A stunning "first":
Algerian company wins O.M. ´s sponsorship
Those thought to be contenders, Orange, Sony or Marionnaud. Even Microsoft
Since Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunication company bowed out, the
football world was rife with rumour as to the identity of the new sponsor
for "Olympique de Marseille". But it was however hard to anticipate
that instead of a logo of an American computer titan or a Japanese electronics
giant, it would be the condor of Khalifa Airways spreading its wings
across the O.M. jersey ! And that Robert Louis - Dreyfus, the president
of this mythical team would take as a new partner a young head of company
absolutely unknown in France.
This is no longer a stunning "first": it is indeed a cultural
shock. Marseilles is considered as the first "Algerian" city
in Europe by the number of Algerians nationals and Franco-Algerians
it inhabits, but it is, for sure, the first time that a North African
company is eminently parading on this Phocaean stronghold, whose symbol
is the Velodrome Stadium.
What did you say, Rafik who? Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa? The tall young
man with sparkling eyes sitting beside Robert Louis - Dreyfus ? No,
undoubtedly, he can ´t be seen...
But just ask any youth, a thousand kilometers from here, beyond the
Mediterranean Sea, to tell you who this boy is, and you ´ll get
an answer. Rafik Khalifa is a successful man. A private contractor who
has created more employment in Algeria - nine thousand already, and
he is not stopping there. A buddy to Khaled, Cheb Mami, Zinedine Zidane.
A guy one would like to have as a boss cum big brother, because you
know that he will lift you higher than his own dreams...
A leading figure at the age of 35, a part of a generation that had
witnessed the explosion of the easing of trade restrictions in his country,
Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa sees beyond. For his group, which has literally
ascended since its creation in the dispensary of a pharmacy in the western
suburbs of Algiers ; for the younger generation of his country, whose
future is not promising ; for this Euro-Mediterranean region, where
his ideas, currencies, and men circulate always more rapidly and more
And particularly, for Algeria.
Discreet and reserved, the young Managing Director was, for the first
time, on spotlights of the French bulletins, during the presentation
of the new sponsorship of O.M. on June 11th 2001. Rafik Khalifa is more
of an action man than a salesman. He has for sure friends among the
stars, but this happy-go-lucky prefers relaxing with his counterparts
far from paparazzi cameras - most of them, often good old friends. And
the presentation of this unexpected sponsor by Robert Louis - Dreyfus,
in the Havas Advertising Head office ´s
Amphitheater, at Levallois Perret, had aroused a legitimate curiosity.
Who is this self-made-man with a face, serious yet juvenile at the
same time, who has earned himself fortune and a destiny within ten years
only, by a serial of strategically brilliant redeployments ? What pushes
Rafik Abdlemoumen Khalifa ?
A story of a dazzling ascension, charming... unexpected - except for
his main protagonist !
1 - Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa:
a modern Algerian
Optimist, creative, generous and jovial...
Careful, responsible, reserved almost to humility.... The portrait is
different from that given by the family and his collaborators.
A mixture of skills that enabled the young head of company become one
of the pioneers of the free market economy in his country - just like
his father had been one of the founders of a modern Algeria...
In a country where
everything needs to be done: An inventor of companies
One should imagine Algeria thirty years ago, the way it is described
by those who had lived it... A sort of little Russia under the "Maghreb"
sunshine, plenty of natural resources, but managed according to the
socialist economical system.
Empty stores. An overcrowded public sector with personnel less inspired
to give up the already acquired advantages to re-invest into the private
sector, severely restricted by the State monopoly on foreign trade.
A heavy industry, reduced to dwelling on a limited profitable area,
the petrochemical sector. But unable to manufacture daily consumption
goods - a car, an aspirin tablet, a vacuum cleaner, a baby-nappy....
Everything has to be imported. But not all is. As a result, the shelves
are desperately empty...
This is the situation in the country where Rafik Abdelmoumen
Khalifa made his first foot-steps. A country where everything has to
The authorities, definitely concerned by social justice, focused on
access for everybody to health, housing and education benefits - 92%
of the population was illiterate in 1962, today illiteracy no longer
exists whereas it is still there in the neighbouring Morocco.
But, the intellectual elite, capable of steering the country ´s
economy, has to join the civil service soon after graduating, for a
period of five years, either in national companies, public hospitals,
ministries or so. A comfort which becomes later on difficult to renounce.
As a result, "a generation taken care of by the State, used to
being assisted", laments Mrs. Djaouida Jazaerli, a professional
jurist and a former assistant lecturer in the faculty of Law at the
University of Algiers. She is the lawyer for Khalifa Airways and a maternal
aunt to Rafik Khalifa...
Those in their forties and fifties, are today pressured by the change
from socialist-interventionist economy to easing of trade restrictions
in the late 80´s at times, rough. " They were not able to
melt into this true revolution in their habits " continues Djaouida
Jazaerli. "The successful ones are the younger ones, who took risks,
worked continually, and had nerves hard as steel".
Like his nephew.
Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa is a pure product of a juridical, cultural
and social revolution which introduced trade market economy in Algeria,
towards the end of the nineties, under the presidency of Liamine Zeroual
- to start with a new Commercial Law.
A revolution which his elders could not even have imagined fifteen years
ago, since they could read clearly in the 1975 National Chart: "
the private sector which is exploiting the workers..."
A revolution which was hardly noticed by the outside world, as most
of the news on Algeria focused on security problems during the past
The young man who has just celebrated his thirty fifth birthday on October
1st 2001, is part of this new generation of private contractors, ready
to face the free-market trade without any help from the Public Sector,
but at the same time ready to join them in their efforts to develop
the country. This new Algeria, a moving forward Algeria which he could
see right from the beginning emerging, and in which he is one of the
First medicine manufactured in Algeria by a private company ?
By him. His Mercryl, manufactured in the dispensary of this familial
pharmacy in Cheraga, in the outskirts of Algiers, out of the components
and packing paper imported from France, still bearing today the registration
agreement n° 001 of the Ministry for Health. A document duly and
carefully framed ! With this success, KRM Pharma, the first company
manufacturing medicines in the country at its creation in 1990, today
ranks in the 6th position among young pharmaceutical industries in Algeria.
The first credit card for the use of clients in an African bank?
Again him, during summer 2001. Or rather, El Khalifa Bank, the first
private banking establishment to have acquired an agreement in 1998
from the Ministry for Finance. Since the opening of the first agency
in Cheraga, sixty more branches have followed throughout the country,
making an annual turnover of more than 400 million dollars.
The first private aeronautical operator in the country ?
Again it ´s him. Khalifa Airways launched in August 1999, connecting
Algiers to Oran, will transport around 1,5 million passengers in 2001
on domestic flights as well as flights to France, Spain or to the Middle
The first Car Rental company for Algerians without having a French
bank account ?
Of course, him. All you need is a Khalifa Airways air ticket or an
El Khalifa Bank Credit Card to hire a car from Khalifa Car Rental. Simply
think of it !
The first African company displayed across the jersey of a European
football team ? We saw him, rescue the O.M. from a serious financial
difficulty, with annual investment of 18 million French Francs, for
the next five years...
It is clear that Rafik Khalifa has always been a step ahead of his competitors
in the public and private sectors, and as his ultimate goal is to modernize
and place his country on the lime light positively, it is therefore
in Algiers where he likes best to negotiate his businesses with foreign
partners, to make them discover. The young man ´s motto is: "what
we can do today, has to be done".
He never goes for easy tasks. He could have, like many of his compatriots,
got involved in import-export business, or manufactured products of
big added value, or even applied his knowledge overseas, where he was
already being sollicited at the age of twenty three, by a Swiss pharmaceutical
company. But he had chosen to stay in Algeria even if he clearly understands
those ones who choose to emigrate. "Our generation grew up in the
height of communism. We never thought that it would change. At any rate,
not that fast."
Despite the difficulties, he prefers to face a mountain of administration,
largely inherited from the socialist system installed at independence.
After launching the KRG Pharma, the first private firm producing pharmaceutical
products, which had certainly pumped in more capital, he decided to
venture into sectors with varied activities, among them the most complicated
and very exposed, requiring heavy investments and high techniques: the
bank and the aviation. But, why?
"Because what characterizes a developed country is the modernity
and efficiency of its banking operation system plus its transportation",
replies Rafik Khalifa. "And the international window - screen of
a country is its airline company... Khalifa Airways works for Algeria,
because l believe in my country."
Forever running:"Moumen" in the eyes
of the family
Listening to him, makes you believe too. The charisma reinforced by
the stunning success he has achieved in the past few years is quite
obvious. The young man, dressed in a sports shirt and a black suit -
not to be serious - but to blend with harmony that slightly creamy skin
of a happy - go - lucky ´s outlook - convinced already as soon
as he starts to talk. The smile pronounced by a short billy beard is
swift. Sharp black eyes. A slightly low voice, at times too quick to
follow, but always laced with jokes and irony.
" He gives the impression of not taking anything seriously, confirms,
Hania Khalifa, his wife since 1995, and a mother to their three year
old little Melissa Nour Djihane...
The beautiful young woman, calm by nature and also level-headed like
her hyper-active husband, has always known the man she got married to,
since she happens to be his first cousin. She speaks of him with an
According to her , the stunning acceleration of his career, especially
during the past three years can be summed up by a constant absence that
alternates between his business trips, and the presence of a stream
of counterparts cum friends gathering either to discuss business or
to celebrate a victory, or simply, quiet evenings when the young head
of family relaxes in silence after having talked, discussed and listened
a whole day... Evenings like this, after a simple meal, little Melissa
Nour is the only princess to be listened to while she describes her
day at school to her loving father, a nursery school in which she has
completely adapted to, just like a true "khalifan"...The child,
so they say, resembles the father: advanced for her age, studious and...
"This sense of humor is undoubtedly a sort of modesty" explains
her aunt, Djaouida Jazaerli. " Moumen is in reality a shy person.".
Overcome by shyness at times, he may easily be mistaken of being cold,
since his face reveals no emotion, "he accumulates a lot of hammering",
says his wife. Khalifa is a passionate. And with his light spirit, to
crack a joke on whatever subject in discussion, it is not hard to recognize
that this is a brilliant man, yet constantly agitated.
"He is a creator", continues Hania Khalifa. " He is constantly
moving or changing. If he was not submerged by the daily management
at Khalifa Airways, he would have by now launched other new projects...
But with him, we are surprised all the time !"
The young woman remembers the day her husband already head of a flourishing
pharmaceutical company arrived at home saying: "Look, l am going
to open a bank !" She laughs: " I thought he had gone crazy.
And when he decides to create an airline company, she looks up again
in the sky... to watch the first take off, destination Oran.
