OGB: Your Excellency. We would like you to tell us about exchanges between Algeria and South Africa not just in terms of trade but also about defense cooperation and others. Is there any will on both sides to encourage these exchanges? We also wish to have an indication of the trade figures for the first Semester of 2017. We do have the 2016 ones.
Dennis Thokozani Dlomo : The problem we have at the moment when it comes to trade is that there are a lot of go between countries. Things are bought from South Africa either through Spaniards or by Dutch or by the English and get a round trip to these countries before they are sold in Algeria.
Because there is no direct connection?
That’s one of the first challenges we have to address because it will do at least two things:
Firstly, it’s going to increase the amount of trade between Algeria and South Africa .
Secondly, We can have more people to people diplomacy.
Thirdly, It’s going to consolidate the relations between the two countries there by advancing the African agenda. That is what we are all about.
Intra African trade cannot be successful until we address these infrastructural problems that prohibit and inhibit the free exchange of ideas and of course of goods.
What are the main areas of exchanges between the two countries?
There are areas that are clear for us. The first area we prioritise is agriculture, we do aggro business, aggro-processing, because we must make sure that we feed ourselves. This will also involve exchange of technology for purifying water and making sure that we have potable water. The second area is energy. We will do the traditional hydrocarbons but also renewable energy. We believe that this area of renewable energy has a huge potential. First In small communities who don’t need to bring a grid. You can actually create a grid by making that part of the community to use a self sustained energy with wind, with solar, you can go a lot further. We’ve got a lot of sun and we can make good use of it.
Mining is another area. We’ve got a lot mining technology in South Africa. We have more experience in mining in the continent and we can bring that to Algeria.
You have gold, diamonds...There are potentials in Algeria for gold?
Yes.Yes.. In gold, in iron, phosphate there are a lot of potentials.
Are there any Projects between Algeria and SA?
In the December conference we had some of the people from the mining chambers participating in the conference. But of course these are things that take a bit of time, to register a project, set up a company, raise some funding because not all the cies interested in coming to Algeria have their own resources, because big companies can actually sustain themselves.
What about the airline project between Algiers and Johannesburgh?
People would follow the money and that ‘s what we need to stimulate.We have to make sure Algerians know about South Africa and start visiting and do the same with South Africans. The challenge is that a lot of South Africans know of Algeria because of the struggle but they’ve not been visiting partly because of the language. There are small muslim communities well aware of Algeria .Some of them continue to interact with Algeria. They have that interaction. So the basis for building a tourism culture is actually there and it’s possible for us to take...
There is a great potential in tourism between Algeria and South Africa. That was the area I was going to talk about.
We’ve got a lot of experience and we are the number one destination on the continent when it comes to tourism and I think that a lot of exchanges can take place when it comes to this particular area of tourism. We have associations, vacation plans, and they are part of an international network. But the international network so far does not include Algeria. Every year we host an international tourism event in Durban called Tourism Indaba ,the largest tourism marketing event. It’s an international conference where the entire eco system of tourism gets together. Small business persons using their homes to accommodate visitors, business people who have got huge hotel infrastructure, we have got people who are agents whose job is just to connect and provide support. If they don’t come up with the product, if they don’t come up with the packages then your tourism doesn’t become successful. This is what we need to be encouraging. We have some associations of agents, we have very good hotel schools and lots and lots of beautiful historical things to see. We’ve got several sites. So that needs to be shared with the world and shared with South Africa.
You have electricity supplying problem?
