ALGERIALOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENERGY AND POWER
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria
Al-Jumhuriyah al-Jaza'iriyah ad-Dimuqratiyah ash-Sha'biyah
CAPITAL: Algiers (Alger)
FLAG: The national flag consists of two equal vertical stripes, one green and one white, with a red crescent enclosing a five-pointed red star in the center.
ANTHEM: Kassaman (We Pledge).
MONETARY UNIT: The Algerian dinar (da) is a paper currency of 100 centimes. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 50 centimes and 1, 5 and 10 dinars, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 dinars. da1 = $0.01395 (or $1 = da71.67) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Overthrow of Ben Bella, 19 June; Independence Day, 5 July; Revolution Day, 1 November. Muslim religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', 1st of Muharram (Muslim New Year), and Milad an-Nabi. Christians observe their own religious holidays.
Situated in northwestern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria is the second-largest country on the continent. Comparatively, it is slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas, with a total area of 2,381,740 sq km (919,595 sq mi). Extending about 2,400 km (1,500 mi) e–w and 2,100 km (1,300 mi) n–s, Algeria is bounded on then n by the Mediterranean Sea, on the e by Tunisia and Libya, on the se by Niger, on the sw by Mali, on the w by Mauritania, and on the w and nw by the Western Sahara and Morocco; the total boundary length is 6,343 km (3,933 mi). Land boundary and claims disputes with Libya were unresolved as of late 2002.
Algeria's capital city, Algiers, is located on the northern boundary of the country on the Mediterranean Sea.
The parallel mountain ranges of the Tell or Maritime Atlas, comprising coastal massifs and northern inland ranges, and the Saharan Atlas divide Algeria into three basic longitudinal zones running generally east–west: the Mediterranean zone or Tell; the High Plateaus, including the regions of Great and Small Kabilia; and the Sahara Desert, accounting for at least 80% of Algeria's total land area. About half of Algeria is 900 m (3,000 ft) or more above sea level, and about 70% of the area is from 760 to 1,680 m (2,500 to 5,500 ft) in elevation. The highest point is Mount Tahat (3,003 m/9,852 ft), in the Ahaggar Range of the Sahara.
Only the main rivers of the Tell have water all year round, and even then the summer flow is small. None of the rivers are navigable. The mountainous areas of the High Plateaus are poorly watered; most of the rivers and streams (oueds) flow irregularly, since they depend for water upon an erratic rainfall. In the High Plateaus are many salt marshes and dry or shallow salt lakes (sebkhas or shotts). Farther south, the land becomes increasingly arid, merging into the completely dry desert.
Algeria lies on the African Tectonic Plate. Northwestern Algeria is a seismically active area. Earthquakes on 10 October 1980 in a rural area southwest of Algiers left over 2,500 persons dead and almost 100,000 homeless.
Northern Algeria lies within the temperate zone, and its climate is similar to that of other Mediterranean countries, although the diversity of the relief provides sharp contrasts in temperature. The coastal region has a pleasant climate, with winter temperatures averaging from 10° to 12°c (50° to 54°f) and average summer temperatures ranging from 24° to 26°c (75° to 79°f). Rainfall in this region is abundant—38 to 69 cm (15 to 27 in) per year, and up to 100 cm (40 in) in the eastern part—except in the area around Oran (Ouahran), where mountains form a barrier against rain-carrying winds. When heavy rains fall (often more than 3.8 cm/1.5 in within 24 hours), they flood large areas and then evaporate so quickly that they are of little help in cultivation.
Farther inland, the climate changes; winters average 4° to 6°c (39° to 43°f), with considerable frost and occasional snow on the massifs; summers average 26° to 28°c (79° to 82°f). In this region, prevailing winds are westerly and northerly in winter and easterly and northeasterly in summer, resulting in a general increase in precipitation from September to December and a decrease from January to August; there is little or no rainfall in the summer months.