A success that Hania - like all close counterparts and friends - believe
is due to Rafik Khalifa´s distinguished competence: "He is
a vivacious man, endowed with extreme intelligence and with an exceptional
" His culture is astonishingly vast but he reveals it allusively,"
adds Amel Benouniche, who is the Communication Manager of Khalifa Airways,
and knows him since 1996. But when he has a subject in mind, he will
search for all information concerning it. And he retains it all ! For
example, when we opened the line linking Algiers to Dubai, he gave us
a full detailed lecture about the Emirates, as though he had been born
Not a surprise because "Moumen", as friends call him, has
difficulties to disconnect himself from work. "l have the impression
that he works even while sleeping", explains his wife. "With
his calm nature, he is forever thinking. Even when we have the impression
that he ´s not listening, he registers everything. Especially
when I am talking to him about his daughter, whom he loves dearly",
adds proudly the young mother.
Nothing intimidating, nevertheless, in the young magnate so redoubtably
bright. On the contrary, Rafik Khalifa is one of those men who at times
gives the impression of not taking any matter seriously - starting with
himself. But you should never make a mistake, he is a boss who controls
everything, all the time.
"He is not able to delegate", explains his wife.
"When he was mixing the preparations for the pharmacy, he was the
same person repairing the apparatus, yet he was disposed of qualified
technicians to carry out this. When he opened the first banking agency,
it was him decorating. And when he created Khalifa Airlines, he designed
the condor on the logo and chose the uniform for the
Her husband protests: " At Khalifa, all heads of departments have
full autonomy. l only intervene when the decisions to be taken concern
several structures of the group".
Rafik Khalifa believes in working, and luckily, at work, he is surrounded
by the family and good old friends. A small group of buddies he cannot
do without, who often invade his apartment in Paris or his house in
Algiers for impromptu dinners. They are the first ones to be invited
whenever he rents a lodge in a stadium.
The close entourage gives him confidence and protective warmth, and
he will strongly defend them, help them and galvanize this "family"
which includes his employees. "It is as simple as that: he does
not see any obstacle at all, remains composed all the time," says
Abel Benouniche. "Even when facing a situation which appears completely
blocked, he keeps on repeating "don´t worry, we shall find
out." And what is more striking is that, he generally finds one!
With him, nobody knows what is coming next... He is a visionary."
"He is an optimist", this is the only word to describe him,
says the lawyer Djaouida Jazaerli. Sakina Taibi, the Manager of Khalifa
Airlines for Algeria, and a member of the "old guard", because
she participated in the creation of the bank, she indicates: "
He never reasons like others. He is forever miles ahead".
A typical and non-conventional profile expressed to the tiniest detail.
Any exterior sign of wealth ? A Jaguar that barely leaves the garage.
But it is pointless to look for a Rolex on his wrist, a Mont Blanc fountain
pen in the pocket, a Dupont cigarette lighter or the latest Motorola.
Like most men who are their own masters, better than being enslaved,
Rafik Khalifa never wears a watch. Not even a lighter or a brief-case
and not in the least, a cellular telephone...
"He borrows one from the first pal he meets in the morning and
keeps it for the day !", one of his advisers retorts laughingly.
Rafik Khalifa moves faster than time... without being jostled. He
has the agility of a big cat - soft, controlled, capable of quick relaxation
and of taking sharp bites even when he appears round shouldered. And
like Alice in the Wonderland, he appears and disappears rapidly leaving
His other character, explaining his success in different fields from
pharmaceutical industry to banking, aviation or catering: he simply
enjoys knowing how things work.
" Even before creating Khalifa Airlines, as soon as we stepped
in a plane, he was already explaining how everything would function",
says Hania Khalifa. He understands rapidly the mechanism of different
functions... Spending a day in the factory simply makes him happy".
With such a strong personality, it is not surprising that he is an owner
of a group of companies which he controls and understands each machinery
in details, having planted them himself. His nine thousand employees
- entirely devoted to him and in return, he consecrates a lot of energy
to improve their welfare.
This passion mixed with an inborn discipline, the spirit of a leading
contractor propelled by sincere and clear patriotism, always thirsty
for some more, and strengthened by his astonishing sense of responsibility
in a man so young. Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa has inherited them for
a man whose exploits had rocked his youth and the strictness had guided
his intellectual development. A man who was also a pioneer a of modern
Algeria, in his own way. A man whose political and social choices may
have looked diametrically different from those of Rafik Abdelmoumen
Khalifa, yet he has been inspired by his ethical conduct. He achieved
power and prestige right to the top, yet he was driven to prison for
two years. A man whose itinerary with ups and downs, his ideals and
his patriotism was the secret force behind this young head of companies.
His father, Laroussi Khalifa.
Laroussi Khalifa:one of the
of a modern Algeria
Khelifa family - the true patronymic spelled this way - originates from
El Oued, in southern part of Algeria, which is an oasis with one thousand
cupolas in the middle of vast fine sand and mirages..
The great grand-father of Rafik Khalifa was quite a wealthy date merchant.
One of his sons, Mohamed El Aïd El Khalifa, the first leading member
of this family - a big writer, whose works and poems are still being
studied even today in secondary schools.
The writer is quite close to the Ulemas, the Algerian nationalist and
anti - colonialist movement that preached a reformist Islam and
emancipation of Muslims during the period between the two world wars.
They are the ones who widespread the famous slogan "Arabic is my
language, Algeria is my country, Islam is my religion". One of
his brothers - therefore, great-uncle of Rafik Khalifa, is equally close
to the collaborator of Cheikh Abdelhamid Ben Badis (born in Constantine
in 1899), who headed the delegation of Ulema Movement to Paris in 1936,
when Leon Blum was head of government.
The grand - father of Rafik Abdelmoumen, a merchant like his own father
is a severe person. Proud of school results of his son Laroussi, yet
he decides with an advice from a friend that he should become a sailor.
The eleven year old child has never been to the city nor seen the sea.
Accompanied by an uncle, they travel by train to Algiers... As soon
as he arrives, he is provided with a small sailing kit and a hammock.
His first night is terrible: Used to sleeping on a mattress, he falls
off and on the hammock, and when he finally falls asleep, he is soon
woken up by the laughter of his comrades. They tease him of being "
a greenhorn", thrown into water although they cannot swim, and
they are only fished out when they are almost drowning. A cruel game
hard to overcome...
The young Laroussi Khalifa will not be a sailor. At the age of 15, he
gets a bursary to continue his studies in France - a rare thing for
an Algerian at that time. A bright student, he collects degrees one
after another: Agronomic Engineer, a master degree in Sciences and Political
Sciences. In 1952, he is decorated as the youngest professor at the
Agricultural School of Versailles.
In 1955, when he had just been appointed as sub-prefect of France by
decree, the revolution recalls him to join a newly formed clandestine
government not in Algeria but in the Maghreb. The young intellectual
joins Sheikh Mohamed Kheireddine, the Ambassador of GPRA- (Provisional
Government of the Republic of Algeria) and a member of the Movement
of Ulemas, who had been his master in Koranic School, but now operating
in Morocco. The Sheik introduces him to Colonel Boussouf, Commisioner
of the 5th Wilaya, a man he will second as deputy later on, working
for the Algerian Secret Services.
In 1957, during the installation of the first GPRA (Provisional Government
of Republic of Algeria) Colonel Boussouf is appointed Minister for War
and Liaison (assembling the armaments and the secret service). Laroussi
Khalifa becomes his Permanent Secretary. Shadow man, he becomes part
of the secret fighters for Independence. During the war, he travels
from Morocco to Tunisia, from Tunisia to Libya, by passing through Algeria
with false identities - his daughter Hafida still conserves his multiple
passports of a clandestine fighter.
Between 1955 and 1962, his family lost his contact. Later on, his three
children will be profoundly marked by the story of this heroic period...
" He was Pancho Villa!" Rafik Abdelmoumen jokes before correcting
seriously that if his father fought in Oran region, he was more or less
specialized in security intelligence.
It is Laroussi Khalifa who sets up the Algerian Secret Service. Up to
1962, he was the general secretary of MALG, the ancestor of ministry
for Defense. At the independence in 1962, Ahmed Ben Bella gave him a
more strategically placed post in his government as a minister for Energy
But very soon, Laroussi Khalifa realizes that his views are opposed
to the Socialist policy applied by the government. He is the only one
to resign among the ministers of this government led by Ben Bella.
In 1964, he is however appointed as the Ambassador of Algeria in London.
He has just married Farida Kebache, the eldest of a family of seven
sisters and two brothers. She is from an industrial and merchant family
of Bejaïa, the ancient Bougie, the main capital of this small Kabylia.
The grandfather had a rope-soled sandal (espadrille) factory; her father
and uncles were working in import-export. During the war, the father
was a representative of Moulins de Larache. One of his uncles was arrested
and condemned to death in 1954 and was liberated only after the war.
He became the first mayor of Bejaïa.
The family estate - includes boutiques, bathing moors, bakery - which
were nationalized at the independence. At the time of the wedding, her
father was managing one of the three factories manufacturing socks in
the country, Algerian Hoisery Company.
Contrary to most women at that time, Farida Kebache was well brought
up. In this cultivated and patriotic family, girls are also going to
school and taking piano lessons. If she only reached school certificate
level, it is because she had joined the secondary school mutiny in 1958.
Brilliant, intellectual, politicized, refined, at ease in society life,
she perfectly integrates in her husband ´s universe - her younger
sisters and brothers had always respected her and because of her seriousness
and dignity, that they had nick-named her, "the great lady".
In 1965, Laroussi Khalifa is appointed Managing Director of Air Algeria
by Houari Boumediene. But he rejects the policies advocated by his ancient
fighting companions to an extent that he is suspected of having participated
directly in the abortive coup d´état led by the Chief of
Staff, Colonel Tahar Zbiri, who has no alternative but to flee the country
for exile ; Laroussi is condemned and jailed for two years by the military
tribunal in Oran for subversion from 1967 to 1969. Hafida Khalifa has
a painful souvenir of this period. "At school, l was saying that
father had gone to work", she recalls. She discovered later on,
that those terrible years were also quite fruitful in a way, reading
fantastic poems written in a form of letters which the prisoner addressed
to the family regularly...
When his father was condemned, Rafik Abdelmoumen was only one year
old... Born on October 1st, 1966 in Bejaïa - his mother had returned
purposely from London to give birth at the family stronghold, which
is also her birth place - he is the youngest of the three children.
His mother spoiled him as they often do with the last born, and even
more tenderly because this baby with black eyes comforted her in the
absence of the father...
The child is three years old when he finally gets to know his father
who is weak, sick, bruised not only by imprisonment, but even more by
the political choice of his country...