Yes. There has been but there was a huge intervention, which was treated as number one. We came up with the concept of ‘independent power’ for purchases. Before the grid was only owned by the state. Today all involved with the real image produce more electricity than we need. They sell to the government, and they have direct connection to the grid, we actually aim to service. There has been a huge problem. In 2015 we had regular outages but the problem has been overcome. We’ve not had any outage for more than a year and his problem has been particularly solved by ‘independent power’ producers. But I must be up front and say that we are looking for liquified natural gas from Algeria. We don’t buy anything from Algeria at the moment in this field, no LNG no LPG and thinking about it, it is a huge potential in which we can start building our relations. So, I’ve had a meeting with the PDG of Sonatrach and we had our discussions. We also met with NAFTAL and we engaged them and we are confident that at least we prepare ourselves first. We need to help Algeria because of our expertise. We help Algeria to produce lubricants. We work with them to set up the. infrastructure and to manufacture... so, that demands of the market can be met. We are ready in South Africa to engage ourselves. The second area is of course the import of energy from Algeria incapacitating South African demands to be able to continue to produce for our market. We supply a lot of countries in Southern Africa with electricity. Despite our problems we supply electricity to Zimbabwe, Zambia. So all these happen to benefit if that capacity is maintained and service will increase. Therefore it is in our regional interest that we work together with Algeria to get that going.
Have you got Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear power plants?There is a will to diversify energy Yes. We have Nuclear plants in South Africa.we have a nuclear capacity. We strongly believe in peaceful use of Nuclear energy, and the development of capacity in the world where we are living, to produce ourselves isotopes which are used to cure cancer. That would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the research that is done in the nuclear field. We recently, during the last UN general assembly, signed a protocol which seeks to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons and to promote the peaceful use of nuclear. It ‘s an area in which our government is strongly active.
You talked about wind and solar energy, do you have experience in the field of renewable energy? Do you have solar and wind parks and how does the consumption of that energy measure up?
We are the only country in the world that has an airport that operates under renewable energy only. We have been able to inter- create solar and wind and with the equipment and the storage capacity we are able to now store what has been generated to make sure that Airport 24/7 operates on the basis of renewable energy. This has provided us with a lot of experience in production, in storage, distribution and also because of the independent power producers, you remember, it has also brought us investors into this product from abroad. So a lot of technologies are actually evolving on a daily basis. With the independent power producers, an annual event now takes place where new technologies are exhibited and engagements are taken with the power producers but also the government had to give a clear indication of where the country goes, and we adopted an energy mixed policy so we will do a mix, we also do the traditional hydrocarbons because we have them in. We have a lot of coal in South Africa , you know that new technology is now converting coal into oil .So we do that and also we have got a lot of these independent power producers that are experimenting new fields. So the mix we talked about can help ensure that we can have sustainable supply of resources. Renewable energy is the future but we must make use of hydrocarbons wilst we have them. Because the technology is moving so fast. Like the stones, they will still be there but the technology advances . We have to use what is reasonable but the focus has to be on the future.
50% of African companies are in South Africa. Is there any will from South African business men to invest 4000 MGW in Algeria?
We agreed with the minister of energy to have a seminar which will focus especially on renewable energy, and we will bring the eco system from South Africa to Algeria for them to discuss with Algerians and to see what projects can be done together, including contributing to the targets already set up by the government on the development of renewable energy .You might be aware I did meet the minister before the business delegation came. I met with the PDG of Sonatrach and I have also been engaged with the Minister of Environment and Renewable Energy. So, it is an ongoing process. We’ve also been assured by the African Development Bank that they have resources available because that is one of the areas of priority which they would like to see for Africa. Not long ago we have also talked to the acting director of AFRECOM which is the African Regional Energy Commission which is here in Algeria. So we are engaged at multilateral level but also at bilateral level. We do want to get South African companies get involved with Algeria.
Your Excellency. you are speaking about the inter-connection and economic integration of African countries and we are expecting the announcement of the Africa Free Trade Zone in November 2017? You are the first economy country. What is your view on this?
