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The Middle East Association took a delegation of eight businessmen to Algeria from 26th – 30th November. The mission was cross-sectoral, with delegates from manufacturing, education, consulting and insurance. The mission was timed to coincide with a visit by Lord Howell, Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, for government to government trade discussions. This timing helped to boost the mission’s profile with our Algerian contacts and allowed us to enjoy the excellent reception for Lord Howell hosted by HMA Martyn Roper at the British Residence on the evening of 27th November.
This was the second MEA mission to Algeria in 2011. It was on a smaller scale than our ground-breaking 35 strong delegation in January. What was clear, however, was the scale of opportunity that Algeria continues to offer UK companies who are prepared to commit to the market. Equally clear, however, is the need for patience, perseverance and persistence in the face of a market that offers significant obstacles to foreign participants.
The mission also made clear, however, the importance to any new entrant to look beyond Algiers itself. The MEA mission also went to Oran, Algeria’s second city. The welcome we got there from the Wali and the Chamber of Commerce was exceptional – as was a sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship which was much more evident than in the capital. We were hosted by BAT at their factory in Oran which is thriving and soon to expand. Other UK companies with operations in Oran include Unilever and Invensys. We are sure to want to take new delegations to that city in the future.
We were looked after superbly throughout by Marcus Grazette and his team at UKTI Algiers. Many thanks go to them and, of course, to Martyn Roper. The UK operation in that difficult country is very good and beginning to make real inroads into what has not historically been a market in which UK firms have dabbled. Visible export figures for the first nine months of 2011 show a 60% rise on 2010, so clearly something is going right.