Algeria’s diplomacy of empty tours
Like his predecessor, the civilian façade of Algeria’s military regime, Abdelmejid Tebboune has embarked on a series of tours in European, Arab and Asian capitals but returned empty-handed.
Tebboune’s most recent visit was to China on which he pinned hope to win support for his regime’s fantasy to join the BRICS. China said it welcomed Algeria’s wish to join the grouping leaving Tebboune disappointed as he did not receive a clear-cut promise from Beijing to support his bid.
Tebboune’s media bragged so much about the 19 deals signed with China, which are all MoU not including a single concrete project, in a country in which the state is an economic actor that has so far acted as a repellent for foreign investors.
Needless to recall that Tebboune has said in one of his interviews that foreign investment undermines a state’s sovereignty! such a rhetoric is not conducive for attracting investors including from China.
As the economic outlook for Algeria worsens with the drop in gas and oil prices, Tebboune and his military mentors are thirsty for diplomatic gains to sell to a disenchanted population hit by inflation, unemployment, and shortfalls in public services, not to mention climate change with the recent death of 34 in wildfires.
“The New Algeria” as Tebboune and his master Chief of Staff Chengriha wish to call their reign is hitting strong headwinds in their BRICS chimera.
Recently, an Indian official said Saudi Arabia’s adhesion is almost certain while other front runners include Indonesia, the UAE, Egypt, and Argentina.
While Russia and China welcomed Algeria’s fantasy to join the BRICS, other countries are reluctant to let in a country with no industrial strategy that still relies on hydrocarbons with a low GDP.
The five new candidates all dwarf Algeria’s GDP which stands at 163 billion dollars only with a GDP per capita that is pegged on barrel prices standing at around 3500 dollars compared to that of Argentina at 10,000 dollars.
As Algeria loses its citizens in wildfires that are common across the Mediterranean, the Algerian regime is busy squandering its people’s gas mantra offering $1.5 billion to the BRICS NDB bank.
Algeria has little to expect from the bank apart from being shareholder. The bank operates in the BRICS countries only and has standards for investments that Algeria- with one of the least developed financial systems in Africa- has yet to meet.
Marketing international trips per se as an indicator of Algeria’s return at the international scene is confronted to the gloomy reality of a regime whose president remains hostage of the Presidential palace in Algiers and who has made more trips abroad than at home to check on his suffering people as they queue every morning to get rationed milk and basic foodstuff.
Blinded by its rivalry with Morocco and driven by an anachronistic position in the defense of the Polisario separatists, Algerian president has almost returned from all his trips to influential capitals empty handed, unable to win support for the Polisario, except from cash strapped Tunisia under authoritarian president Kais Saied.
A country’s international influence and diplomatic strength is only a reflection of domestic welfare and development. As Algeria’s diplomacy punches above its weight, the BRICS episode will only make Tebboune and his regime lose credibility in the eyes of the same disenchanted youth they want to distract.
Lacking tangible achievements at home to market in his electoral campaign for a second term, Tebboune has also failed in making gains abroad leaving him and his army chiefs facing the dire reality of an Algeria in economic, diplomatic, and social disarray.