4 min read
With the UK seeking to increase its influence on the African continent and improve relations in the Arab world, there has never been a better time to have a close strategic partnership with Algeria.
Algeria is rapidly emerging as a country with tremendous opportunities for the UK, establishing itself as a major player in the Middle East and North Africa. Traditionally closed and secretive, this sprawling country is opening up to the world and trying to go beyond its traditional French-speaking atmosphere.
As Chairman of the Algerian APPG, I firmly believe that the region is a crucial new frontier for Britain as we leave the EU and build strong, exciting new partnerships around the world. I must be clear: MPs must and must support a strong British commitment to Algeria if we are to achieve our global ambitions.
With its heavy reliance on oil and gas, difficult recent history and penchant for complex bureaucracy, Algeria is generally not an easy market for UK companies to operate or invest in. However, positive change is underway and there is much to be excited about from a British perspective.
Algeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of area and is highly developed with a young, well-educated population. The country is currently experiencing significant GDP growth and boasts of providing its citizens with free health care and education – including all higher education expenses. Algerians are largely bilingual in Arabic and French, but the English language is rapidly on the rise. Clearly, there are opportunities for UK businesses in terms of a skilled, dynamic workforce, but also in an increasingly sophisticated consumer market.
The country is the gateway to Africa – a continent in the process of launching the ambitious African Free Trade Area, prioritizing key infrastructure such as roads from Algiers to Lagos – with geographic connections to the Mediterranean countries and cultural links with the Middle East. With the UK looking to increase its influence on the African continent and improve relations in the Arab world, there has never been a better time to have a close strategic partnership with Algeria.
COP26 next year and our greentech capabilities will enable UK companies and products to play a vital role in Algeria's renewable energy transformation and lucrative energy industry
Algeria has been busy expressing its increasing openness by diversifying its economy away from fossil fuels, in favor of entrepreneurship, start-ups and renewable energy. It's exciting to see the Algerian people get the infrastructure they need to succeed. I particularly welcome the new incentives and frameworks introduced by the Algerian government to encourage foreign investment. This will make all the difference for UK companies investing in Algeria.
Great Britain can be richly rewarded for trade and security. We would benefit from strengthened intelligence cooperation to address threats to British national security from the region. In particular from Libya and the Sahel, which occur in the form of terrorist attacks and human trafficking across the English Channel. In terms of trade, Britain can benefit from improved access to Algerian and African markets and a greater role in North Africa if we are to play our part in Africa's economic age.
Our status as a hub for finance, technology and renewable energy, our world-class universities, our wide spread of multinational and innovative companies and our leadership in many economic sectors put us in a unique position to export technologies and expertise to Algeria and UK plc settle in the region.
Our COP26 presidency next year and our greentech capabilities will enable UK companies and products to play a vital role in Algeria's renewable energy transformation and lucrative energy industry.
Of course there are challenges we have to overcome. There is still red tape and UK businesses need to familiarize themselves with the country's unfamiliar market and regulatory system. However, I have had the pleasure of meeting His Excellency the Ambassador of Algeria, attending meetings of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce and hearing the wonderful news that the first British School has just opened in Algiers, and I am sure that Anglo-Algerian relations from strength to strength.
The Algerian APPG plays an important role in this partnership by connecting British politicians, businesses and academics with their counterparts in Algeria. My primary focus will be on the three pillars of business, security and energy, with the intent of the UK stealing a march to other nations and gaining a foothold in North Africa and the Arab world.
We need close allies in the region for trade and security. This should be an important part of our post-Brexit agenda as we want to protect ourselves from terrorism, uncontrolled illegal migration and malicious Chinese and Russian influences, as well as to promote UK companies and products worldwide.
I urge the government to take advantage of this new frontier for Britain as we look beyond Europe to expand our influence around the world.
Alexander Stafford is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Rother Valley and Chairman of the APPG for Algeria.