Algeria is a vital new frontier for Britain as we look beyond Europe to extend our influence around the world
On trade, Britain can benefit from enhanced access to the Algerian and African markets and a greater role in North Africa as we look to play our part in Africa’s economic century, writes Alexander Stafford MP. | PA Images
As the UK looks to increase its influence in 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 fast emerging as a country of immense opportunity for the United Kingdom, establishing itself as a major player in the Middle East and North Africa. Traditionally closed and secretive, this vast country is opening itself up to the world and looking to move beyond its traditional Francophone sphere.
As chair of the Algeria APPG, I firmly believe the region is a vital new frontier for Britain as we leave the EU and look to build strong, exciting new partnerships around the world. I must be clear: parliamentarians should and must support strong British engagement with Algeria if we are to realise our global ambitions.
With its heavy reliance on oil and gas, difficult recent history, and penchant for complex bureaucracy, Algeria has not typically been an easy market for British businesses to operate or invest in. Positive change is afoot, however, and there is much to be excited about from a British perspective.
The largest country in Africa by area, Algeria is highly developed with a young, educated populace. The nation is currently experiencing substantial GDP growth and can boast that it provides free healthcare and education to its citizens - including all expenses paid higher level education. Algerians are largely bilingual in Arabic and French, but uptake of English is rising rapidly. It is clear that there are opportunities for British firms in terms of a skilled, dynamic workforce, but also an ever more sophisticated consumer market.
The country stands as the gateway to Africa - a continent in the process of launching the ambitious Africa Free Trade Zone and prioritising key infrastructure such as roads from Algiers to Lagos – with geographical links to the Mediterranean basin nations and cultural ties to the Middle East. As the UK looks to increase its influence in 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 allow British companies and products to play a crucial role in Algeria’s renewable energy transformation and lucrative energy industry
Algeria has been busy signalling its increasing openness by diversifying its economy away from fossil fuels in favour of entrepreneurialism, start-ups, and renewable energy. It is exciting to see that the Algerian people are being given the infrastructure needed to succeed. I particularly welcome the new incentives and frameworks being introduced by the Algerian government to encourage foreign investment. This will make all the difference for British businesses investing in Algeria.
There are rich rewards to be reaped by Britain with regard to trade and security. We would benefit from enhanced intelligence cooperation to face down threats to British national security emanating from the region. Particularly from Libya and the Sahel, which come in the form of terror attacks and human trafficking across the English Channel. On trade, Britain can benefit from enhanced access to the Algerian and African markets and a greater role in North Africa as we look to play our part in Africa’s economic century.
Our status as a hub for finance, technology, and renewable energy, our world-class universities, our great spread of multinational and innovative companies, and our leadership of many economic sectors puts us in a unique position to export technologies and expertise to Algeria and establish UK plc in the region.
Our presidency of COP26 next year and our greentech capabilities will allow British companies and products to play a crucial role in Algeria’s renewable energy transformation and lucrative energy industry.
Of course, there are challenges we must overcome. There is still red tape to cut and British businesses must acquaint themselves with the country’s unfamiliar market and regulatory regime. However, having had the pleasure of meeting His Excellency the Ambassador of Algeria, attending Arab British Chamber of Commerce meetings, and hearing the wonderful news that the first British School has just opened in Algiers, I am certain that Anglo-Algerian relations will go from strength to strength.
The Algeria APPG has a considerable role to play in this partnership by linking British politicians, companies, and academics with their counterparts in Algeria. My primary focus will be on the three strands of business, security, and energy, with a view to the UK stealing a march on other nations and establishing a foothold in North Africa and the Arab world.
We need close allies in the region for trade and security. This must be a key plank of our post-Brexit agenda as we look to guard against terrorism, uncontrolled illegal migration, and malign Chinese and Russian influence, as well as to promote British businesses and products globally.
I urge the government to take advantage of this new frontier for Britain as we look beyond Europe to extend our influence around the world.
Alexander Stafford is the Conservative MP for Rother Valley and chair of the APPG on Algeria.