One day - this little boy will revenge in a triumph, but he is not yet
aware of it. A success that came in too late for his father to witness,
he passed away in 1991. But his clan is bound to have the impression
of a life story being repeated once again, like in those hectic years
when the father heavily contributed to build the future for his compatriots...
his sister Hafida remarks.
In 1969, when he was released from prison, Laroussi definitely realizes
that he has been completely excluded from the nomenklatura, where he
is no longer recognized. All doors shut around him, his friends no longer
know him, his ancient fighting companions can do nothing to help him.
But he has a family to feed and to overcome this, he decides with courage
to go back to studies in the university at the age of forty eight years.
In 1971, he graduates rapidly due to the equivalence giving him extra
credits in advance, he opens a pharmacy at Cheraga, on the outskirts
of Algiers. Until his death, Laroussi Khalifa never went back to politics.
He was satisfied taking care of his family in a dignified and efficient
manner as well as the well-being of his countrymen, and looking after
the education of his three children whose indication of intelligence
"One day, l shall own a company",
a child dreaming to be a leader
The period spent in the wilderness, as Hafida, the eldest sister of
Rafik Abdelmoumen recalls, was tranquil and a happy one - until their
father fell into long illness from which he never recovered.
At this period, Cheraga resembled more of a village than a small town,
and was a place where everyone knew one another. The paternal pharmacy
is right in the middle, next to the central square, where cows still
cross today. The Khalifa family lives at Hydra, in a colonial style
house,with a big garden full of flowers and old trees, surrounded by
a wall not that high, and a small swimming pool for refreshing oneself
during burning hot summer days. It is situated in an elegant characteristic
residential borough, right on the on the slopes of Algiers.
The Khalifa family is living comfortably well with an income regenerated
from their pharmacy in Cheraga, and Laroussi Khalifa has every reason
to be proud: far from power, he became a self-made-man. An intellectual
like his father and his uncle - the renowned Mohamed El Aïd Khalifa,
he is strictly taking care of the education of his children. A studious
atmosphere reigned in this house and competition mood was perpetual,
remembers Halida Khalifa.
"We could be asked to solve a maths problem or recite a poem at
any time... My father always pushed us to look deep right in the bottom
of the matter."
The three children had microscopes at their disposal for "works"
supervised by their father. During summer holidays they were already
preparing the program for the following year. Permission to go out was
only given once the home-work was done, or later on, when everything
was cleared at the pharmacy. Mrs Khalifa, with her calm and distinguished
nature, despite the difficulties she had endured, did make sure that
all went well in this strict atmosphere, that nobody raised his voice
and that there was a mutual respect towards one another... The grandmother
Khalifa, who lives with them, is a dignified presence and a little bit
enigmatical, adored by his eldest son, who ensures that all is well
with her and she equally watches over him.
The three kids are bright pupils, Moumen particularly distinguished
by his tenacity and his judging capacity. "He was a bright kid
- just like our brother Lakhdar", relates Hafida. "Excellent
in chess, mischievous, mocking at every situation, even tragic ones,
very irritating at times !" He was the only one who dared face
his father ; as a teenager, he would criticize his political views,
and this made them argue a lot, creating a heated atmosphere in the
He loves playing with words. Since childhood, he was creating his own
vocabulary, inventing neologisms or lashing out expressions, adopted
immediately by the rest of the family, just like a personal code, which
his close collaborators seem to have adopted today as a recognition
sign, that normally exists within tribal groups.
Moumen is a book-worm. His sister remembers having seen him wake up
at six in the morning, to devour pages of encyclopedia. On Sundays,
he had rather lock himself in a room and read than go to the beach.
However, he is not a dazing intellectual. He knows exactly what he wants
and how to reach his ultimate goal: he reads, learns, understands the
mechanism, memorizes, gets absolutely curious at every aspect...In two
hours, he reads through and picks out the elements needed and transmits
them proudly to his sister.
"As a child, he kept on swearing that he would one day create his
own company, " RJM Company". He scribbled everywhere, and
even on my note books, a car with initials RJM, this annoyed me terribly!",
remembers his eldest sister.
Brilliant, undisciplined and with his teenage arrogance, he becomes
quite scornful at times. Moumen is also kind and cherishes friendship,
a happy-go-lucky, always out with friends...To such an extent that we
used to wonder whether he would succeed in his exams. His sister, very
methodical, was doubting his carelessness and his last minute cramming.
He is not hard working, but his excellent memory enables him to pass
his examinations after having revised only two days before.
Up to the age of thirteen, Rafik Khalifa frequented Saint-Charles Catholic
School, under the strict Jesuits - "all the decision -makers of
this generation frequented the Fathers", he points out this today.
He then joined Fundamental School, a public institution specialized
His father becomes ill and this changes his life. Somebody has to take
care of the family pharmacy, not his elder brother Lakhdar, the artist.
All he wants is to be an architect, and he becomes one... He looks after
the family residence at Hydra.
If it is not Lakhdar, then it will have to be Hafida. The young girl
duly starts her studies in pharmacy, she enjoys it too. But her marriage
takes her far away from Algiers. She moves to Tangier with her husband.
The only alternative remaining is Moumen. At the age of sixteen, he
accepts his responsibilities, but continues his A-Level studies in science,
then he studies pharmacy at the University of Algiers, where he obtains
a doctorate degree, takes care of the family establishment, replacing
the sick father. He knows already that he will not remain there, but
before making his RJM Company dreams come true, he has to take care
of his own family.
His father passed away in 1990. Rafik Khalifa becomes head of this
family. He is twenty five and very ambitious. His father ´s dream
of a progressive Algeria, where each would profit from the development
of modernity is also his belief. But he is aware that he would contribute
to it by using other methods. Things are moving in the country and there
will be soon occasions to be seized. Despite the beginning of disturbance
Algeria - in June 1990, the lslamic Salvation Front wins both municipal
and communal elections and it is the first time that free balloting
system is introduced in the country since independence - another big
change although less bloody affects the nation: President Chadli Bendjedid
who had succeeded Houari Boumediene in 1979, starts in 1988 the processing
of economical reforms parallel to political ones, allowing multiparty
system. Algeria begins moving ahead towards the free market economy.
Rafik Khalifa jumps higher than the rest...
But even brilliant and ambitious young men have a life to live, yet
their success, as history often reveals, depends on the companion they
He is twenty four. She is eighteen. They are first cousins, from his
mother´s side. Daughter of one of the first pharmacists in Algeria
- he started practicing in 1953 - she is following his footsteps and
she is therefore enrolled to study pharmacy.
After years of complicity, they got married in December 1995, Hania
continues with her studies and the young husband, at this moment, is
not considered just as a simple pharmacist in Cheraga, he is dedicated
to this comfortable family life but remains discreet.
First stage: the paternal dispensary was completely modified from top
to bottom. This was going to become a launching platform for Rafik Khalifa´s
Group: a force to be reckoned with
In a matter of ten years, Rafik Khalifa moved from pharmacy to banking
and from banking to aviation, placing strategically these brilliant
redeployments. Henceforth, he is the leading private employer in Algeria.
A model career that only his true talent and obstinacy helped him come
through the administrative bureaucracy, in a country newly converted
to free market economy.
KRG Pharma: A pharmaceutical company
for the well - being of the Algerians
Had to become a pharmacist:
once upon a time in Cheraga
Auto-medication addicts, the Algerians would rather consult a pharmacist
than go to a doctor. The budget put aside for medicine is quite big
compared to the rest. And like most of their compatriots, the inhabitants
of Cheraga frequent assiduously the Khalifa establishment... Where they
spend a substantial amount of money.
He is not charging them expensively, it is the cost of medicine that
is very high: not surprising at all, since 80% is imported and only
a small percentage is manufactured locally by factories belonging to
the State, but the sick often prefer "French products" when
they are available. How many times does he have to shake his head sincerely
sorry saying: "we don ´t have any more"?
To import them himself ? This is out of question."Even the idea
horrifies him", discloses his wife. He has never done it, yet others
have a tendency of opting for this easy solution. But my husband prefers
the most difficult one...
Rafik Khalifa saw the best he could make out of the situation. Some
of the most essential products are very easy to manufacture.
Like most of his colleagues, he is used to making what they call "preparations".
But his goal is to move even further to industrial side and to produce
Algerian-made medicine, at a lower price yet as efficient as its foreign
Since the administrative and financing marketing procedures are far
too complicated, Rafik Khalifa opted to importing the essential components
for pharmaceutical products in order to create the first elements necessary
for the production of generic products in the country.
He knows quite well that the clients will have preference for "
French and not local". Whatever comes, he has decided to plunge
deep down into the water, in other words, he is crossing the Mediterranean...
At the beginning, KRG Pharma (for Khalifa Raymond Gabriel, his partners
in France) was small, almost derisory. In 1991, Rafik Khalifa is twenty
five years old, full of ideas but without enough finance to go it alone.
He decides to come to France, armed with his convictions. He convinces
a pharmaceutical raw material retail - trader and a package manufacturer
to provide him with goods in advance without any payment at all to start
His first products are manufactured in the back room of the family´s
pharmacy in Cheraga - a generic version of Mercryl, followed soon by
a set of basic products relatively easy to make: calcium, magnesium
in syrup, coughing syrup, vitamin C, poly-vitamin, paracetamol tablets...
When he started to produce collyrium, his eyes were constantly red.This
was a result of trying these drops in his own eyes !", relates
Today, the anecdote makes him laugh. But it was an extremely difficult
period for the young couple.
The operation by KRG Pharma is not very clear legal-wise, since there
is no private pharmaceutical production in Algeria, the PMP notion (Permission
to Market a Product) is therefore non-existent. However, the absence
of this notion cannot stop KRG Pharma producing.
The ambiguousness of the situation has generated endless bothersome
administrative aspects. Khalifa spends most of his time running up and
down the corridors of the Ministry for Health. He sleeps there almost,
recalls Hania. He knows that he is acting perfectly right, and he is
manufacturing standard products and he has the right to do so. But he
wants them to come and control.
The pharmacist finally obtains the agreement N° 001 from the Ministry
for Health after a long struggle and henceforth opening the path for
those to come after him. Through his spadework, a structure allowing
the attribution of the PMP will soon be fixed. Rafik Khalifa has also
in this manner founded the Algerian Pharmaceutical Industry. Of course,
he now understands at the tip of his fingers how the Algerian administration
works. A knowledge that would be useful to him soon. When launching
the production of medicine, Rafik Khalifa knows exactly where he is
heading to. He always knew. Like his father, "a visionary",
he says today, who used to keep on repeating: "You have to anticipate".