In the Sahara Desert, temperatures range from -10° to 34°c (14° to 93°f), with extreme highs of 49°c (120°f). There are daily variations of more than 44°c (80°f). Winds are frequent and violent. Rainfall is irregular and unevenly distributed.
Characteristic trees of northern Algeria are the olive and the cork oak. The mountain regions contain large forests of evergreens (Aleppo pine, juniper, and evergreen oak) and some deciduous trees; the forests are inhabited by boars and jackals, about all that remain of the many wild animals once common. Fig, eucalyptus, agave, and various palm trees grow in the warmer areas. Esparto grass, alfa, and drinn are common in the semiarid regions. On the coastal plain, the grape vine is indigenous.
Vegetation in the Sahara is sparse and widely scattered. Animal life is varied but scarce. Camels are used extensively. Other mammals are jackals, jerboas, and rabbits. The desert also abounds with poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes, scorpions, and numerous insects.
Algeria's principal environmental problem is encroachment of the desert onto the fertile northern section of the country. Soil erosion from overgrazing adds to the effect. To impede desertification, the government in 1975 began a project to erect a "green wall" of trees and vegetation 1,500 km (930 mi) long and 20 km (12 mi) wide along the northern fringes of the Sahara. The annual cost of this 20-year afforestation project was about $100 million. In 2000, about 0.9% of the land was forested. As of 2003, about 5% of the total land area was protected. The country has two Ramsar sites: Karavasta Lagoon and Butrint.
Other significant environmental problems include water shortages and pollution. The small amount of water available in Algeria is threatened by regular droughts. The problem is further complicated by lack of sewage control and pollutants from the oil industry, as well as other industrial effluents. The Mediterranean Sea has also been contaminated by the oil industry, fertilizer runoff, and soil erosion.
As of 2002, there were at least 92 species of mammals, 183 species of birds, and over 3,000 species of higher plants. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 1 species of amphibian, 10 species of fish, and 2 species of plants. Endangered species include the Barbary hyena, Barbary leopard, Barbary macaque, the Algerian nuthatch, the North African fire salamander, the African lion, the common otter, and the Mediterranean monk seal. The red gazelle and the Sahara oryx were listed as extinct as of 1994.
The population of Algeria in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 32,814,000, which placed it at number 35 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 31% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–2010 was expected to be 1.5%. which the government feels is too high. The government has placed emphasis on reproductive health, with a resulting decline in fertility rates from 4.7 births per woman in 1990 to 3.6 in 2005, due in part to increased use of contraceptives. The projected population for the year 2025 was 40,604,000. The population density was 14 per sq km (36 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 49% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.45%. The capital city, Algiers (Alger), had a population of 3,060,000 in that year. Other large cities and their estimated populations include Batna, 948,000; Oran, 794,200; and Constantine (Qacentina), 688,100.
The population is concentrated in the cultivated areas of the northern Tell region near the Mediterranean coast. More than 90% of the populace lives in approximately one-eighth of the country. The plateau and desert regions are sparsely populated.
In 1962, some 180,000 Algerian refugees were repatriated from Tunisia and Morocco; after independence was declared in July 1962, about 650,000 French Algerians and more than 200,000 harkis (Algerian Muslims who fought on the French side during the war of independence and chose to retain French citizenship) emigrated to France. The exodus reduced the French population from about 10% of the total in 1961 to less than 1% in 1981. There were around 24,000 displaced persons from Mali and Niger located in the southern Algerian region of Tamanrasset, Adrar, and Illizi. In 1995, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) started the repatriation of the Tuareg refugees back to Mali and Niger. Repatriation was complete as of June 1998, benefiting some 6,302 Malians and 3,259 Nigerians. At the closing of the refugee camps, some 200 residual refugees remained. As of May 1997, there were an estimated 4,000 Palestinians that were well integrated in Algerian society. As a result of the war between the Polisario guerrillas and Morocco over the Western Sahara, about 150,000 Sahrawi refugees fled to Algeria. In November 2005, the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs reported that 165,000 refugees from Western Sahara have remained in the region of Tindouf in southwestern Algeria since 1999. In 2003, there were approximately one million internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country. As of 2004, there were 169,500 refugees remaining in Algeria. In 2004, the main countries in which over 9,700 Algerians sought asylum were France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany.
