Interview: Abderrahmane Benhamadi
What obstacles does Algeria face in moving manufacturing production up the value chain?
ABDERRAHMANE BENHAMADI: Moving up the value chain is a process where a country experiences a rise in production (and potentially exports) of added-value products and a substantial decrease of its basic goods production. Countries such as South Korea and Taiwan have applied this strategy successfully; it has supported the economic development of these countries.
In Algeria, several barriers are still hindering the implementation of such a strategy. First, it is necessary to have a well-trained and motivated labour force that is able to respond to technical and technological challenges. Over time, Algeria has generally undervalued its technical and technological education courses for the benefit of general education. Furthermore, there is a real lack of coordination between the productive sphere and research centres and this element constitutes a substantial weakness. Due to its administrative and bureaucratic burdens, the Algerian university system is unable to drive innovation or create opportunities for partnerships and synergies.
Why have there been delays in technology transfers in industry, and how can this be addressed?
BENHAMADI: On the one hand, the national training system, including universities, should be upgraded to be able to cope with new challenges. It is especially important to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the educational system. Currently, quantity prevails over quality; every year, many of our graduates are unable to secure a sustainable job after completing their university studies.
On the other hand, and contrary to popular belief, companies are not always willing to transfer their technologies – so the transfer should not be taken for granted. Acquiring technology is not an easy process, and it depends on the commitment and good will of all involved parties. The experience and the facts show that it is not enough to articulate intentions with regards to technology, it is also necessary to build a coherent national technological strategy.
In other words, technology cannot be reduced to the just technical aspects of products and processes. It needs to be included in a wider strategic vision, taking into consideration the essence of the society and the space it occupies. It is necessary to overcome the misconceptions about the uniqueness of rational economic technical solutions, which would be limited to the transfer of technology. Algeria must equip itself with the resources to support its ambitions and build a coherent industrial economy based on information and communications technologies.
How can research and development activities be developed and supported within Algeria?
BENHAMADI: It is necessary to establish an innovative and ambitious national programme aimed at bringing together research capabilities and potentialities, including those currently located abroad. These abilities are real and diverse, but unfortunately we lack the means to channel them; information and communications technologies could successfully address this issue if they were used in an appropriate manner.
Algeria must develop and implement a scientific and intellectual development policy. The country has the potential to become an important centre of scientific initiatives, not merely a simple area for the economic expansion of developed countries.
To what extent is counterfeiting an issue in the country and what can be done to counteract it?
BENHAMADI: The fight against counterfeiting and unfair competitive practices requires multi-faceted and concerted action between all stakeholders, as well as the education of consumers. A combined and coordinated campaign between public authorities, manufacturers and civil society can eradicate, or at least greatly reduce, counterfeiting, which is harmful to both the national economy and to the final consumer.
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