Rafik Khalifa anticipates. He will not need to wait that long. During
all this time, KRG Pharma was expanding. Rafik Khalifa decides that
it should be better now setting up his laboratory in France, where there
are machines, raw materials and packaging. He puts up a small production
unit at Poissy in the Parisian suburbs, employing only five or six people
at the beginning (it has since then moved to Vitrolles). The production
is not only sold at the dispensary in Cheraga, but all over the country,
through a network of pharmacy wholesalers - a sector also created when
the economy was eased in 1988 - making the generation of Khalifa pioneers
of this new profession in their own way.
Khalifa ´s headaches are never over. When the Ministry for Health
is not imposing its kafkaesque regulations, it is the banks opposing
the slowness and the irksome aspects of administration. Paying a supplier
overseas is an assault course and those supplying KRG Pharma locally
become impatient too, calling the company with rage...
How can you explain to them that the banking sector in Algeria is still
controlled by the State and that it is so out-dated, that most of their
clients don ´t dispose of cheque books, that the loans are accepted
or refused without any apparent reason and that the idea of a credit
card is like a story from science-fiction ?
But good things don ´t come easily. Especially when you are Rafik
The young manufacturer spends as much as half of his time at the bank
and the other half, running up and down for official documents, that
he has ended by grasping the most subtle administrative machinery.
And the more he frequented his bankers, the more their relationship
changed to friendship... He had carefully studied how the state banks
functioned and the short-comings of their systems. He had analyzed it
and knew exactly what had to be done.
" Look: l am going to open a bank", one day he announces
this to his wife. She thinks immediately that he has gone crazy. How
can a chemist become a banker, even if he has been successful in creating
a flourishing company?
There will be no miracle. Simply a capital to start with, provided by
KRG Pharma, an office in Cheraga and a few friends convinced by this
young man, just turned thirty - but very much ahead of his time.
Not a miracle. Simply a visionary who has only one idea in mind: to
drive his country humanly into a modern world through economy.
El Khalifa Bank:
the first Private Bank in the country
Create a bank for the people
When conceiving El Khalifa Bank, Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa already had
a very precise idea in mind.
To make money ? Why not ? But to continue developing further a country
he loves profoundly.
All doors leading to free market trade are being opened in Algeria.
He knows that soon the creation of private banks will be authorized
and he wants to create a modern, efficient bank which listens to its
clientele. A bank less complicated for the consumers, with branches
to be opened throughout the country. A bank nearby, where each individual
will be considered as a respected interlocutor.
A bank for the people.
It is evident that there is a true need. A sincere thirst for modernity.
In Algeria, it is true, there are cheque books, but they are not being
used. Why won ´t they use them? Shops don ´t accept them.
Djaouida Jazaerli recalls that when she was an assistant lecturer at
the faculty in Algiers, her only cheque book lasted from 1976 to 1984.
And for banking credit cards, they simply don ´t exist. Opening
an account, obtain a loan? Not often easy. Some times, impossible, simply
because of lacking banking facilities within the proximity.
Rafik Khalifa wants a big bank for the people. A bank with branches
in any town and in any village. Where everybody can open an account.
With smiling faces at the counter and not the look of a public service
worker behind a hygiaphone counter. A bank with service for clients.
Unknown in Algeria...
KRG Pharma experience helped him a lot, opening his eyes to dismiss
certain mysteries in business. He knows how to mastermind a company,
to be a leader of a team, to arrange financial operations, to obtain
necessary authorizations. His plans to open a bank were already advanced
long before the easing of trade restrictions for the banking sector.
The first agency is to be in Cheraga, simply for sentimental reasons:
It is situated at 200 meters from the familial pharmacy.
Rafik Khalifa has already rented premises, started works, designed the
logo. He recruits the hard core to become his collaborators, the pioneers
of the future Khalifa Group.
Sakina Taibi is part of it. Women were in charge of several key posts
in his companies right from the beginning. To begin with, his own wife
seconds him at KRG Pharma. Rafik Khalifa, not somebody to be considered
as a Mediterranean macho, knows that a trust-worthy lady is more precious
than one or two men. Luckily, the socialist authorities did not interfere
with their education.
Mrs. Taibi who is the actual Manager of Khalifa Airways for Algeria,
was one of the spokeswoman of the section that dealt with private firms
at the Ministry for Finance. When Rafik Khalifa proposed to her to join
his little group of four or five people whose mission was to create
a future bank, she immediately seized the opportunity."To me, Rafik
Khalifa was the embodiment of a new private contractor whom l had to
support, precisely up to success. His self-assurance, confidence convinced
me. l believed in his project, we all believed in it. It was an opportunity
to cross the barrier..."
The young lady is in charge of getting the approvals from the ministry.
And again, the process is generally slowed down by
procedures which can be bureaucratic, until comes a providential chance,
like Rafik Khalifa has missed three flights successively which can sometime
unblock the situation.
The fourth one is the best. He finds himself seated next to a high ranking
civil servant in the plane. And this is a man who can actually give
this famous approval. With no doubt, Khalifa seizes this opportunity
explaining in details his project, he actually convinces him. The business
is concluded and the approval is signed when they land.
The bank got the constitutional permit delivered by "Money and
Credit Committee" dated March 28, 1998: It was approved by the
Bank of Algeria the same year in July.
The mother agency of El Khalifa Bank opens to the public in September
and the boss becomes a father too, for the first time. "It is a
common say here, that the first house or the first child brings chance",
Hania Khalifa smiles. "It appears like it was the case !"
The success: 60 Agencies, 20%
of market share
The success of the new bank is astonishing, but can be explained easily,
according to Djaouida Jazaerli: "Algeria is not a poor country.
What has brought in poverty is the management of its resources. Once
trade restrictions are eased, why should there be no money? And when
a bank is hospitable to its clients, listens to them, offers them proposals,
gives them access to recent technology, why do you expect it not to
work ? Algerian consumers needed a change. El Khalifa Bank responded".
The clientele rushed in very quickly and spontaneously. House-keepers,
professionals, students, SAE (Small & Average Enterprise), SAI [Small
& Average Industry] - pharmacists who were particularly welcomed
with comprehension by their ancient colleague... This includes all the
middle class, eager for improvement and consumption, rushing in to the
For the launching, El Khalifa decided that investment procedures would
be simple. And thus, to import goods to Algeria, one needs a domiciliation
in a bank. State Banks often denied the approval to those seeking to
import goods without any valid reason, regardless whether a businessman
had necessary funds. "Myself, l have accepted everything !"
Rafik Khalifa claims. He still remembers his first "domiciliation":
from a man who wanted to import beer.
From there on, everything moved fast. Other branches of El Khalifa
Bank were opened in Algiers. More experienced bankers are recruited
or they present themselves spontaneously, proposing their experience,
to try a private sector after twenty or twenty five years spent in the
public sector: this is definitely a good proof, trusting a man so young,
who impresses them by his seriousness, his analytical sense and his
foresight for the future. Rafik Khalifa has also a young team around
him, recruited mainly for their trustworthiness and their competence.
In return, he proposes them a training, a promise he fulfills without
There is less competition in the line he has chosen: the four other
banks created approximately at the same time are concentrating mainly
on business clientele. Ossified state banks cannot compete with the
warm welcome Khalifa personnel reserves to their clients nor the efficiency
of his services.
In the year 2001, Khalifa Bank represents 50% of the total activity
of the group, in other words a turnover beyond 400 million dollars.
Being the first private bank, it covers 20% of market share for banking
operations in the country.
The bank has 60 branches spread throughout the territory. It displays
a complete range of banking services at the counters in the banks of
proximity, destined to a modern consumer, and at their disposal, the
clients can have: cheques books available on request, immediate transfers,
credit cards...They are moreover the first ones to be issued by an African
bank on the Continent. The El Khalifa Bank has just equipped Algerian
stores with terminals permitting them to call the bank for prior approval
for payments with credit cards and he is working on setting up a complete
automatic system. This is a true revolution in the mentality of a country
where they believe in paying with cash...
Facing the stakes of a market at its highest growth, El Khalifa Bank
intends to confirm its position as a major operator by setting a development
policy aiming to give El Khalifa Bank an international dimension.
The next step, the most natural one: opening agencies in France at the
service of the Algerian community. The Bank ´s argument is very
simple: Algerians living in France may put their money at any time of
the year in Algeria and in France, without taking risks. The transfers
in French Francs (soon in Euros) and Dinars are simplified the same
way as a credit card is attributed.
But El Khalifa Bank is now steering even further, as the path appears
extremely juicy. And with the growing appetite, it recently proposed
a joint - venture with a German bank, the Erste Rosenheimer Private
Bank, in Munich.
Another step forward, moving quickly into internationalization for a
group which was founded only ten years ago. In other words, a take off.
The first aeronautical operator in Algeria
Clear skies: Algeria is free, at last
To create an airline company ?
This is an old dream, Rafik Khalifa has always had a passion for aviation,
it is an old dream which is no longer a dream, it is a project, most
probably conceived at the same time as that of the bank.
According to him, efficiency in banking and transportation system underlines
the height of development in a modern society. And an aviation company
cannot only be a window-screen of a country, but a its unofficial ambassador
For ever thirsty for more, looking for new areas to plough, Rafik Khalifa
is seeking for labour. He knows that soon the Algerian skies will be
opened to private sector. He is aware too, that Air Algeria, the national
company cannot satisfy the needs of his 30 million compatriots - without
counting the two million Algerians nationals or Franco-Algerians living
in France, who go back home periodically on holidays.
He estimates the Franco - Algerian market at 1,4 million passengers
If there is anything to hinder the conquest of the immense clientele
on this side and on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, it is the
difficulty Algerians face to obtain visas. A difficulty doubled by the
impossibility to obtain air tickets at certain periods of the year.
Air Algeria with its timeworn fleet conserve the monopoly of air transportation
since 1963, and with their out-dated systems, they are completely inapt
to adapt to the needs of a population they are supposed to serve. Impossible
to make a reservation through a travel agency: the only ones to have
this right are the Air Algeria agencies and at times, one is forced
to queue up for hours, notably before holidays.
To telephone ? All lines are invariably saturated and one can hold on,
on a line for almost one hour before getting an answer.
And besides, since an Airbus of Air France was hijacked by Algerian
terrorists in 1994, ending up with the execution of three passengers
and with the death of the four pirates after the assault of G.I.G.N,
the French national airline has ever since deserted Algeria. Four daily
flights by Air Algeria from Paris is not enough for the big demand.
Most of the time, one is forced to transit via Belgium or Tunisia in
order to reach the country.
How can one not seize such an opportunity ? Khalifa Airways which
is 100% subsidiary of Khalifa Group is constituted of ; Rafik Khalifa,
the only shareholder with 100% shares.
