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Algerian forum continues push for African economic growth

'Rendez-vous of Algiers' offers investment frontier for Asian companies

TOKYO -- Japan and other Asian countries have an opportunity to strengthen partnerships in Africa as Algeria hosts an investment and business forum Saturday through Monday in the capital, Algiers.

Mohamed El Amine Bencherif, Algeria's ambassador to Japan.

More than 2,000 companies worldwide will participate in the forum, joined by nearly 200 leaders and decision-makers providing opportunities in the fields of energy, agriculture, infrastructure, transport and finance, the Algerian government said.

Mohamed El Amine Bencherif, Algeria's ambassador to Japan, discussed the forum's goal of revitalizing and linking African economies as well as Algeria's investment and security environment with the Nikkei Asian Review.

Edited excerpts of the interview follow.

Q: What is the main purpose of holding the African investments and business forum (the "Rendez-vous of Algiers")? What kinds of advantages will Algeria have?

A: The meeting will be held under the patronage of the president of the republic, Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The Rendez-vous of Algiers is an exceptional African economic opportunity co-organized by the Algerian government and the Forum of Entrepreneurs.

The transcontinental economic forum from Dec. 3 to 5 in Algiers will bring together governments, nearly 2,000 companies, institutions and media around the notion of "working together to succeed together" in order to mobilize Africa's economic potential and to work toward the implementation of the decisions and the action plan of the African Union for the intensification and stimulation of intra-African trade.

Q: Why did Algeria decide to begin such a huge investment and business forum at this time?

A: The Rendez-vous of Algiers wants to be a valuable opportunity for all businessmen and African operators who aim to be part of the revitalization of the African economy and ultimately the rebirth of the continent. The forum aims to contribute to the economic integration of the continent, the multiplication of intra-African partnerships and the establishment of mutually beneficial economic relations.

The Rendez-vous of Algiers is an expression of "working together to succeed together," for a further advance in collective self-reliance with a view to solutions to the problems of Africa.

During this largest investment and business forum in Algeria, about 2,000 business leaders from Africa, representatives of governments and public bodies, investors, experts and the media will meet and discuss ways to accelerate the economic and social development of Africa.

Some 30 roundtables will address the themes of investment, public-private relations, industrialization and infrastructure, agrobusiness, energy, digital and training in Africa. [Business-to-business] meetings between African traders will be facilitated, and hundreds of exhibitors will have stalls in a "village" designed for networking.

Q: Does the Algerian government have any grand design of industrial development to boost the economy?

A: The forum represents a new phase in the process of Algerian efforts since the independence era for an economic integration of Africa. Algeria has offered, for example, under its scheme "people to people exchange" more than 50,000 scholarships to African students, and was among [the founders] of [the New Partnership for Africa's Development] process to support many ambitious African projects like the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program and the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

More importantly, we hope that this kind of forum could federate the separated and small projects in African countries and built new, big projects designed for regional development, which could offer huge opportunities for Japanese companies.

Africa has a big trust in Algeria, so Algeria is considered an honest broker and can help in African economic growth, creating a new dynamic in order to encourage the negotiation of free trade agreements and boost economic development. New generations need to know African market potentialities.

Q: What business fields does the government want to develop with the cooperation of Japanese and Asian companies?

A: There are many. We expect to develop under the partnership with Asian friends, especially with Japan, the infrastructure, finance, agrobusiness [and] automotive industries [as well as] the renewable energy, telecommunication and digital business. For Algeria, the Trans-Saharan Road [linking Algiers and Lagos, Nigeria] and El Hamdania port project [a new Mediterranean port in Tipasa province] have been conceived to make Algeria a regional hub for trade. Furthermore, the outcomes of the forum could trigger many other proposals.

Q: Japanese enterprises are still skeptical about security in the country given the terror attacks by ISIS and after the hostage crisis in 2013. Has the situation been improved? Please note the risks and the attractiveness of Algeria regarding investment and business.

A: Algeria is an exporter of peace and stability in its region. Since 2013, the security measures have been strengthened, making Algeria live with a high level of security. That's why all companies are present in Algeria and planning to improve their presence.

Algeria adopted new investment regulations Aug. 3 [that are] producing immediate effects by drawing an important dynamic of foreign investment, including those planned by Japanese companies.

Interviewed by Tadahisa Mikawa, deputy editor of Nikkei's business news department

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