Algeria has become a headache for national companies, which are watching with concern the commercial blockade that the Arab country has subjected to Spain. But not long ago, the territory was synonymous with splendor and opportunity. It even had a large community of Spanish workers fleeing the economic crisis caused by the housing bubble.
One of them was Esther Ahijada, Civil Engineer, Canals and Ports and current head of the international services department of the Colegio de Caminos. "It was a welcoming destination," she sums up. Her experience in Algeria is divided into two stages. And she "barely resembles each other." Between 2010 and 2012, Godson lived in the city of Oran «a great growth of the country, which wanted to develop its infrastructures to be on a par with the great European countries».
Public projects were well paid and allowed dozens of Spanish companies to enter the country.
Those were years in which national multinationals such as Sacyr, Técnicas Reunidas or Isolux bid to take over ambitious projects. «It is true that it was not easy to work there, because in many cases they did not know how the procedures were carried out. But they had a lot of economic capacity and a desire to grow," says Godfather.
The second stage (between 2014 and 2019), lived in Algiers, was radically different. "Oil and gas had fallen sharply, the country had less revenue, and many projects were cancelled." And what is more important, the country began to apply a series of protectionist practices that made it difficult for foreign companies to do business. "The national companies did not have the capacity, but they insisted on strengthening them," says Ahijado. After these practices, a trickle of Spanish companies began to leave the country as of 2015.
The engineer, however, remains with the "closeness" of the Algerians. "It was a friendly country, which feels that it has many more cultural ties with Spain than with others that are a priori closer, such as France."
The experience in the country of Facundo Salas, an engineer from Cádiz, was less positive. He experienced the most insecure side of Algeria, working for a year and a half in a camp based in Djelfa. An area located 300 kilometers from Algiers "where attacks were frequent." "We were working on a project related to a combined cycle plant for an Algerian public company that had a very dictatorial way of operating," explains this engineer.
«You could not speak to them in English because they were offended. You had to address them in Arabic or French. But they could answer you in English. It was a way of telling us, here I am the one in charge, ”recalls Salas. According to his words, displaced workers there slept in a kind of barracks and had to be accompanied by escorts at all times.
«The journeys were also eternal, because every time we changed provinces we also changed esoltas. I did not feel completely safe at any time », adds the engineer, who also points out that his Algerian colleagues assured him that « the atmosphere on the coast was different ».
His experience in the African country lasted a year and a half and ended in 2019. Like that of hundreds of Spaniards who moved there in the last decade. In a few years, Algeria went from being a solution to a problem for Spanish companies. Today, the few that maintain their interest in investing in the country find themselves with an economic conflict of uncertain resolution.