Algeria seeks Swiss investment

Algeria has witnessed violent demonstrations in recent weeks Keystone Archive

A parliamentary delegation from Algeria is in Switzerland to try to drum up foreign investment. Swiss business severed ties with Algeria a decade ago in response to an ongoing terror campaign by Islamic insurgents, which has claimed over 100,000 lives.

This content was published on June 18, 2001 - 07:48

The delegation, headed by the president of Algeria's National Assembly, Abdelhamid Si Afif, aims to build confidence in the country's economy, which has been deteriorating since the insurgents began their campaign of terror in 1992.

The Swiss ambassador to the North African state, André von Graffenreid, said: "This visit is an occasion to strengthen democracy at a political level and to offer economic opportunities."

He added that although security has increased in Algeria in the past 10 years, the country is still battling to attract foreign investment. He said the recent uprising by the Berber community in Kabylie region had done little to improve Algeria's battered reputation.

The Algerians' visit comes after a delegation of Swiss parliamentarians travelled to Algiers last autumn. It follows a recent landmark accord between the former French colony and the European Free Trade Association in which Bern played a major role.

But plenty of diplomatic manoeuvring remains to be done. The Algerian delegation is likely to face questions from Swiss parliamentarians about their government's human rights' record, which has been widely condemned, most recently over its suppression of the Berber rebellion.

Swiss investors will also be expecting the delegation to shed light on Algeria's legal and legislative system, which remains something of a grey area.

The military-backed regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has long promised economic and political reforms but they have yet to materialise.

The Swiss ambassador to Algeria says this should not put off foreign investors because he insists the country has good economic prospects with its market of 30 million potential consumers.

However, poverty remains widespread, and the growth of local industries has had little effect on the lives of most Algerians. Unemployment has remained at around 30 per cent for the past five years.

During the visit, the Algerian delegation is scheduled to hold talks with the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, as well as officials from the economics ministry. They will also meet Nestlé executives before winding up their trip with a meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

swissinfo with agencies

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