Thanks to the success of KRG Pharma and El Khalifa Bank, Rafik Khalifa
therefore disposes of a flowing turnover sufficient to proceed to a
new strategic redeployment. The young Managing Director applies this
rare method than re-orienting to his original profession or to one with
On the contrary, in a strategic redeployment, the Managing Director
proceeds from the nearest efficient pole to a redeployment of his forces
into a sector very close to his own, in order to avoid starting the
process from the initial apprenticeship of his company - moreover, today
the pioneers at El Khalifa Bank consider that Khalifa Airways members
of staff had an easier life, because they had laid down the stone work
The process is undoubtedly courageous: the aviation is a sector
of a low profitability at the beginning and it requires heavy investment,
high technical nature and highly qualified personnel. And again, those
around him would protest in vain, like in many other circumstances when
he spells out his intentions. "I told him: wait for a while until
we complete the bank !" his collaborator Sakina Taibi relates.
"But his announcements are often made when all his appointments
have already been taken".
"The cart before the horse", could be the story of his life!,
one of his advisers jokes. A system of unshakeable optimism which has
so far made proofs...
Rafik Khalifa is completely convinced that he will obtain the approval
immediately after the government eases restrictions for the private
airline sector, he is so eager to put his new baby on the road, that
when taking his appointments with the aeronautical contractors, he is
also hiring at the same time his first aircraft from Turkish Airways.
While waiting for the authorization for the flight between Algiers and
Oran, the Boeing 737 remains grounded for a period of three months.
" I was using it as a "corporate" implement for my trips",
Rafik Khalifa puffs. "I flew alone with my Turks in this enormous
At long last, the long awaited law opening Algerian skies to the private
sector is promulgated in June 1998. Khalifa Airways first aircraft painted
in blue and white, illuminated by the condor, which is the symbol of
the airline, takes off for Oran in August 1999... with a Turkish personnel
who can only communicate with passengers in English. Just in time to
celebrate the first birth anniversary of little Melissa Nour Djihane,
who certainly brings luck to her daddy.
Financing a dream: An Airbus
" Which is the best way to become a millionaire ? Start as a millionaire
and create an airline company".
The joke repeated by Hania Khalifa was being narrated over and over
within her husband´ s closest circle, when he was just about to
become the first private aeronautical operator in Algeria...
The ancient mathematician has a passion for financial arrangements:
it is finally what passions him the most intellectually. He knows how
he has to proceed to set up a fleet.
Out of question to fiddle collecting very old tins, sold out at a low
price by big Aviation companies, repaired and repainted quickly. Rafik
Khalifa loves them beautiful and new. He certainly has no means of offering
himself an aircraft paid cash on the nail. A "simple" ATR
[Regional Transport Plane] with sixty eight seats costs 16,8 million
dollars... El Khalifa Bank cannot allow itself to involve the new branch
into such an investment.
The financial system Rafik Khalifa opts for is the so-called leasing,
a sort of rental-buying at an industrial level. The rapid growth of
his banking activities gives him credibility for this type of operation.
Instead of buying, this is renting an aircraft from an operational renter
for a fixed period. It is the rental agency that orders from the constructor.
As the renter makes big orders, he may obtain substantial discounts,
which a small aviation company cannot claim.
This was the momentum for putting the first Airbus A 310-300 at the
disposal of Khalifa Airways. At the construction Center in Toulouse,
Rafik discovers a senior spokesman by the name of Patrice de Puymorin,
" one of the daddies of Khalifa Airways", according to Sakina
Rafik Khalifa follows with a lot of passion the delivery process up
to the tiniest detail, even the painting of this big condor, the image
had been chosen by him - not basing it on a specific theme, according
to his wife. "When he designed it, he had no idea that it was a
condor". The bird from the Andes with its three wingspan spread
is definitely the biggest creature crossing the skies... It was perhaps
a well thought intention, consciously or not by the high-spirited boss
At last, the time to baptize the eldest aircraft of the fleet has arrived.
No other name would be better than Melissa Nour Djihane. Melissa means
"a bee" in Greek. Nour signifies "light" in Arab...
Here we are, balancing in symbolism. A luminous bee, a pretty name for
an aircraft flying across this sunny country...
The little godmother will not be on board for the inaugural flight of
an aircraft which has more brothers and sisters today...
Khalifa Airways fleet is at the moment composed of thirty planes in
which fifteen out of them are Airbus (A 310-300, A 319, A320, A 330-300,
A 300 B4 Cargo), five Boeing 737, seven "ATR" (Regional Transport
Aviation) for domestic flights, two Embraer 145 and a private Jet Challenger,
destined to businessmen who often welcome prestigious passengers like
Seventeen out of thirty planes operating at the moment were obtained
by leasing. The rest were bought: within a period of two years only
of existence, moreover, Khalifa Airways is the second biggest Airbus
purchaser on the African continent just behind Egyptair. The company
recently made a spectacular order of eighteen Airbuses ; ten medium
carriers and eight long-haul carriers to be delivered at the beginning
of March 2004. A financing operation which Rafik Khalifa recently explained
in the Jeune Afrique magazine: "We do not risk being ruined: we
are self financing up to 15%, the rest to be borrowed from outside the
The company is also awaiting the arrival of ten new seventy- two- seats
ATR, deliverable in 2002. When purchasing, there is a clause on the
invoice saying clearly that technicians are to be trained by the aircraft
manufacturer in Toulouse. Always on the forefront for technology, ensuring
the maintenance of the fleet in the most competent centers in Europe
(Air France for the A 310, Air Littoral for the ATR and Lufthansa for
For a company so young, this is an amazing growth. But the clientele
is following on the heel: 800 000 passengers in the year 2000, almost
the double is expected in 2001, in other words, more than 20% of the
airline transportation market with almost fully booked seats at around
A success based on the same excellent criteria which has brought popularity
to El Khalifa Bank: modernity, efficiency and... simply, a smile as
an extra asset.
With a smile on top: A company to serve the clients
Rafik Khalifa demonstrates a remarkable fitness on financial arrangements
; his know-how in marketing is equally admirable.
He mobilizes straight away all angles of marketing mix. Facing an ossified
competition, he offers not only new aircrafts but a service second to
none: respecting clients, respecting timetable, paying attention permanently
even to the tiniest discomfort and politeness... That an inspector travelling
incognito, periodically evaluates the standards. The smile of Khalifa
Airways hostesses is so popular that the company has decided to use
it as its slogan, "Algeria with a smile on top " - at times
accompanied by pleasant gestures: for instance, last March 8th, which
is the International Day for Women, all female passengers were graciously
offered perfumes. We only hope that for the comfort of other travellers,
they did not spray themselves at the same time... The initiative shows
how much the company is inventing tirelessly to seduce and keep the
For the distribution, Khalifa Airways is installing warm and friendly
counters. Through its affiliation to Amadeus network, it is finally
offering modern systems for reservations to Algerian travellers, accessible
in all travelling agencies. And the latest: the possibility to make
reservations through their internet site. A veritable benediction for
travelers who are no longer compelled to wait for hours in the agencies
for Air Algeria... The clients have now the possibility of planning
their air trips in a tranquil manner profiting of this new flexibility
which has been implemented for the first time.
The fares are also part of this aggressive marketing policy. Tariffs
for flights are 20% less expensive than those of the competitors. Apart
from weekend packages at reduced prices (900 French Francs for less
than two days stay), the company proposes promotional tariffs on special
occasions like for Idd (festival to celebrate the end of Ramadhan],
New Year and during the fasting period of Ramadhan. They even go as
far as providing dates on its flights for those just breaking from fasting.
Another shrewd marketing strategy, when we know how heavily loaded Algerians
travel back to their "bleds", carrying with them many consumer
goods non available there: for its launching, Khalifa Airways applied
fares largely lower than those of the competitor for the extra luggage.
And among others, like any modern airline operator, the company proposes
to its frequent clients a customer loyalty and subscription program
offering numerous privileges and particularly attractive reductions:
accumulation of miles on flights can be converted to free tickets, if
you have a Khalifa Plus Card.
At last, to mark the first anniversary of the company and -the second
anniversary of little Miss Khalifa, an inflight magazine was launched
in September 2000, having another reason to name it... Melissa Nour..
A good quality publication on glazed paper, with subjects of general
interest as seen in its first edition, among them - a commentary on
Casbah of Algiers, a walk around the Great Wall of China, a commentary
on Internet, an interview with the automobile test pilot, Nassim Sidi
Saïd, and a hommage to the immense and popular Algerian Cinema
star, Mama Ourdia Hamitouche...
Beyond the horizon, faster, higher: The irresistible
ascension of Khalifa Airways
In less than two years of existence, Khalifa Airways seems to have won
the fight, opening Algerian skies to other private operators. But the
battle has been ruthless and so it remains. Not easy in the present
context, to conquer foreign routes when you are labelled as coming from
a destination so-called by euphemism "sensitive". Not easy
either, for new younger groups to challenge the big national companies
comfortably settled, monopolizing with no intention of letting any young
trouble makers disturb them from flying round...
For Rafik Khalifa, it is logical to attack the domestic market in the
first place. A procedure which is more than necessary, because some
parts of the country are not reached by Air Algeria, and travelling
by car can therefore, be perilous in some regions...
The famous inaugural flight Algiers - Oran - Algiers has ever since
been multiplied from one to six par day. Bechar, Gardaïa, Bejaia,
Constantine and even further down to the south with Tamanrasset... The
blue and white colours of Khalifa Airways cross the country making air
transportation easy, even on relatively short flights.
But the biggest market remains that of the two million Algerian nationals
or Franco-Algerians living in France today estimated to be 90% of the
clientele coming from the Hexagon, the other 10% is composed of businessmen
whose number is now increasing more and more in Algeria.
To get known by this potential clientele, Khalifa Airways is setting
up a very different communication policy. Few advertisements in magazines
but more posters in the underground stations of Paris, Marseilles and
Lyon. Sponsoring raï music concerts, comical shows by young Algerian,
movies and documentaries on Algeria and with a note more glamorous -
the 2000 Miss Algeria of France beauty contest - organized by Acti-Pro
- Top Model agency in Lyon, and broadcasted by the Algerian television...
A strategy locally centered - the opening of each new route creates
numerous promotional operations. Without forgetting two of the most
important and most spectacular parts of this active communication strategy,
which are: partnership with football clubs and implication in social,
cultural and humanitarian actions.
If communication, thanks to Rafik Khalifa imagination, plus that of
his team does not raise any problem, it is a very different case when
the conquest of other international routes is concerned.And once again,
the need for creating them really exists, yet obtaining such authorizations
can be desperately long.
The first two destinations to France - Lyon and Marseilles linked by
Khalifa Airways from Algiers, opened its doors on September 16th, 1999.