The estimated net migration rate for Algeria for 2005 was -0.37 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.
The population consists almost entirely of Arabs. They are primarily of Berber origin, particularly in the Kabilia and Aurès areas and in the Sahara oases, or admixtures of Berbers with invaders from earlier periods. The Berbers, who resemble the Mediterranean subrace of Southern Europe, are descendants of the original inhabitants of Algeria and are divided into many subgroups. They account for 99% of the population. The Kabyles (Kaba'il), mostly farmers, live in the compact mountainous section in the northern part of the country between Algiers and Constantine. The Chaouia (Shawiyyah) live in the Aurès Mountains of the northeast. The Mzab, or Mozabites, include sedentary date growers in the Ued Mzab oases. Desert groups include the Tuareg, Tuat, and Wargla (Ouargla).
Europeans are of French, Corsican, Spanish, Italian, and Maltese ancestry. Algeria's European population was estimated at less than 1% of the population in 2005. About half the Jews in Algeria were descended from converted Berbers, and the remainder were mainly descendants of Spanish Jews. Within a month after Algeria became independent, about 70,000 Jews emigrated to France and 10,000 to Israel. Almost all the rest left Algeria during the next seven years; fewer than 100 Jews remained as of 1998, and virtually all synagogues had been converted to mosques.
The official and majority language is Arabic, with many variations and dialects, but many Algerians also speak French; "Arabization" has been encouraged by the government. About one-fifth of the population speaks a wide variety of Berber dialects, particularly in Kabilia, in the Aurès, and in smaller, relatively protected areas in the mountains and the Sahara. Berber is a distinct branch of the Hamitic language group; dialects vary from district to district. In antiquity, the Numidians wrote Berber in script form.
About 99% of the population adheres to the practice of Islam, which is named in the constitution as the state religion. Except for a small minority of Kharijites (Ibadhis) in the Mzab region, most Muslims are adherents of the Maliki rite of the Sunni sect, with a few Hanafi adherents. The law prohibits assembling for purposes of practicing any faith other than Islam. However, there are Roman Catholic churches that conduct services without government interference. Non-Muslims usually congregate in private homes for worship services. Proselytizing of non-Muslim faiths is and the importation of non-Muslim religious materials are legally prohibited. In practice, however, the government does not actively interfere in religious conversions. Foreigners who practice non-Muslim faiths are generally shown a greater degree of social tolerance than non-Muslim citizens.
The number of non-Muslim residents has been estimated as being less than 5,000. Many non-Muslims have fled the country because of the civil war and acts of terrorism by Islamic extremists. The number of Christians and Jews is thus significantly lower than in the early 1990s. The largest non-Muslim groups are Methodists and Evangelists, followed by Roman Catholics and Seventh-Day Adventists.
In 2004, Algeria's nationally owned railroad had about 3,973 km (2,471 mi) of track, which consisted of 2,888 km (1,796 mi) of standard gauge right of way (283 km electrified), and 1,085 km (675 mi) of narrow gauge track. The system consists principally of a main east–west line linked with the railways of Tunisia and Morocco and of lines serving the mining regions of Béchar (formerly Colomb Béchar); the esparto grass country on the High Plateaus; the date-producing areas of Biskra, Touggourt, and Tebessa; and the main port cities.
Roads are most adequate in the Tell zone, but in the mountainous and rural areas, they are relatively poor. In 2002 there were 104,000 km (64,625 mi) of roads, of which about 71,656 km (44,527 mi) were paved, including 640 km (398 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 372,300 passenger cars and 528,000 commercial vehicles. The French colonial administration built a good road system, partly for military purposes, which after independence was allowed to deteriorate to some extent; however, new roads have been built linking the Sahara oil fields with the coast. Algeria's portion of the trans-Saharan highway, formally known as the Road of African Unity, stretching about 420 km (260 mi) from Hassi Marroket to the Niger border south of Tamanrasset, was completed in 1985.
