Nouakchott – Algeria and Mauritania announced the establishment of a free trade area at the beginning of the new year in 2024, aiming to promote economic cooperation and have made qualitative progress in four years.
Algeria previously announced the resumption of barter trade with Mauritania, Mali and Niger, which was halted in 2020 due to security tensions in the Sahel region of West Africa.
Algeria is stepping up efforts to expand the Mauritanian market, considered a gateway to many African countries, and the Moroccan market has been Mauritania's main supplier for decades.
Highways and border crossings
In August 2018, Algeria opened its first border crossing with Mauritania and began construction of a 775-kilometer land road connecting the Algerian Tindouf state and the Mauritanian city of Zueirat, with the final project completed last year.
During the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, the two countries successfully operated air bridges to ensure the continuity of trade exchanges and economic flows.
In February 2022, the first maritime cargo transportation supervised and operated by the General Directorate of the Algerian Maritime Transport Association (GATMA) began port cargo transportation. The voyage from Nouakchott Port to Algeria takes 6 days.
Algeria's interior minister announced that two crossing points will be opened in 2024, and construction work is currently more than 90% complete.
Algeria has diverse industries in areas such as pharmaceutical materials, construction and engineering, and agricultural products as it seeks to join the club of African exporters.
Algerian companies see Mauritania as a gateway for their products into West Africa, a market that is an attractive center for investors.
Mauritania also has huge fish wealth, with an estimated annual export capacity of 1.8 million tons. The latest statistics from the Nouakchott Investment Promotion Agency show that the fish export ratio does not exceed 1.2 million tons, which means that Mauritania needs financial assistance. In recent years, infrastructure has been developed by equipping four seaports: Nouadhibou, Nouakchott, Tanit and Endiago.
Exchange index rises
After the opening of the border ports between the two countries in 2018, the chambers of commerce and industry of the two countries signed a number of agreements to create economic opportunities and form a development pole.
In October 2018, the Algerian Products Exhibition opened, with 170 companies participating. The trade volume reached approximately US$50 million in the same year, and will reach US$87 million in 2021.
This number continues to rise, with trade volume reaching approximately $187 million in the first quarter of 2023.
In September 2023, the Algerian government opened a branch of the United Bank of Algeria in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. This is the first bank opened by Algeria overseas.
Through this step, it is intended to facilitate business flows between active institutions of the two countries, thereby overcoming obstacles to financial transfers.
In conjunction with the opening of the financial institution, a permanent exhibition was organized in Nouakchott for Algerian companies to learn about the latest Algerian products and attract the attention of Mauritanian suppliers.
Dr. Hakim Boglala, a scholar and professor at the University of Medea in Algeria, said The free market between the two countries is the result of years of consultation and constructive cooperation between the two governments taking advantage of their vast geographical locations.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, he explained that the development of border areas is not only about strengthening trade exchanges, but also about strengthening control of borders where smuggling gangs are active.
On strengthening ties between the two neighbours, Dr Boglala said the resumption of trade exchanges and barter would strengthen political ties and unify views on the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.
Buglala believes that the solidity of bilateral relations is based on respecting the political positions of all parties.
Mauritanian President Ould Cheikh Ghazouani visited Algeria in December 2021, during which he signed a memorandum of cooperation with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
In September 2022, the Prime Minister of Algeria, accompanied by 6 government ministers, visited Nouakchott and co-chaired the work of the Joint High Committee with the Prime Minister of Mauritania, signing 26 agreements on energy, electricity, mining, natural gas, etc.
In order to consolidate its position in West Africa, Algeria announced the resumption of barter trade (goods for goods without currency) with Nouakchott, Mali and Niger to facilitate deepening its influence in the West African market. those countries.
Countries in West Africa and the Sahel have become promising investment areas due to large discoveries of natural gas, oil and gold.
Mauritania seeks to maintain connections between the world and countries in West Africa and the Sahel through its ports and land routes.
Algeria has also made great progress in creating the right conditions to expand investment in Africa, completing the African Sahel Highway connecting Niger, Chad and Nigeria to its ports.
The road was completed between Tindouf and the Mauritanian city of Zouerat, with iron ore exported through the port of Nouadhibou, the economic capital.
Boglala said that Algeria has contributed to the eradication of poverty in the Sahel countries and has allocated US$1 billion through the Agency for International Development to help build facilities and improve public life in the Sahel region.