As usual, it was Rafik Khalifa who had flown there first " to trace
the route" in order to discover these airports.
This very day, at the Algiers airport, he discovers two hundred stranded
passengers left by Air Algeria, among them women, babies and young kids....
No matter: he embarked everybody on board free of charge: omnibus for
Marseilles, Lyon, Paris ! When the Aviation Board blames him to have
transported passengers without an approval, he simply retorts: "But
these are my friends !"
This anecdote, recounted in big laughter reflects a lot on his kindness,
his sense of humour and his anti-conventional side... But the young
man loses his smile when somebody crosses his path. For example, when
he opened the route Algiers - Lyon and Algiers -Marseilles in 1999,
he was aiming at serving Paris, Toulouse and then Lille the following
But on May 26th 2000, the date already advertised on huge posters for
their first flights towards these new destinations, Khalifa Airways
planes remained grounded. The DGAC (General Authority for Civil Aviation)
had not approved the requested traffic rights, arguing that the quota
for twelve weekly flights on the route France-Algeria (nine to Marseilles,
three to Lyon) had already been granted to the company. Stories had
it in the aviation world that either Air France had put pressure, thinking
of reviving its flights to Algeria or Air Algeria did it, both of them
worried by the success of their young competitor...
Another important argument by the DGAC was about security: since the
Air France Airbus was hijacked between Algiers and Marseilles, they
are meticulously strict on the security of flights considered as "sensitive".
Some of his collaborators were already giving up. But not him, Rafik
Khalifa was obstinate. First of all, Toulouse: The Midi-Pyrenees region
has many commercial exchanges with Algeria, mainly in pharmacy, farm-produce
industry and oilfield equipment. On top of it, 24 000 Algerian nationals
are living here. The young man decides to mobilize the local community
and the Toulouse Chamber of Commerce. The Airport officials help him
handle the administrative difficulties.
Finally, on May 26th 2000, the tenacity and optimism of Rafik Khalifa
pays: Khalifa Airways Airbus A310-300 takes off from the pink city towards
Oran. Mr Joseph Younes, the Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the White
House is the guest of honour for the inaugural flight. He declares "that
he is very enchanted by the warm welcome on board of this company"
and proposes to congratulate his old friend, President Bouteflika for
the opening of this new route, Oran - Toulouse- Oran.
At the beginning of August 2000, Spain is conquered too, with flights
to Alicanta, Barcelona, and Palma of Marjoca. The Iberian officials
had been approached at the same time as those of Great Britain, Italy,
India and Syria, but they were the first ones to react favorably before
At the same time, pushing his way to acquire more international destinations,
the company continues to develop its domestic flights. A veritable cobweb
has spun between Algiers, Oran, Bejaïa, Constantine, Bechar, El
Oued, Tindouf, Adrar, Hassi Messaoud, Jijel, Djanet, Annaba, Ghardaia,
Tamanrasset, Tiaret to cover all the territory... Some destinations
less profitable had in fact been abandoned by Air Algeria, as was mentioned
earlier. Khalifa Airways smaller planes, especially those ATR (Regional
Transport Planes) acquired recently, allow them to ensure regular flights,
with fares up to 25% lower than those of the national company, covering
almost the whole of southern Algeria at 98%.
At the beginning of 2001, Khalifa bought his rival, the Antinea Airlines,
promising to preserve the name and to take on board its 180 employees.
A good deal which permits him to dispose of traffic rights for other
destinations (Algiers-Lille or Marseilles-Constantine etc.) and to reinforce
rapidly the fleet as well as the personnel.
It was on April, 2001 that the eighth international liaison for Khalifa
Airways was inaugurated pompously: Dubaï
The company is the one hundred and first to obtain permission to operate
in the smallest of the Emirates, nick-named "Venice of the Gulf".
To be able to do business here when you are a foreigner, one needs to
be proposed by an Emirate national ; the touring agency El Madjid Travel
Agency, representative of Khalifa Airways acted as the intermediary.
This most liberal of the Gulf States, particularly fascinates Rafik
Khalifa ; he sees in it what the airport of Algiers may become, one
day... an average of 12,5 million passengers go through this airport
annually ; it is one of the main hubs for airline transportation between
the Far East and the European countries, plus a shopping destination
famous world-wide because of its gigantic complex of tax-free malls,
offering a luxurious range of products at unbeatable prices. A success
very closely studied by this self-made Algerian, who was welcomed there
by close relatives of El-Maktoub.
Despite a flowing success, there seem to be a constant pain like with
a sour thorn itching the feet of the caretakers of Khalifa Airways:
GDAC adamant refusal to grant them landing rights at the Charles De
Gaulle Airport in Paris, which in reality is denying them of one of
the most profitable destinations, where half of the traffic between
France and Algeria do transit. A blockage, which is a serious handicap
for a potential international development of the company. Nevertheless,
to ferry back stranded passengers left at Bejaïa by Aeris, a small
French Charter Airline, the administrators did hire an aircraft belonging
to Khalifa Airways. But instead of landing at Orly as convened, which
could have probably provoked tensions, the poor castaways landed...
in Lille, to get back into the capital later on, by bus.
Once more, the owner of Khalifa Airways bursts into laughter. He remains
unshakably optimistic. To his collaborators hit by the slowness blocking
them from conquering the capital right into the buzzing hive of their
headquarters in Paris situated at Galvani street, he repeats laughingly,
" wait and see, we shall get it!"
Simply hearing Rafik Khalifa reciting the immortal words by Rastignac,
"Paris for both of us !" makes you believe it too.
While waiting to reach Montreal, New York, London, Milan, Frankfurt,
Jeddah, Istanbul, Cairo and Casablanca very soon...
Feasting wings: Khalifa Catering
Successful stories are forever the same: a business man discovers
that his demands are not being met to his satisfaction, decides that
one can only be served best by himself...
This is in a way the beginning of Khalifa Catering, one of the latest
creations of the Group.
One day, Rafik Khalifa on board in one of his aircrafts and accompanied
by important invitees - among them the advertising executive, Jacques
Seguela - waiting impatiently for the take off. Minutes multiply, then
hours go by... Three hours waiting, simply because the meal trays were
not acceptable and so refused... This is too much, Khalifa Airways proprietor
asks the captain to take off. With no food on board, the passengers
arrived at the destination... with the stomachs rambling!
"Never that again", decides Rafik Khalifa. He decides that
buying ready-prepared meals cost far too much, and on top of it, "it
is impossible to control the timing and quality". Henceforth, the
time to launch Khalifa Catering has arrived...
As usual for him, the new activity has to meet welcome and quality criterias.
He knows that his clientele is not often the wealthy one: "Most
of them are happy to have a good meal in the plane", he specifies.
And even during short flights, they are generously fed. "We prefer
that they eat. Having eaten, they are not restless... It is when they
are restless that they are likely to criticize!" jokes the young
It is with full stomachs and satisfied taste-buds that the travellers
of Khalifa Airways arrive to their destinations. "Algeria, with
a smile on top", like the company ´s slogan says, is also
III - Rafik Khalifa:
A sharing nature
The more I earn, the more it will be essential for me ethically to
share with others", declares Rafik Khalifa.
An exemplary conduct conveyed by many courses of actions supporting
humanitarian associations and... football teams. Because loving the
round ball - a passion shared throughout the planet - crosses the boundaries.
Just like planes.
Emphasis on human environment
Consolidated group around a man
"It ´s him, the pillar of the group. He is the person"
Admittedly, it is his wife saying it, undoubtedly she is well placed
to know as she has accompanied the developments since 1991...
When she speaks of him, describing a liberal man, by his sense of initiative
and sharing wealth in a socialist manner. "He ´s somebody
working not only for money but for the creation", continues Hania
Khalifa. " Apart from that, if he would be asked for his shirt,
he would give it away. His pleasure is to give pleasure".
A social sense, definitely inherited from his father, one of the founders
of a socialist Algeria, whose choice he often disputed as an teenager.
But from whom he got a sense of responsibility towards his family, his
9000 employees and the whole of his country.
This devotion has been rendered back to him. Thus, among the "ancient
fighters" recruited at the creation of Khalifa Bank, not one of
them left the company. On the contrary, this close guard has risen in
hierarchy and are always concerned over the well-being of their boss.
An informal warm team, always agitated by explosions bursting from different
activities of the Khalifa Group...
Which does not stop its MD to be surrounded by a generation of managers
in their thirties recruited in Algeria as well as French experts who
have joined the management team. The group is being internationalized
on the human side. Yet another victory for Rafik Khalifa is to prove
that today, one can work with Algeria and in Algeria. That this country
is not only the image the media generally gives. However, the sentence
which is often repeated by his French partners or collaborators, very
enchanted whenever they are invited by him to Algiers is: "We did
not know that it was like this!".
It goes without saying that Khalifa has a family spirit. All the employees
know that they can discuss personal problems with the boss. "Moumen
feels in a way responsible for them and their families, the way it was
when his father had fallen ill. He had taken care of his parents, his
brother and sister...
Generosity question. No sentimentality. And also a question of efficiency.
Rafik Khalifa, as a wise Managing Director, knows how to interest the
collaborators in the company, not that he considers them as part of
his property but by admitting to himself that he cannot be a winner
alone for a long time without getting them involved too.
In short, that the logic of stockholders which generates profits only
for the shareholders is not a lasting system. It is rather the logic
of "stakeholders" which is doomed to end and become part of
The stakeholders are not only shareholders, but equally employees, clients,
suppliers, partners, administrations, in short the people surrounding
the company get involved in it.
It is because of this deep reflection over economical and social stakes
of his activity that Rafik Khalifa keeps believing on the initiative
of sharing. Because all he wants is to work for his country.
And when a country is prosperous and peaceful, it is through the youth
that it happens and we therefore need to give them hope...
Believing in the new generation:
Rafik Khalifa has always believed in the youth - Algerian population
is composed of 75 % under twenty five years of age - and the youth in
return believe in him. The middle class young Algerians - those born
after 1970 - all of them dream of working for the one who has become
an emblematic figure of success. Even the little Franco-North African
are henceforth sending him many application letters, seeking employment....
Because he understands the social and psychological devastations of
unemployment among his young compatriots, and because he believes in
their desire to succeed in life. Nothing would stop Rafik Khalifa from
training his troops.
When he was only a simple pharmacist in Cheraga, he had already recruited
five young bursary holders picked up through an announcement to offer
them pharmacy studies in Paris,
This will to educate has ever since been transformed into campaigns
for permanent training.