Algiers is the principal seaport. Other significant ports are Arzew, Bejaïa (Bougie), Skikda (a large gas-exporting center also known as Philippeville), Oran, Annaba, Ghazaouet, and Mostaganem. Algeria's merchant fleet numbered 56 ships of 1,000 GRT or over, totaling 837,676 GRT as of 2005
An extensive air service used an estimated 137 airports and airstrips in 2004. As of 2005, a total of 52 had paved runways, and there was one heliport. The main international airport, H. Boumediene Airport, is about 20 km (12 mi) from Algiers. Constantine, Annaba, Tilimsen (Tlemcen), and Oran have smaller modern airports that can accommodate jet aircraft. Air Algérie, the national airline, provides international service. In 2003, a total of about 3.293 million passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.
Before the period of recorded history, the North African coastal area now known as Algeria was inhabited by Berber tribal groups, from whom many present-day Algerians are descended. Phoenician sailors established coastal settlements, and after the 8th century bc, the territory was controlled by Carthage. Roman dominance dates from the fall of Carthage in 146 bc. Completely annexed in ad 40, the region, known as Numidia, became a center of Roman culture. Christianity flourished, as did agriculture and commerce; Numidian wheat and olives were shipped to Rome. By the mid-3rd century there were some 20 Numidian bishops. Despite the prosperity of the Roman cities and the cereal-growing countryside, there were frequent Berber revolts. The Roman influence gradually declined, especially after the Vandal invasion of 430–31. The Byzantine conquered eastern Numidia in the 6th century.
After the Arab conquest began in 637, the area was known as Al-Maghrib al-Awsat, or the Middle West and continued for a century. The Berbers accepted Islam but preserved their own traditional political and social institutions, in effect absorbing the invaders. Arabs from the east attacked in the 11th century. These newcomers, unlike their predecessors, were nomadic herders rather than farmers; they destroyed many of the towns and farms and reinforced a more pastoral type of economy. Almoravids from Morocco also took possession of part of the region in the 11th century, and they were succeeded by Almohads a century later. Although these and other dynasties and individuals united the territory and consolidated it with Morocco and Spain, local rulers retained considerable autonomy. Meanwhile, seafaring and piracy became important.
Spain conquered part of the coast in the early 16th century, and Algerians asked the aid of 'Aruj, known as Barbarossa, a Turkish pirate. He expelled the Spaniards from some of their coastal footholds, made himself sultan, and conquered additional territory. The area of Barbarossa's control was extended by his brother, Khayr ad-Din, also called Barbarossa, who placed his territory under the suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. Until 1587, Algiers was governed by beylerbeys; from 1587 to 1659, by pashas, who were appointed for three-year terms; and after 1659, by aghas and finally by deys (28 deys in all, 14 of whom were assassinated). Other parts of what is now called Algeria were ruled either by Turkish officials or by local chieftains. Spain held a small area around Oran until 1708 and controlled it again from 1732 to 1791.
Algiers became increasingly independent of Constantinople and, joining with other states of the Barbary Coast, thrived on piracy. At this time, it had diplomatic and trade relations with many European countries, including France. But with the defeat (though not suppression) of the Barbary pirates by US and European fleets during 1815–16, and with the growing European interest in acquiring overseas colonies, Algiers was seen as a possible addition to either the British or the French empire. In 1830, the French took over the principal ports; they gradually subjugated the Berbers, annexed the northern regions, and set up a system of fortified posts. Thereafter, sporadic revolts broke out, notably the guerrilla war from 1830 to 1847, led by the legendary hero, Abd al-Qadir, and the Kabyle rebellion in 1871. Other sections, however, remained independent of France until the first decade of the 20th century.
Al-Jazair, as it was called in Arabic, became, in French, Algérie, a name that France applied to the territory for the first time in 1839. In 1848, northern Algeria was proclaimed an integral part of France and was organized into three provinces. Following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, large numbers of Alsatians and other French colonizers settled the most fertile confiscated lands, as did other Europeans at the invitation of France. Muslims had no political rights except for limited participation in local financial delegations.
