At a time when Paris recently described, through its ambassador to Algeria, Francois Goyat, “the relations between the two countries are very strong, but work must be done to upgrade them to an exceptional level.”
On the 76th anniversary of the massacres of May 8, 1945, Tebboune stressed that “the quality of relations with France will not come without taking into account the history and dealing with the memory files, which can in no way be waived regardless of the justifications.” Read also Corona strikes Algeria … will the country keep its borders closed to its economy and its expatriates?Algeria will not renew the contract with the French metro management company .. Who will succeed it?2,600 products “prohibited” from importing in Algeria .. Will the European Union be silent?In numbers .. Al-Jazeera Net monitors the date market in the Arab world
The Algerian president affirmed that the promising future in consolidating and valuing the bonds of the relationship between nations must be a solid foundation free of any impurities.
Tebboune’s message came, only 24 hours after Ammar Belhimer, Minister of Communication and Government Spokesman, about his country’s adherence to recognition, apology and compensation for colonial crimes, which is the first official position with such clarity.
The unprecedented tone towards Paris comes in conjunction with the postponement of the visit of the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, twice since the beginning of this year, and was intended to chair the meeting of the high-level government committee with his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Jarad.
Companies under siege
This was also accompanied by the emergence of several indications in recent months of the faltering economic relations between the two sides, as large French companies lost their advanced positions in the Algerian market.
The beginning was after the outbreak of the February 22 movement, with the Algerian state’s objection to the French company, Total, buying the assets of the American giant, Anadarko, in Algeria in accordance with the “right of preemption” rule enshrined in the national law of deals.
The government announced the end of the SEAAL contract, which is the largest French-Algerian mixed water and wastewater management company since 2006, and the authorities accuse it of failing to manage the sector.
On October 31, it also decided not to renew the contract with the French company in charge of running and maintaining the metro metro in the capital, since its inauguration 10 years ago.
As for the “Alstom” company specialized in the manufacture of tram and metro facilities, which former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika saved from bankruptcy, with a huge deal worth two billion dollars, the Algerian judiciary recently opened its file under investigations into corruption cases.
In parallel, the Central Bank withdrew a few days ago the accreditation of the French branch of “Crédit Agricole”, after 14 years of activity in Algeria.
In turn, the Renault car plant is facing a critical situation due to measures to correct the activity of installation factories in light of the scarcity of the country’s financial resources.
These data have opened the door for wide interpretation to observers, as some have linked the “harassment” of those French companies in Algeria to the apparent diplomatic tension between the two countries, against the backdrop of memory and unresolved history issues.
Did Algeria really employ the economic card in the battle of politics? Or are there other factors behind the situation of the French partners?
The international energy expert, Bouziane Mahmeh, believes that the official Algerian-French relations are currently in swing, as they are subject to several tensions, which he summarized in the national creed related to the memory file for the Algerian side, and the endeavor to bring about a kind of balance, parity and the sharing of interests, in exchange for the pressures of circles supporting the French influence .
He told Al-Jazeera Net that the imbalance is mainly represented in the area of trade exchange, and France’s continuation of its traditional practice through which Algeria is a popular market for its goods and a profitable consumption outlet for it only, in light of the weak inflow of wealth-producing French investments.
In the language of numbers, if we exclude 2020 as the year of the Corona pandemic, we find France during 2019 is Algeria’s second supplier after China, with exports of nearly $ 6 billion, dominated by sales of grain, medicine, cars and fuel, according to the expert.
He explained that France’s market share in Algeria has remained stable since 2015 at about (10%), ahead of China (18%), followed by Italy (8%) and Spain (7%).
The international expert indicated – according to official sources – that there are 8,000 French companies exporting their products and services to Algeria, in exchange for Algerian exports, which reached 5 billion and one hundred million dollars in 2019, but 95% of them consist of hydrocarbons (crude oil, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas).
But the French economic influence in Algeria should not be limited according to the stereotype of the activities of specific companies. Rather, it is necessary to investigate the distribution of French investment in Algeria – and what the expert has said – as he recorded, for example, an increase in digital services in 2021 in favor of French institutions.
He cautioned that the decline in French direct investment flows in Algeria was not the result of the new political situation in both countries, because those investments witnessed sharp fluctuations during the period between 2009-2019.
The closure of the national market
For his part, the advisor to the World Bank, Mohamed Hamidouche, said that the presence of French companies in Algeria in general is not affected by political speeches, but many of their problems are solved by simply a phone or a normal diplomatic meeting.
He assured Al-Jazeera Net that the accumulation of foreign investments during the first decade of the millennium, whether in terms of the total amount (4 billion dollars), or in the number of projects, gave first place to European institutions in Spain, then France, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, followed by Asian countries such as Turkey, the Emirates, Qatar and China. .
But the lack of deep reforms and contradictory decisions from year to year – Hamidouche adds – made those foreign investments in 2020 decline by 6% to $ 1.39 billion, compared to 2018.
In sum, from these figures: If we focus on the decline of the presence of French institutions in Algeria, we may find it true, including the hydrocarbon sector, but if we look at them from the perspective of different continents, we will find that the status of the rest of the institutions, mainly French, Spanish, and Italian, is not different. Because of the closure of the national market.
He also attributed the matter to the “Covid-19” crisis, the closure of borders and the absence of economic reforms, so that Asian Turkish and Arab companies began to catch up on the path of aversion, as he put it.