When oil prices plunged, the Algerian economy followed piling pressure on policymakers to find a sustainable solution.
The government in response to this opted to diversify. They launched a new economic strategy that looked at developing new ideas to take the country away from oil revenue dependency. The government opted to slow public expenditure by 9 per cent in reaction to low oil prices.
One strategy was the first attempt at hosting the African Business and Investment Forum that attracted business leaders and policymakers from across the world. Hosted earlier in the month, about 3,000 delegates attended the three-day forum at the imposing 6,000 seater Centre for International Conferences in Algiers, the Algerian capital.
Algeria has been transacting business with mostly West African countries but not sub-Saharan Africa. Now the country is looking to tap into the opportunities on the continent by insisting that Africa must trade with itself.
“Our contribution in Africa is not only through export of raw materials. Africa is aspiring for investments in order for it to reach considerable incomes,” Mr Abdelmalik Sellal, the Algerian prime minister told the delegates.
That appears to be the African narrative especially on how to trade with itself. However, for Algeria, the lessons learnt from the plunge in oil prices have now opened up a new strategy.
“Algeria is moving away from an economy based on hydrocarbons by providing an enabling business and regulatory environment for companies to set up here. We also want our companies to export to new markets beyond West Africa,” he added.
East Africa is one of those new frontiers Algeria is aiming to explore. According to the Inter-African Cooperation report conducted by Oxford Business Group recently, Algeria has built infrastructure that can enable exportation of goods to East Africa.
“As Algeria builds up its port infrastructure and shipping capacity, its ability to export to East Africa through the Suez Canal will grow substantially.” the report reads, in part.
Both President Museveni and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya visited Algeria in 2015 and signed pacts on cooperation in trade, security and energy. The Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also been in discussions with similar associations in Uganda and Kenya.
For Kenya, the opportunity is even greater as there are also negotiations to have direct flights between the two countries. Currently, to take flights to Algeria from East Africa, the connection has to be through Istanbul, Doha, Dubai or even Europe!
According to Mr Gabriel Ajedra, the State minister for Finance in charge of general duties, the Algerian National Airline had also been making consideration to have a flight to Uganda. Presently, the airline is restructuring, making additional routes. The airline is yet to confirm whether Uganda is included on the new routes.
“It took me about 20 hours to come to Algeria. We need to be better connected in order to work together,” said Ms Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
“At this forum, Algeria is trying to reposition itself in Africa as an investment destination as well as an outbound source of foreign direct investment,” said Mr Moses Sebunya, Uganda’s ambassador to Algeria.