I think it is very important. Let me give you an example. It is cheaper for Europe to transport flowers from Nairobi, from Addis Abbaba and from South Africa to Europe than it’s easy for farmers from Tanzania to do this to Kenya . Cameroon is next to the Republic of Congo. To go next door you have to either go to France or to Nairobi or to Addis Abbaba That s not good for intra -Africa trade. So the free trade zone will at least take away the legal barriers it will stimulate investment in the continent. It will make us seen by the world market. It will facilitate the ease of travelling of goods in the continent. So for me it is quite critical That ‘s why if we look at the Network Project , partnerships for African development.There are projects there that are seeking exactly that. Here in the North, President Bouteflika is responsible for the road that will link the North, West to Central and Southern Africa. It is critical that we do that because if the infrastructure is not in place, goods cannot be transported. Then transport becomes too expensive and the time factor which is critical for some of the goods gets elongated and we are forced to use that transport because of no alternative. At the moment, it has to go to Europe and so it is still a challenge. The development of that zone is actually critical. We have started in Southern Africa and I can tell you that a lot of Southern African countries are benefitting. But beyond what we have seen as a challenge is that we are de-industrialising in the continent because many factories are moving to the East and now we have to make good use of the resources...We need to invest in them to reap the dividends If we do that the future will be bright the for the continent.The zone will make the travelling easy, exchanges of goods a lot easier and will make us more attractive because instead of signing a thousand agreements with the 55 member countries of the African Union,you now have an option of a one stop shop which is better in accessing people in the continent.
What is the main challenge for this African Fee Trade Zone?
Some of the challenges are that the regional economic communities are not at the same level of development. So we’ve agreed to raise the standards and make sure that the work we are doing does benefit. But for me it is an easy to overcome challenge because in East Africa we started on time ourselves.
We now have a free trade area type of agreement which involves Southern Africa, East African community and it is going to be spread out to include, I think, countries like Egypt . North Africa is still a little bit of a challenge for historical reasons .It is not one of the most integrated regions. West Africa is already in a regional community.The way I see it is that the next phase will be the integration of West Africa into the bigger community and then the last phase would include North Africa. That time lag has got disadvantages because it breaks out down the process but from that perspective that time is a challenge. But we need to go through these legal obstacles to aim to achieve what we have set out to Algeria . I am positive that we’ll be able to see it on the continent soon.
The world is changing and moving the central powers in the world. Today SA is a member of the Brics. We want to know how you are seeing the future in the light of that change of central powers and decision making with the creation of the Brics?
Well, the approach of South Africa is that South Africa can never be an island of prosperity unless it solves its poverty. This has been articulated over the years. I always say in the office nobody means alone. So in South Africa our approach is to push the African agenda. In 2020 we put Africa first. In the BRICS we put African nations in the team. We believe that if we talk about your own people and the market of your own people, we have a long way to go . That’s why when we pushed for the development of the BRICS we were very clear that a part of it must be on the continent. We therefore, agreed and we are in the process of establishing the regional head office, the place has been identified and the work is already underway. We also said there must be projects; development projects and so we met already to look at the first set of projects that are going to prove mindful. This is not only for the members of BRICS this is going to be for the entire continent and for anyone who will be able to access the resources because we want to see the infrastructure of the continent improve. So that is the approach. I think it is important to note that as the world changes there are few things at the moment that worry all of us . First because of the disruptive technologies that lead in and out to disruption and disruptions make a lot of things easy but also make a lot of jobs obsolete. We need to be conscious of that. Because we are living in an era of disruption we have to put ourselves in an advantageous position to make sure we don’t miss the next revolution.
We have to be aware that with advances in health , advances in artificial intelligence, in robotics we are going to make a lot of things differently.
Builders in the future are not going to be in great demand The projects that don’t get finished will be finished. Now we start thinking what it will mean for employment and education . Lawyers, now cannot defeat computers . If you take a human being and artificial intelligence, he amount of legal work that a computer does and the accuracy have gone up compared to what human beings do. So legal agreements in the future are going to be drafted by artificial intelligence. I can’t tell you who comes better -the human being or the machine?- the machine. That s why I tell us I’ve been substituted by auto teller machine. Humans, we need them to service the equipment to make sure ... so if we look at that world and start playing for it as Africans we put ourselves in an advantageous position. And we’ve got the young people on our side. We are going to be the permanent African Head office of young people by 2030. this is where young people are going to be in the world, in this continent. We have to start now. So investing in science, technology and mathematics is going to be critical.
I would like to ask you a last question which is about defence. Are there any exchanges between the two countries?
Yes. We have good relations and regular exchanges. We have a joint defence committee team meeting that takes place on a regular basis. They meet at the end of this year here and the next one will be in 2019 in South Africa. There has also been visits by the leaders of our company which is state owned to engage with its Algerian counterpart.