When he created Khalifa Airways, he had sent the first hostesses for
a training session on the outskirts of Paris. And for the pilots, initially
he was forced to recruit them "fully trained". One hundred
and eighty among them had left Air Algeria within two years to join
Khalifa Airways, they had opted for this change because of the attractive
professional environment provided, so they say, and then for the salary
which was aligned on the French scale by Rafik Khalifa,who finds it
odd and unfair that the same job should be paid less, as soon as one
crosses over the Mediterranean Sea... One of his pilots, manifestly
pleased with his choice, recently re-affirmed to a big Algerian daily
newspaper of "having learnt in one year only at Khalifa Airways,
a level of qualifications equivalent to fifteen years of career".
Rafik Khalifa also thinks of those to come after them.
In the year 2000, he launched an ambitious program for training of air
pilots. In three years, there will be a thousand young men to benefit
spending eighteen months of training at the Oxford aviation college in
England. A thousand young men... and young women: because Rafik Khalifa
believed in them even before, but it will be the first time in Algeria
that the aircraft will be commanded by a woman.|
This costly approach is however, an excellent investment on a long term
basis because the future pilots sign up with Khalifa Airways a contract
for seven years.They lose nothing in changing, since according to the
same company pilot, "the career planning proposed by Khalifa Airways
is one of the best in the world". And the trainees who come back
with no diploma are re-oriented to other sectors within the company.
Back in the country, the pilot trainees are taken over by the company
instructors for more extensive experience, handling different types
of aircrafts of the fleet owned by the company (Boeing, Airbus, ATR)
Parallel to this, Khalifa Airways is about to open an Aviation school
for lighter planes, as well as a center for training with a simulator,
in partnership with the ancient specialists of Airbus.
The future of Algerian Bank is not forgotten. Rafik Khalifa offers
many bursaries to students from the Banking Institute of Algiers (The
only establishment of this sort in the country). With their degree course,
the bursary-holders are assured of getting an employment within the
group of El Khalifa Bank.
This constant attention for education, when many young people are stopping
further studies because of lack of employment in the Algerian market,
clearly demonstrates without any doubt, the family heritage. As an intellectual,
Laroussi Khalifa had very firmly guided his children in their school
work. His youngest son is taking care now of the education of his future
to humanitarian: The ethical choice of a self-made-man
Rewarding the best: when five A-level graduates
Rafik Khalifa still remembers the bright - rather undisciplined pupil
- he was, not long ago...
Believing in the youth who are hope for the country, is also to giving
these teenagers a chance to discover the world, by rewarding the best,
at last in a country where only 30% of high school students succeed
in their A-Level exams.
This is why, in association with the Algerian Ministry for Education,
Khalifa Airways decided to reward five teenagers among the most brilliant
ones in Algeria by offering them a discovery trip to Toulouse.
They are three girls and two boys. Mounira, eighteen years old, the
only A-level graduate of the group, first prize in mathematics at the
National Competitive Examination (equivalent to Concours Général
in France) and Silver medal at the African Olympiads held in South Africa,
Nadjat, seventeen years old, had the first prize in natural history
; Nadjette, the same age, was equally distinguished in art subjects.
Bachir and Ahmed too, have earned themselves respectively the first
prizes in physics and history.
Before landing in Toulouse, Mounira, strengthened by the experience
she had in South Africa, had imagined landing in the "backwoods",
and not in the fourth French biggest city. As far as l am concerned,
"France means Paris !" Toulouse is a village, in the minds
of many in Algiers... An opinion this young lady who is more of an excellent
mathematician than a specialist in geography, promptly revised during
her visit to the" pink" city. A detailed visit to the Airbus
Industry site and to the ATR, a travel to the orbit in the Space Center,
a full day discovery tourism, offered by the Town Hall... May be in
a way, to arouse their vocations, hoping so at Khalifa Airways. And
rewarding in an encouraging manner, to these five young hopes for Algeria
in the third millennium.
Khalifa Airways: the disadvantaged take to the
They have experienced deep poverty. And even worse, a terrorist attack
at their school. For the children of Aïssa Ibn Moussa at Boufarik,
who only saw planes on television, Khalfa Airways organizes a "first
feeling" in the air. A flight Alger-Oran-Alger, music rustling
and loud applause to give these children a wonderful gift.
This is not the first time in the month of December 2000 that Khalifa
Airways is taking care of disadvantaged children. Under the aegis of
UNICEF, to mark the International Day for Children, sixty kids from
Mitidja, 70 % orphans whose one or two parents were victims of terrorism,
spent a day in the capital, and another in Oran on the wings of Khalifa.
The company also carries out urgent humanitarian operations. After
the terrible earthquake in December 1999 at Témouchent, where
twenty eight people were killed and five thousand left without shelter,
Khalifa Airways had transported without charges hundreds of clothings
from Marseilles, collected with a help of "Secours Populaire"
and an association created by a jobless group, to be distributed to
the disaster victims in Aïn Laâlam.
Since then, a day never passes without Khalifa Airways flying across
to bring help to the distressed, at times less spectacular, but all
the same tragic.
"Underneath his carapace, he is very sensitive, very generous.
When sollicited, he does not think twice: he intervenes", explains
Hania Khalifa. These are generally charitable associations who present
him cases like a sick child who has to come for treatment in France.
He will definitely be granted a free ticket. But at times even more:
not long ago, Rafik Khalifa was not only taking care of transport but
also hospitalization and treatment charges of a little cardiac Algerian
who was to come for treatment in Marseilles, plus the accommodation
of his mother as well.
Khalifa Foundation should soon formalize and regroup its different humanist
and humanitarian actions which vary from a donation of two micro-computers
to that of saving an air ticket...
Micro-credit: Give a chance to those with nothing
Parallel to his charitable interventions, Khalifa Group launched in March
2001 a micro-financing activity.
This weapon against poverty or for development has been very successful
within the last twenty years in Asia, Africa, Latin America. Europe is
forced to follow the trend because of economical crisis starting to be
felt. Micro-credit is principally for those excluded by commercial banks,
clients abandoned by ruined farming banks. It is a credit of a little
sum offered to those with no access to the usual banking credits, because
they do not possess required material guarantees: salary, house, land,
sufficient savings... It represents 90 % of the population in countries
of the southern hemisphere.
Once again the philosophy of these actions corresponds to Rafik Khalifa
´s social wishes: that his company should be at the service of the
Algerian society. To fight against unemployment especially in regions
less deprived in the country. There is an old saying in Chinese that it
is better to teach a poor man how to fish than to give him a fish. But
what is the use of knowing how to fish when you cannot afford a fishing
In this case, "it is the basic needs, instead of a fishing net, such
as: helping her buying a sewing machine so that she can work at home,
or another one, to let him buy himself four sheep... it is after all trying
to give a chance to those who have not", hammers Rafik Khalifa. "With
micro-credit", Rafik Khalif explains enthusiastically, one million
people can be saved. To teach them how to manage on their own. Give them
an idea of having their own company. Even if it is a company of only one
The football: because the round
ball has no boundaries
Khalifa Group, the sponsor of the Algerian teams
Like the majority of his compatriots - and most of masculine people
in the planet - Rafik Khalifa is a football fan. The chance and his
talent has given him the possibility to do more for his favorite sport
than simply going to applaud his best team in stadiums...
The team he prefers ? Khalifa Airways is, in fact, sponsoring practically
all Algerian football teams, starting with the national selection, the
"Fennecs", whose official transporter is the company.
Because "football is a poor man ´s sport which one enjoys
for nothing", a universal sport played by the young ones and because
it is often the sport which permits emerging countries to get known.
Rafik Khalifa knows the importance of the Algerian teams.
Algerian football has moreover produced many excellent players who
have enriched European football in every angle (definitely the French
but equally the Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Swiss). Zinédine
Zidane, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, just to mention him, is considered
today as the best football player in the world.
In the year 2000, it is actually the Oran football star evolving in
a foreign country who accepted graciously to represent Khalifa Airways:
Ali Benarbia, then with Paris Saint-Germain (today with Manchester City)
In June 2000, his company commits itself to finance sport activities
of NA Hussein Dey, emblematic sport club in Algeria and a breeding ground
for the national elite. First one in the management of sporting clubs
to be saluted by the national press. As the daily newspaper "Liberté"
underlined it, "Khalifa Group has opened a door to a new dynamism
which could contribute to getting the Algerian football off permanent
crisis. The choice made by NAHD is not in the least a coincidence. The
Milaha has always been an example, a forerunner for the expansion of
sports in Algeria".
Partner of "O.M.":
The symbol of a new
Euro - Mediterranean alliance
Rafik Khalifa, a man with no limits, he wanted more than the Algerian
football ; according to him, the round ball needed to bounce even further,
beyond the Blue Sea, right in the center of Marseilles.
Its posters already seen on the billboards of Velodrome stadium, and
with the departure of Ericsson, the Swedish sponsor, Khalifa Airways
seizes this chance, moving faster than the others. Among the French
firms coming forward as candidates - the perfumery chain, Marionnaud
or Orange, the branch of France Telecom for mobile telephones. The Japanese
Sony manifested interest too. Havas Sports Advertising ´s final
choice is Khalifa Airways. The impact of this new partnership is quite
symbolic, a glorious feat in the world of sports.
We had already noticed that Rafik Khalifa is a big specialist in being
first everywhere, but for the first time an African company is sponsoring
a French football club. And not just any club...
As the Gate to Europe, the Phocaean city accommodates the largest
Algerian community in the continent. It also represents one of the principal
transit cities for Khalifa Airways.
And even more, since the victory of France in 1998 World Cup, a gigantic
effigy of "Zizou" son of Castellane has engraved an effective
bond uniting the "Canebière" to a "black-white-beur"
(French of North African origin) football, multicultural and festive...
This is why the partnership of Khalifa Airways and Olympique of Marseilles,
signed on June 2001, for a period of five years, with an annual contribution
of 18 million French Francs has an immense symbolic value.
"For the French club, it is most probably the best contract ever
signed in France", declares Robert Louis - Dreyfus, adding that
this venture with Khalifa Group aims at "reinforcing the ties the
other side of the Mediterranean Sea has in common with the city of Marseilles.
We have a multicultural society, we are still hoping to develop further."
"I would not have hoped for a better partner than the O.M."
retorts simply the Managing Director of Khalifa Airways.
This young company owner knows very well that sport is a vector for
image and, in a way, it is a metaphor of a good management. Unifying
energy, sport restores the values of efficiency, solidarity, by over-
passing oneself and professionalism.
As for the O.M., even when they don ´t win, they still are a
myth - O.M. has 5 million fans out of which 41 000 are subscribers of
the Velodrome Stadium. Two hundred thousand among them bought the jersey
of their favorite team last year... And like one young Algerian was
explaining to El Watan (a daily Algerian newspaper): O.M. arouses as
much infatuation in the countryside just like in the Canebière
and in the boroughs". Many Algerian flags float in the Velodrome
Stadium when the club gives a big explosion by marking goals...
