Mehmet Poroy is Turkey’s ambassador to Algeria. In this interview he talks about the long standing friendship between Algeria and Turkey and their common history. moreover, Mehmet Porov stresses the importance of trade relations between the two countries and the turkish investors’ interest.
OGB : What are the main exchanges between Algeria and Turkey?
Mehmet Poroy : Energy holds an important part in our relation with Algeria. We import gas (GNL) from Algeria, our main supplier of natural gas after Russia and Azerbaidjan. Last year we imported for 4 billion cubic metres of Algerian gas. For more than 20 years, we have this relation on energy. Recently, both companies, Sonatrach and Botak have signed a contract in 2014 to be long term renewable. This relation is going on in a satisfactory way. Algeria is a trustful supplier. It is very important for us to secure diverse energy suppliers. Algerian gas represents 8% of domestic consumption in my country. Other relations evolve around investments.
Turkish firms are keen to invest in Algeria. There are visits and discussions between interested companies.
When I met Mr Guitouni, the Energy Minister, we talked about the excellent relations with Algeria and energy investment in the country.
Could you be more precise on the type of investment?
Actually, I cannot say more as it concerns primarily the companies involved and I am not informed
about the level of progress in the discussions. However I can already say that we are involved with a construction firm of infrastructures in the energy sector.They are power stations, gas turbines. Trade with Algeria is important. In 2016, it amounted to around three billion dollars. Previously, it was of 4 and 5 billion in 2014. The drop is linked to the global situation. Though three billion dollars is not bad, we still want to increase the volume of our exchanges.
We mostly buy gas and oil. We sell equipment for car industry, machines, textile. We have to say that Algeria is our first partner in the African continent.
On the other hand, our relations are not limited to trade. Our investments are important and in those difficult times of the Algerian economy, it is important. We have a big textile company in Oran. It has already invested for more than one billion dollars and its expansion capability is still on. It is always growing and expanding. In Relizane the company has completed the construction of a building for a large textile compound and has undertaken a manufacturing of parts assembling machines for the production of textile. The production will start in 2018.
Is the rule imposing a takeover of capital below 49% for foreign investment embarrassing?
It seems that the firms are not embarrassed by it. For example this big textile compound is established within that rule and the Algerian party owns 51% of the factory.
We have to say that business men do find solutions. With the two big investments we have already reached two billion dollars. There are other factories like in Blida where we have one of the oldest Turkish investments in the field of hygienic products.
They are very active and are planning to extend their investment. They contribute to creating employment in the region and we are proud of the presence of that firm because it is seen as a good example by the local authorities.
Another firm well known in Turkey is about to open business here. Its name is Taki Ibrahim (?) but it will take a different name here as it
is in partnership with an Algerian firM. There are also plans in the car industry in Ain Temouchent and small construction factories for food production such as biscuits and tomato concentrate.
Taking into account the Algerian economic situation, we are trying to encourage our business men to create partnerships with Algerians. Algeria is a stable country from a political and security point of view and that is very important considering the regional risks.
What is the Turkish population in Algeria and who are they?
They are mainly engineers, workers, traders. The figures are not exactly known because of the coming and going mobility but we can estimate it at between 8000 and 10,000 Turkish nationals who work in sites, who are projects managers. But obviously the Turkish firms employ Algerian workforce.
Is there any transfer of know how?
When the Turks are here, the Algerians, of course, do pick up information and learn especially in the industrial sector. Initially, it is the Turks that lead the operations and then the Algerians follow up after being trained. It is normal and also less expensive than bringing foreign technicians. Algeria is happy with the Turkish companies approach.
Is there any investment plan for the pharmaceutical sector?
It is a sector that works and an industry that requires a special technology so there is always room for new investments.
What about construction?
Construction is perhaps the most important part of our economic relations and of our presence on algerian territory. We have more than sixty Turkish construction firms. There is a list established by a magazine about international construction which lists the 250 first firms in the world. We find 40 Turkish firms selected and among these 11 are active in Algeria. It does show the power of these firms. When financial problems arise, they have always the capability to self finance and carry out the work. We are mainly active in housing. Tens of thousands of housing buildings are being built by the Turkish firms throughout the Algerian territory. We are satisfied as the work is advancing well to the satisfaction of the local authorities. There are also some big firms that are building dams and are active in the construction of the East-West motorway such as the exit to Tizi Ouzou or at the Oran port. We are also active in the construction of tunnels and railways. We are active as Turkish firms or subcontracted by Algerian ones. When I visit Wilayas I always find a Turkish company which builds a hospital, a stadium, or housing everywhere in the country. I would like to point out that although we are geographically remote but the level of trade is important, investments too but
the human aspect is essential. The Turks and the Algerians are alike despite the language difference. Culture, religion, human approach to problems are similar. That helps our business men in their activities in Algeria.
The business men I meet always tell me without exception how they feel at home here in Algeria. That shows the close relationships. We have a common history. It has been five centuries since the Turks had arrived following an invitation by the Diwan of Algiers to come and help get rid of the spanish forces from Bejaia, Jijel and Algiers. We spent three centuries till the french occupation. We have therefore shared and exchanged many
things at a cultural level.When we organised cultural activities to commemorate the fifth century of the beginning of our relations, we have seen the cultural resemblance. For instance, during the ancient costumes show in cooperation with a firm from Medea, we have noticed the similarities. We have also organised a «henna» evening and it was the same observation. That eases a bit human relationships. There is also a close connection in air transport between Algeria and Turkey. This plays an important role. We have almost fifty flights a week between the Algerian and the Turkish Airlines. From Algiers we have more or less four daily flights to Istanbul. This reinforces relations. Algerians love turkey as their touristic destination which is second choice after Tunisia. The visa system between the two countries is working well and everything is done to make it easier. In 2014 we have established an electronic visa for persons over 35 or under 18 . With a credit card and a connection, they can obtain their visa application without having to move. For those aged between 18 and 35 and need a visa on their passport we have started to work with a specialised company with its offices based in Algiers, Oran and Constantine to facilitate the visa request. It takes three days for an Algerian to get a visa for Turkey.
Given that Algerians just like Turks do things in the last minute (laughter) three days only is pretty practical.
There was a question of a free trade agreement between Turkey and Algeria?
We have started to establish wind parks as well as solar energy as sun is quite present in Turkey even if it is not as in Sahara, we are on the same parallel. We have started to invest but it is not developed yet. There are companies capable of cooperating with Algeria to invest in the sector of renewable energy. We are trying to draw the attention of Turkish companies for this possibility but truly it is not an area on which we are very advanced so far.