Last week, Algerian-Mauritanian relations witnessed an active movement, which was led by the visit of the Chief of Staff of the Mauritanian Army, Lieutenant-General Mohamed Bemba Makt, to Algeria at the head of an important military delegation.
A statement by the Algerian Ministry of Defense stated that the three-day visit is part of the strengthening of military cooperation between the two countries, during which Lieutenant General Secretary of State Chengriha met with his Algerian counterpart Lieutenant General Said Chengriha.
He stressed that the event was “an opportunity for the two parties to review the state of military cooperation and exchange views on current issues of common interest, in light of the evolution of the security situation prevailing in the region.”
On the other hand, the two neighbors renewed their will to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of health, following a working visit that led Algerian Minister Abdel Rahman Ben Bouzid, who headed an important delegation to Nouakchott last week.
For his part, the Mauritanian Minister of Health called on his Algerian guest to help his country to launch an epidemiological monitoring and control system, in addition to supporting hospital reform, training, scientific research and maintenance, and the exchange of experiences in the health field.
On the other hand, the Director General of Foreign Trade in Algeria, Khaled Bouchlagem, revealed that the share of his country’s products in total Mauritanian imports from African countries reached 20% in 2020.
Bouchelagem told the official news agency that Algeria is able in 2021 to increase its exports to Mauritania to 50 million dollars, to exceed the 53 million achieved in 2017, after the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
According to the statistics of the General Directorate of Customs of Mauritania, Algerian exports amounted to 8.7 million dollars during the last third of 2020, making it the second African supplier to Nouakchott.
And the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mauritania, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said, last February, during his reception by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, that his country’s relationship with Algeria was “excellent and strategic.”
A few weeks later, Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum landed in Nouakchott, to announce from there that his country “will initiate further cooperation, consultation and coordination with Mauritania,” confirming at the time that “there is a great understanding regarding the current international situation in the Maghreb.”
Then he returned to the visit accompanied by a high-ranking delegation of ministers of finance, trade and health, and the Director General of the Algerian Agency for International Cooperation, where he met President Mohamed Ould El-Ghazwani last June and delivered a written message from his Algerian counterpart.
Algeria’s moves towards Mauritania come in the context of a regional situation marked by competition to attract Nouakchott.
The relations of the two countries witnessed remarkable progress, in light of the emergence of security risks in the Sahel region, and following the opening of the first land border crossing between them in the summer of 2018, with the aim of increasing trade exchange, the movement of people and enhancing cooperation.
Confronting the Moroccan role
Amer Mesbah, an expert researcher on the African Sahel, said that the revitalization of Algerian-Mauritanian relations falls within the multi-sectoral regional security diplomacy.
He believed, in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, that Algeria aims from behind this to “support its regional role in the Maghreb, and continental across Africa, to counter the growing Moroccan role, which has recently been supported by the United States and Israel.”
Mesbah emphasized that the multi-sectoral security diplomacy for Algeria includes strengthening trade and cultural ties, security cooperation to combat non-traditional threats (drugs, human trafficking, terrorism, smuggling …) and supporting the stability of border areas and across the strategic depth of the two countries.
He added that Algeria considers Mauritania its strategic depth to the Atlantic Ocean, in contrast, Algeria is a passage for Mauritania to Europe.
The professor of international relations at the University of Algiers believes that there are many areas of cooperation that can be developed to the level of long-term strategic partnership between the two countries, such as military, security and health cooperation, economic and commercial cooperation.
There are also other areas that are subject to bilateral cooperation and bear vital and profitable interests for both parties, such as developing the marine fishing sector in the Atlantic Ocean, mineral exploration, scientific research and cooperation between universities, according to the spokesman.
The diplomatic ambition includes – according to the Algerian vision – access to the Mauritanian market, and transit to the West African countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean for the purposes of trade and economic cooperation, before reaching the market of the “ECOWAS” region.
As for the Mauritanian vision, it aims to benefit from the Algerian market and various aid, especially with regard to developing border areas and increasing commercial traffic through land ports, according to Mesbah.
Accordingly, Algeria seeks to develop the infrastructure in the Sahara region, by constructing railways, highways, international airports, the communication network and Internet flow, and other public services that help develop the movement of investments and exchanges across the Sahara in a straight line to West Africa through Mauritania.
For his part, Mohamed Amin Boutalebi, Director of the Arab African Center for Investment and Development, emphasized that the economic relationship between Algeria and Mauritania has become very important with the presence of one of the largest border crossings between the two neighbors.
He explained that the rate of trade exchange between the two countries rose from 38 million dollars in 2016 to 53 million in 2017, as “Algeria exports to Mauritania, and through it to Africa, recycled food and technology, and widely consumed materials.”
According to Boutalebi, the most important pillars that the two sides focus on are the provision of industrial zones on the Algerian side, and the strengthening of intra-trade, industry and direct investment to further develop the relationship, confirming the will of the private sector on both sides.
He expected, in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net, that Algeria will rank first in 2021 among Mauritania’s partners, by giving more privileges to exporters and tax incentives, while removing logistical obstacles.
Boutalebi said that the two parties’ relations will develop further in the coming weeks, with partnerships and direct investments, according to an Algerian plan that will enable it to double the value of exchanges in 2022.