ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria inaugurated a joint French-Algerian Renault car factory in the western city of Oran on Monday, marking the North African country's first foray into the auto industry.
The operation is being billed as the rebirth of Algeria's industry as the oil-rich nation has increasingly been using its oil wealth to import manufactured goods rather than make them.
"The Renault factory is the product of a win-win partnership," said Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal at the pomp-filled ceremony. "The relaunch of the national industrial base is a central element of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's plan and a top priority for this government."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was also present at the opening and described it as an important sign of French-Algerian cooperation.
The plant will manufacture 25,000 Renault Symbol cars a year for the Algerian market and employ 126 workers at first, eventually rising to 350.
The goal is to eventually produce 75,000 cars by 2019.
The plant represents a rare foreign investment success story for Algeria, which has a restrictive investment environment, including a 2009 law limiting foreign ventures to just 49 percent ownership.
While Algeria has nearly $3 billion in foreign investment, nearly all of that is in its oil and gas sector, which produces few jobs in this country of 37 milllion.
Algeria's unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent — 25 percent for young people. Crucially, some 60 percent of jobs come from the government. Until now, Algeria has quieted its restive population by handing out jobs and housing.
Reserves are dwindling however, and restrictive laws have kept new exploration away.