Following World War I, France took the first steps toward making all Algeria an integral part of France. In 1919, voting rights were given to a few Muslims, based on education and military service qualifications. French citizenship had previously been open to Muslims who renounced their Koranic status.
During World War II, in exchange for loyalty to France, many Muslims hoped for political concessions, and moderates believed that France might be persuaded to grant Algeria a separate status while retaining close diplomatic, economic, and defense ties. In 1957, all Muslims became French subjects, but about nine million Muslims and 500,000 Europeans voted on separate electoral rolls for a joint assembly. Unsuccessful in obtaining further reforms and faring poorly in several apparently rigged elections, the moderate Muslim nationalist group led by Ferhat Abbas was greatly weakened.
The war in Algeria toppled several French governments before causing the demise of the Fourth Republic in May 1958. Gen. Charles de Gaulle was then brought to power by French rightists and military groups in Algeria. To their surprise, however, he pursued a policy of preparing for Algerian independence. He offered self-determination to Algeria in September 1958. Referendums in France and Algeria on 8 April and 1 July 1962 approved a settlement, and independence was formally proclaimed on 3 July, despite a program of counterterrorism by the French Secret Army Organization in Algeria. Meanwhile, younger nationalists had formed what would become known as the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale—FLN), and a guerrilla war was launched on 1 November 1954. The FLN's National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale—ALN) perpetrated acts of terrorism and sabotage throughout Algeria and gained increasing mass support. Eventually, France was forced to maintain at least 450,000 troops in Algeria. During the hostilities, the French army completely cleared many rural areas of their civilian populations and evacuated some two million Muslims to army-controlled regroupment centers or new large villages. Although the army gradually eliminated the power of the FLN to carry out large-scale attacks, the latter continued its terrorist acts against the French army, French settlers, and pro-French Muslims. Terrorist activities, mainly as a result of factional disputes, also were carried on by Algerian Muslims in France. During more than seven years of civil war, well over one million Muslim guerrillas and civilians and 10,000 French soldiers lost their lives.
With independence achieved, a seven-man Political Bureau, set up as the policy-making body of the FLN, took over effective control of the country on 5 August 1962. Ahmed Ben Bella became the first premier, and Ferhat Abbas was chosen speaker of the Assembly. The Assembly adopted a constitution, which was endorsed by referendum in September 1963.
Elected president in October, Ben Bella began to nationalize foreign-owned land and industry. Opposition to his authoritarian regime led to an outbreak of armed revolts in the Kabilia and Biskra areas in July 1964 and to open attacks on the regime by leading political figures. On 19 June 1965, the Ben Bella government was overthrown in a bloodless coup directed by Col. Houari Boumedienne, first deputy premier and defense minister. The 1963 constitution was suspended, and a revolutionary council headed by Boumedienne took power. The new government shifted to a gradualist approach to national development, with deliberate economic planning and an emphasis on financial stability. During the 1970s, the council nationalized the oil industry and initiated agrarian reforms. Boumedienne ruled by decree until June 1976, when a national referendum approved a Socialist constitution providing for a one-party state with a strong presidential system and an elected National Assembly. Boumedienne was elected president in December 1976 but died two years later.
The FLN Central Committee, with strong army backing, chose Col. Chadli Bendjedid as the party's leader, and his presidential candidacy was ratified by the electorate on 7 February 1979. He was reelected without opposition in January 1984 for a second five-year term. After a period of maintaining continuity with the previous regime, the Bendjedid government moved toward more moderate policies, expanding powers for the provinces and state enterprises and attempting to revitalize the FLN and government agencies. In foreign affairs, Algeria reduced its earlier support for liberation groups around the globe and for hard-line nonaligned positions. It patched up its dispute with Morocco over the Western Sahara and sharply reduced its aid to the Polisario. Algeria played a key role in helping the United States resolve the hostage crisis in 1981 and worked hard for the Arab Maghreb Union, a planned EC for North Africa. Serious internal trouble developed in 1988 when young Algerians rioted over high prices, unemployment, and the dictatorship of an aging, inept, and corrupt revolutionary regime. Shocked by the 500 deaths in the streets, Bendjedid moved to liberalize his government. Political parties were allowed to form outside the FLN and the prime minister and cabinet were made responsible to the National Assembly. He won a third term in 1989, supported by 81% of the electorate.