Because the heart beats on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea for O.M.Just
like the one of Rafik Khalifa.
IV - The Khalifa
Rafik Khalifa is only thirty five years old. In ten years of professional
life, he has not made all his dreams come true far from it. An optimal
mixture of intuition and know-how has permitted him up to now to thrive
in life professionally and as a man. Hence forth, he has known success
and maturity that follows. He is becoming notorious in France... and
" Rendez-vous" in ten years
real estate, renovations, transport:
Innovation to meet the needs of Algerians
To note a need: to give it an answer. This is the way Rafik Khalifa
always proceeded. By being inspired, if necessary, by developed systems
in foreign countries to be adapted at home.
Following this, a private medical center destined to the 9000 employees
of Khalifa Group and their families. The observation is simple: the
Algerian Public Health system to which all the employees pay subscription
is not usually at the level of their expectations. One finds quite often
over-crowded emergency services....and ill equipped.
Rafik Khalifa therefore decides to mobilize a percentage of the salary
- savings like in the American system, to create a hospital reserved
for the Khalifa "family" which is expanding constantly. The
personnel is already recruited, the equipment bought - including an
ultra-modern scanner, a very heavy investment which the young boss wanted
to realize immediately so that all should be ready for receiving patients
- whose medical history would be followed by a stable and competent
medical team familiar to their medical files.
The effort consented by Khalifa Group will relieve the public service
too and, at the same time, help promote smooth running of his own troops...
Worrying as usual over efficiency, but on another plan when Rafik
Khalifa realizes that it is often difficult for an Algerian to hire
a car in an airport or elsewhere, especially when he does not have a
French account (or European) therefore a credit card.
There again, the answer is simple, effective, immediate:
The creation of a new branch of the group, Khalifa Rent A Car, in Algeria
to begin with and later on, in France... " the inversion of the
usual process!" exclaims the young owner. All you need is a credit
card issued by El Khalifa Bank or simply have a Khalifa Airways Air
ticket to rent a vehicle class A at Khalifa.Logical.
Another initiative should come up soon: launching of a company of
radio-taxis in Algiers, where this does not exist. "And, believe
you me" Djaouida Jazaerli demonstrates, " finding a taxi in
Algiers is the cross and the banner!" A line that marks the originality
of his designer, the company which obviously will be called Khalifa
Cabs, may have a fleet of old English traditional taxis, capable of
transporting a whole family. "Algerians don ´t like small
cars!" he underlines smiling.
History does not say as yet if the cabbies - the taxi drivers in a friendly
English slang - of Khalifa will be well trained as the London ones are
obliged to follow a two year course known as "The knowledge"
- knowing completely all the corners of the streets in the British city
before having the right to drive their huge cars.
But Rafik Khalifa, known as a perfectionist and with his burning desire
for efficiency, we could bet that Algerian cabbies will also have a
good knowledge of the topography of the city and all its short-cuts...
Air, space and light: new colours of Algiers.
"The city has to be completely reconstructed. There are 3.5 million
inhabitants in Algiers. It was built for 700 000. Boroughs were built
on the outskirts and are deprived of entertainment centers, forcing
these inhabitants to move to the city center and henceforth increasing
even more the density."
Rafik Khalifa gives an account of these numbers he knows by heart. He
knows how heavily populated the capital is - the poor state of its buildings.
The most alarming of all is the tragic shortage of housing and high
rental fees which force most of the families to live together in small
apartments with no privacy or freedom. Even at the age of forty, earning
a good salary, one is forced to live with his parents. It is absurd.
Rafik Khalifa is here again involved in consultations with the government
and the municipality.
First of all, for the renovation of the Old City of Algiers, the white
Algiers which was a dream of many generations. They have to renovate,
repaint, restore its frontage, repair the staircases, and make the elevators
function again, give a modern infrastructure to these buildings which
are part of the national patrimony...
For example - Rafik Khalifa ´s hope of making his country attractive
for tourism - the old mythical Algiers palace, built in the thirties...
The Saint Georges Hotel, among many prestigious guests, welcomed here,
big names like General Eisenhower who had been here when it was the
headquarters for the Americans during the war in 1942.And is it not
in this old hotel, then brand new in the film "Pepe le Moko"
by Julien Duvivier, when Jean Gabin takes a risk far from Casbah, to
find the "chick" he loves ?
A mythical palace, a bit like La Mamounia in Marrakech, with its style
of the forties with an extra modern comfort, it would represent an alternative
to the more international palace like Sheraton. The well-known decorator,
Jacques Garcia - who succeeded for example as an artistic director at
the Hotel Costes in Paris - is being urged to take care of the interior
refurbishing.The atmosphere guaranteed...
Contemporary constructions also can have a soul. It is what he is
dreaming of when he is planning to construct a private housing estate
for the middle class, in the new part of the city, with all facilities
to promote life of a borough.
"A center of attraction has to be created, find a theme, art, sport,
science, cinema... And most of all, to create space, make them live,
and have air to breathe. It is in this manner that we can fight the
difficulties of a society".
The site has already been found: it is where in the olden days the French
had planned to construct an administrative city. We haven ´t come
up with a name, but all we know is that the project will be a complimentary
to the other gigantic one, which Khalifa Group has just began to discuss
with the Algerian Ministry for Transports.
A new airport. It is more than that, a new concept.
The African Gate: to make Algiers the regional
Algiers, a new Singapore ? Algiers a new Dubai ?
It is Rafik Khalifa ´s ambition ever since he discovered the booming
prosperity of the small Emirate, which has become a turning platform
for travels from Europe towards Asia and Australia.
Dubai can easily boast for having one of the first airports in the world
constructed for the next forty years, where millions of travellers transit
In a short time, its airline company has become one of the best in the
world, combining the Anglo-Saxon " know-how " and the universally
appreciated refinement of Singapore Airlines.
Dubai is also, without any doubt, one of the biggest shopping centers
in the world, with its numerous tax-free boutiques where European and
Asiatic tourists rush in to buy Gucci, Prada and others like Louis Vuitton,
and its many bazaars with products often taken to Algeria so that even
the El-Djorf souk in Bab-Ezzouar has been named Dubaï souk... A
paradise for "trabendists"(from "trabendo", small
dealers in Algerian slang).
Last but not least, Dubaï has a tourist complex with ultra gleaming
palaces and sumptuous villas in between the desert and sea, it is a
world-wide capital for sports which has already welcomed international
golf and tennis tournaments, waiting to host the Grand Prix of Formula
In 2001, Khalifa Airways was the 101th air company to be granted permission
to operate with a two weekly direct flights between Algiers and Dubai.
Something to keep the creator of Khalifa Group dreaming...
"Dubai is a country in the sand which has become a new Singapore
in twenty or thirty years. A country of only two hundred thousand inhabitants,
but where transits 15 million passengers par year", giving him
Here is his ambition for Algiers: to construct the Dubai of XXIth
century, a sort of off-shore and duty-free place attracting not only
foreign investors but millions of tourists - consumers who would program
their transit to profit of time or days they have to shop, do some sport
or just relax...
The Algerian capital would then become the undisputed new regional hub,
a pivoting platform for international aviation: "It is the gate
from Europe towards Africa, the door to Asia towards America",
underlines the young boss.
Once more Rafik Khalifa is not just dreaming.
The project has been launched in collaboration with the Ministry for
Transport, giving him the green light to putting these plans into action
for the future airport. At any rate, the old one is not sufficient for
the country ´s needs, and so the construction should be done very
"All should be completed within three to four years from now",
Rafik Khalifa is positive. We have mobilized experts and highly qualified
firms, the ones who constructed the airports of Singapore and Dubai".
And contacts have been made with big international groups in hotel-keeping
to construct a complex for tourism and leisure. Not only for the "new
Dubai" of Maghreb, but also for the tourism industry in Algeria.
The success of the new Sheraton, where many Algerians living abroad
had chosen to stay last summer, indicates the desire they have to rediscover
a magnificent country, practically without any infrastructure for tourism.
The one Rafik Khalifa is dreaming of, will not disfigure the landscape,
like the disastrous urbanism and aesthetic of Costa Brava. Since we
are staring from nothing, do it well as much as possible...
"We have sunshine, we have the sea, we have the mountain, we have
snow, we have the desert: the future is in Algeria !" says Rafik
with the optimism of his thirty five years, backed by a success which
has never left him...
'If we can do it, we have to
do it: a man who does not know to say "no"
The Khalifa Group is employing 9000 people in Algeria, plus two hundred
in France: it is the main private employer in the country, And the third
biggest firm after Sonatrach (the petro-chemical industry), Electricity
of Algeria and Sonelgaz.
An excellent itinerary for a young self-made-man...
Since out of a pique it may certainly be whispered by those who see
him as being the son of a minister - it was however long before he was
born - and Rafik Khalifa, the beloved son of "nomenklatura"
did not find all doors open in the administrative alleys. He banged
his nose more often than otherwise. His father´s political destiny
had broken long before he grew up - it is for sure this destiny that
propelled his son ´s non-political stand. But maybe also, his
patriotic ambitions for the country. In which best manner assume an
inheritance from a founder - father to give aid, by relying on the most
efficient means of the XXI century ?
" He has made it himself, believing in Algeria", certifies
his wife. Supposing that the success makes Rafik Khalifa from now on
a privileged interlocutor in high circles, it is due to his demonstrations
of having a remarkable understanding of the market economy, which the
precedent generations were not bound to possess because of many reasons
and the history...
The young man incarnates henceforth, due to the brilliant success
of his group, his ethical comportment, his friendship, a vision for
every young Algerian: one of an extraordinary leader who has succeeded
in a country which is being modernized, becoming more and more efficient
Due to his sharing and solidarity spirit, Rafik Khalifa has attracted
an elite of Algerian personalities who had the access to fame also by
their own talents and creativity: Khaled, Cheb Mami, Zinedine Zidane..
Individually or collectively, they act like models in demonstrating
to be creative - and the creation of a company is an elaborate form
of creativity - which can bring about prosperity. It is surprising that
the combination of these two contribute to channel the energy needed
for development of a country. The new adventure with the O.M. is yet
another extremely popularized manifestation to make Algeria representing
cultural action at a high level, be less isolated. " For a stable
country, the economy has to be of high performance and therefore attract
large investments", insists Rafik Khalifa, persuaded that social
action can only be exercised through concrete realizations. And that
the constitution of a dynamic middle class building is the best guarantee
for the prosperity of Algeria.
This is by all means the conviction of the inventor of companies,
"Actually, l am a kind of a nationalist. I work for the development
of Algeria. Like Khalifa Group. We are in the construction of a nation."