Algerian media have reported that the country’s Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel and China’s Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission He Lifeng have signed a memorandum of understanding on the sidelines of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation which confirms Algeria’s intention of becoming a partner nation in the One Belt–One Road initiative for global connectivity.
The move is significant as it clearly shows that China’s goal of revitalising the national economies of Africa via a programme of peace through prosperity is not merely limited to the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa whose leaders are developing ever stronger ties with Beijing. Algeria has long been a partner of China and is likewise significant as being a state which successfully thwarted a Takfiri instigated civil war in order to preserve not only its territorial integrity but its traditional progressive Arab nationalist government. Given as the future of Syria’s territorial integrity is anything but assured, Algeria’s accomplishment in this respect appears all the more significant with the benefit of hindsight.
Furthermore, against the background of the recent political turbulence in Tunisia (which seems to have stabilised for the time being), Morocco’s stagnant political system and the reality that Libya is now in its seventh year of being a totally failed state, Algeria has gone from being the most tumultuous state in the Maghreb to being the most stable, thanks in no small part to decades of continuity in respect of governance.
While China is busily engaged in constructing and investing in New Silk Road connectivity projects in the Horn of Africa, one could be forgiven for thinking that Beijing was being complacent about important shipping routes on the western side of the Suez Canal. Algeria’s willingness to embrace One Belt–One Road means that China will now be able to help its partners construct a more seamless shipping route between the Horn of Africa and the western Mediterranean.
An increased Chinese presence in the Maghreb has positive implications beyond merely helping Algeria to become a vital Mediterranean hub in the New Silk Road. The instability in the Maghreb, primarily in Libya has led to the facilitation of unwanted mass migration of Africans into Europe. Any nation investing in Algeria as China will almost certainly do in light of the new memorandum of understanding, will want to see neighbouring Libya return to being something that can be called a state which since 2011 has not been the reality.
With China’s presence in Algeria soon to be felt in a far more meaningful way, it is clear that China is going to be making its shipping presence known in the Mediterranean which for the moment is the north-western terminus of One Belt–One Road seeing as a wider network encompassing Latin America is still at least a decade away from reaching the status of the Pacific to Horn of Africa belts and roads that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has made possible.
China’s forward looking partnership with Algeria ought also to be a wake-up call for complacent European leaders who have neglected to secure modern trade deals with China in an age where the US is unabashedly targeting European products almost as viciously as Washington is doing in respect of Chinese products. In this sense, a more seamless flow of goods from east Asia to southern Europe could be made possible with Algeria forming a crucial link in One Belt–One Road. Likewise, as European leaders have yet to agree on a cohesive strategy to end the migrant crisis which has caused more consternation in Europe than at any time since the Balkan Wars of the 1990s if not since the Second World War, a more visible Chinese presence in the Mediterranean could be helpful for bringing stability to a waterway whose north African floodgates have largely been opened in the aftermath of the disastrous war on Libya.
In terms of Algeria’s economic growth, being part of One Belt–One Road could see more Algerian exports head to Asia than at present. As of this year, Algeria’s top destinations for exports are Spain, Italy, the United States and France while the highest number of imports to Algeria come from China. A One Belt–One Road partnership could help Algeria to diversify its economy by opening up Asian markets to more Algerian raw materials and goods.
In taking the Sino-Algerian partnership to this next level, a win-win future is likely to arise not only between businesses in both nations, but the perilous situation in Libya and the European migrant crisis could also be positively effected by this development as at long last China will begin to develop a proper stake in the region.