Interview: Abdelkader Zoukh
In what ways is the wilaya (province) of Algiers an attractive area for investors?
ABDELKADER ZOUKH: On top of being both the political and economic heart of Algeria – hosting the headquarters of central administrations, major companies and diplomatic representations – the wilaya of Algiers possesses significant natural and infrastructural assets. It is a geostrategic hub that has the potential to promote further European-African trade. It also has young and qualified human potential, with 54% of the population aged below 35, and its active population representing 53% of the total. In addition, the region has agricultural potential in the Mitidja; an efficient transport network with a modern port and an airport undergoing expansion; reliable utility services; universities and talent; and great cultural wealth.
There are several large-scale projects under way in the wilaya, such as the Great Mosque of Algiers, two new sports stadiums, landscaping at El Harrach Oued and Algiers bay, housing rehabilitation plans, multiple agri-parks and the Sidi Abdallah Cyber Park, among others. All of these contribute to making the wilaya a better place to live and work, and moreover an ideal place to invest. The city of Algiers is also positioning itself as the cheapest metropolis in the Mediterranean basin, with impressive growth potential across sectors, including services and tourism, and industry – particularly pharmaceuticals and agri-business.
How is Algiers’ business climate being improved?
ZOUKH: The creation of a dedicated business neighbourhood in Bab Ezzouar near the international airport and the University of Science and Technology will attract key businesses – such as insurance companies, hotels and other service providers – helping to stimulate new economic activity. Another priority is digitalising border control and administrative processes. The wilaya is currently building a legal framework that will facilitate foreign and local investment inflows.
What are the main goals of the smart city project, and how are these being accomplished?
ZOUKH: The smart city project includes strategic objectives for the short, medium and long term. It aims to put in place a programme of data collection and applications for more efficient functioning of the city. We are in the process of selecting technology partners that are able to evolve the city through integrated solutions that optimise existing public assets. Integrating start-ups and being a catalyst for the development of a technological ecosystem are also priorities. We are looking to build an ecosystem between companies, universities and research laboratories through common strategic projects, such as transport regulation, energy optimisation, water management, security, disease prevention, urbanism and high-speed internet penetration.
In order to promote innovative growth, we are aiming to have a smart city that accelerates technological transfers. This would enable start-ups to test their ventures at a low cost, as well as allow easier access to clients and financing. The wilaya has already made efforts to foster a more collaborative and innovative business ecosystem. For instance, we are building a bridge between start-ups and local decision makers, which has enabled incubators and small firms to take part in missions abroad in Paris and London. Legal texts have been issued to answer the requests of entrepreneurs, such as the law drafted regarding e-payment use in Algeria – a long-standing demand from businessmen. Lastly, we have facilitated contracts between innovative start-ups and established companies. For example, agreements were signed between the start-up AquaSafe, a data collection platform that monitors the quality of water, and the Water and Improvement Society of Algiers. Another notable example is the partnership that was established between the start-up YASSIR, an Uber-like app, and Wassalni, a major player in the transport sector.
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