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NUSACC Names Algeria’s Madjid Bouguerra ‘2017 Ambassador of the Year’

By Larry Luxner

For the first time since its awards program began in 2004, an Algerian diplomat has been named “Ambassador of the Year” by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC).

Madjid Bouguerra accepted the award during at a Dec. 20 lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel attended by about 100 business and government leaders. He said the distinction is a “testimony to the high-quality relations between Algeria and the United States, with both countries resolutely committed to a confident, dynamic and promising partnership.”

National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod; Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra
From left, NxtVn Group board member Lewis Shadle; National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod; Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra; and NxtVn Group board member Joel Ogren attend NUSACC’s “Ambassador of the Year” awards reception, which honored Ambassador Bouguerra. (Photo: National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce)

Algeria, the largest country in Africa by size and the 10th largest in the world, is home to 41 million people. Inspired by the Arab Spring, which began in neighboring Tunisia, political unrest rocked Algeria from 2010 to 2012, though it never saw the kind of violence that erupted in Libya, Egypt or Syria.

“Algeria has shown a remarkable stability while our region is going through troubled times,” he said. “After years of turmoil and security problems, Algeria has, under the leadership of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, fully regained its rightful place in the concert of nations. It is today a stable country at peace, and looks serenely and confidently toward the future.”

Bouguerra said the “brutal decline of oil prices” and the shale gas revolution that has turned the United States into a net energy exporter forced annual bilateral trade down from $22 billion in 2014 to $7 billion in 2017. But that’s not entirely a bad thing, he said.

National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod; Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joan Polaschik, Rev. Joseph Rahal of the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church and Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra attend NUSACC’s “Ambassador of the Year” awards reception. (Photo: National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce)

“This decline is a real opportunity to resolutely reorient our country’s economic policy toward an effective economic diversification,” he said, noting that for too long, his vast desert nation has been dependent on hydrocarbons.

The ambassador noted that more than 120 U.S. firms now operate in Algeria, representing a variety of sectors such as energy, biotech, information technology, agriculture, transportation and telecommunications. Success stories include El Firma, a U.S.-Algerian dairy farm that incorporates the latest in genetics, feed production and crop storage. Other investments in Algeria involve Varian Medical Systems (radiotherapy equipment), General Motors (steam and gas turbines, generators and control systems) and Pfizer (pharmaceuticals for the local market).

“Despite the loss of more than half of its revenues, Algeria boasts a strong economic foundation which enables it to resist the shock caused by the decline in oil prices,” Bouguerra said. “Algeria is today the least indebted country in Africa and the Arab world, thanks to wise management of our macroeconomic situation as well as prudent management of our foreign exchange reserves, which still exceed $100 billion.”

National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod; Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra
Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra, center, accepts the Ambassador of the Year award from National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod, left, and Nancy Ziuzin Schlegel, NUSACC board member and vice president of international government affairs at Lockheed Martin. (Photo: National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce)

Noting that Algeria was one of the first countries to recognize the United States, back in 1795, Bouguerra acknowledged the presence of Josh Pope, the mayor of Elkader, Iowa. The town of 1,723 in northeastern Iowa is named after Algeria’s Emir Abdelkader, an early leader who rebelled against French colonial rule. Accompanying Pope to Washington was Kathy Garms, executive director of the Abdelkader Education Project.

“On behalf of our citizens, I want to extend to Ambassador Bouguerra the warmest greetings of peace and friendship,” said Pope. “Emir Abdelkader is the foundation of our Sister City Exchange. As we grow together, I will strive to build on this foundation through sustainable friendships and collaborations. Together, we will move forward in unity.”

David Hamod, NUSACC’s president and CEO, praised the Algerian ambassador.

“Madjid Bouguerra is sometimes passionate, sometimes stoic, but always principled, bringing a quiet determination to everything that he does,” Hamod said. “He has been working diligently and quietly behind the scenes as an ‘unsung hero’ with few singing his praises, until today.”

So did Joan Polaschik, who was U.S. ambassador to Algeria until this past July. Now acting principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, she called Bouguerra a “great friend and colleague” who truly deserves the NUSACC award.

National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod; Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra
Ambassador of Algeria Madjid Bouguerra, center, receives three awards: the Ambassador of the Year award from National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Hamod, left, and Nancy Ziuzin Schlegel of Lockheed Martin, right; the Honorary Citizen of Elkader award from Elkader Mayor Josh Pope, second from right; and a commemorative brick from Kathy Garms, second from left, executive director of the Abdelkader Education Project. (Photo: National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce)

“I greatly appreciate Ambassador Bouguerra’s efforts to meet with U.S. companies to promote investment opportunities, as well as his personal involvement in making our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement meetings and trade delegations, advocacy and networking opportunities into productive, regular exchanges.”

Polaschik added that as ambassador, Bouguerra has placed a high priority on strengthening educational bonds between Algiers and Washington.

“We have worked together to expand scholarships and exchange programs, which enable talented Algerians to visit the United States, and to reinforce the Middle East Partnership Initiative … in order to ensure that young Algerians have access to the skills required to succeed in today’s complex and interconnected economy.” 


Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat.

 
 

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