

It is worth pointing out that several economic forums have been organised both in Algeria and abroad thanks to decision makers in private companies. In addition to its local network across the 48 wilayas (provinces) of Algeria, FCE has representatives in Berlin, Paris, London, Dublin, Moscow, Brussels and Luxembourg in Europe; Québec, Los Angeles and New York in North America; and Dubai in the Middle East, and other chapters that will be set up soon. A letter of mission has been sent to these representatives, to define and contextualise the framework of their interventions and to strengthen the synergies that FCE aims to build with its partners. Delegates play a crucial intermediation role between Algerian companies and foreign counterparts, assisting those who wish to develop businesses in the country.

What were the main findings of the business barometer survey conducted by the FCE in 2017?

HADDAD: By travelling through the different wilayas of the country, we learned it would be necessary to draft an economic map of Algeria to better understand our capacities and export potential. The first finding was that, despite the efforts made by the government, numerous constraints still prevented the harmonious development of the private sector. Chief among the feedback from business people were grievances linked to bureaucracy, land and credit access.

The second finding was that there is great potential at the regional level, in sectors such as tourism, mining and agriculture. If investments were channelled into these specific sectors, this potential could be fulfilled and benefit the country’s wealth enormously. Many business people admitted they own sizeable sleeping savings that they would like to invest, but did not know where they could be invested. There is, therefore, available capital that could be given to local authorities within the framework of public-private partnerships. The economic mapping that is being drafted will actually allow for investments that could integrate regional value chains to be targeted.

How can more young people in Algeria be encouraged to enter the business world?

HADDAD: A survey was conducted by the members of Jill’FCE, the section dedicated to young entrepreneurs within the FCE, and the results highlighted several key areas, the first being financing. Young entrepreneurs agreed that the National Agency for Youth Employment programme would enable them to kick off their activities, but requested the provision of more support and higher financing guarantees. In that regard, agreements have been signed between banking institutions to set up guarantee mechanisms.

Another key area highlighted was about accessing markets. Although we always remind our members that access to markets remains reliant on their capacity to offer qualitative products to unlock business opportunities, it is true there is a need to negotiate with big decision makers to broaden their selection criteria. The last point concerned addressing the lack of entrepreneurial training. We advocate the creation of entrepreneurship specialities within Algerian universities.