Issad Rebrab is an Algerian billionaire businessman with a net worth of $5.1 billion. He is the CEO of the Cevital industrial group. The conglomerate is the country’s largest private corporation operating in steel, food, agro, and electronics.
His industrial career began in 1971, when one of his clients suggested he invest in a metallurgical construction firm. He acquired 20% of the stock in Sotecom. Following that, he founded two more steel companies; Profilor in 1975 and Metal Sider in 1988.
His main installations were destroyed in a terrorist attack in 1995. Rebrab chose to leave Algeria after realising the dangers of staying. He returned in 1998 with Cevital, the largest agricultural firm in Algeria, which ultimately became the largest private Algerian corporation. Cevital has one of the world’s largest sugar refineries, with a capacity of 2 million tonnes per year.
Whilst in a session with Oxford Business Group, Rebrab highlighted how Africa can improve its intra-regional trade, he said, “Africa needs a more unified legislative framework to facilitate and regulate trade within North and sub-Saharan Africa. Also, the continent as a whole needs to improve in terms of the ability to process its own raw materials so that it can capitalise on value-added production. Trade volumes and intra-regional foreign investment need to grow significantly.”
Cevital owns a number of European companies, including Groupe Brandt, a French home appliance manufacturer, an Italian steel mill, and a German water purification company.
Speaking on the challenges Algerian firms face while investing abroad, Rebrab said,
“According to the current law, transferring local currency outside of the country is not allowed, which significantly limits the ability of Algerian companies – with the exception of Sonatrach and those public banks who currently hold stakes in foreign financial institutions – to execute direct investments abroad.
“From our perspective, for example, we have reached a level of maturity in the local market and as a result have begun to identify opportunities for investment abroad, which in turn could have very positive benefits for the Algerian economy. As a result, we are currently discussing with the authorities the relevance of these investments and are sorting through the potential options that could allow us to move forward.”
When it comes to upskilling and human capital development in Algeria, he said, “In order to improve the transfer of skills and knowledge, and to better develop our labour pool, it is crucial that Algeria rolls out a programme of inter-country cooperation. It goes without saying that we are reliant on the expertise of professionals from other countries – including the neighbouring countries within our region – when they have a proven expertise in a given sector. This is something we should leverage.”
Scaling on the Verge of Scandal
Rebrab paid $45 million purchasing the El Khabar media company in 2016. By that time, he already owned French-Algerian daily paper, Liberte, making it his second media venture. On April 22, 2019, he was detained at El Harrach prison on the instructions of the public prosecutor, following his detention as part of a corruption investigation. He was released on January 1, 2020, after serving 8 months in prison for tax, banking, and customs violations.