Burdened by heavy debts and low oil prices, Bendjedid was obliged to pursue austere economic policies and to abandon socialism for the free market—actions which further inflamed his opposition, now led by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). In 1989, the party won 55% of urban election seats while the FLN maintained power in the countryside. Elections to the National Assembly, postponed six months, were held in December 1991 under relatively free conditions. FIS candidates won 188 out of 231 contested seats, needing only 28 more places in a second vote to control the 430-member Assembly. The FLN won only 16 seats.
The army intervened, arresting FIS leaders and postponing indefinitely the second stage vote. Bendjedid resigned under pressure from the army and Mohammed Boudiaf, a hero of the revolution, returned from exile to lead the High State Council which the army established. A harsh crackdown on Islamists began; the FIS was banned and its local councils were closed. As acts of terrorism continued by both sides in 1992 and 1993, the regime declared a state of emergency, set up special security courts and arrested more than 5,000 persons. Boudiaf was assassinated in June 1992 to be replaced by Ali Kafi with Redha Malek as prime minister in August 1993. In January 1994, Defense Minister Liamine Zeroual was named president and the five-man presidential council was abolished.
Zeroual released two top FIS leaders in September 1994 and began a dialogue with the FIS. After six weeks of apparently half-hearted talks, Zeroual ended the dialogue and called for new presidential elections. Opposition parties—including the FLN, the FIS, and other Islamist groups—met in late 1994 and early 1995 under the auspices of the Sant' Egidio Roman Catholic community in Italy to produce a national contract to end the violence through a transitional government that would include all parties. Zeroual rejected the meeting as foreign interference in Algeria's internal affairs and condemned the contract that it produced. He continued to attempt dialogue with the legalized opposition parties with no results.
While parties accounting for nearly 80% of the vote in the 1991 parliamentary elections were excluded from participating, Zeroual did have three opponents for the presidency in the November 1995 elections. The elections went ahead as scheduled. Despite widespread calls for boycotts and threats of violence, the government claimed 75% of registered voters participated in the election, which gave Zeroual the office of presidency with 61% of the votes. Opposition groups disputed the turnout figures.
Zeroual's first objective after election was the passing of a new constitution greatly expanding presidential powers. The referendum approving the new constitution was passed with nearly 80% of the registered voters participating and 86% approving the new constitution. While there were widespread electoral irregularities, the vote was generally viewed as reflecting Algeria's weariness with civil war (which, as of 2003, had claimed approximately 100,000–120,000 lives since 1992) and a willingness to give the government the power to end it. At the very least, the elections showed that few of Algeria's registered voters respected the boycott calls made by opposition parties, even when those calls were backed up with threats of violence.
However, the elections did not stop the cycles of violence. When the government thought it had effectively stopped the terror campaign, the Ramadan of 1997 (the traditional high point of terrorist activity) was the bloodiest ever, with daily reports of bombings and massacres.
Despite the violence and instability, Zeroual continued to hold elections as he reshaped Algeria's government. In June 1997, parliamentary elections were held. Thirty-nine political parties registered for the elections with over 7,000 candidates contesting for the 280 seats in the National People's Assembly. Violence continued throughout the campaigning. The result of the election was a victory for pro-government parties. However, though the FIS and other religious parties were barred from participating, two other more moderate Islamist parties won more than 100 seats and received over 20% of the votes cast. Regional and municipal council elections were held in October 1997, with the RND (Rassemblement national pour la démocratie or National Democratic Rally) winning more than half of the seats.
In September 1998 President Zeroual gave a surprise address announcing that he would step down from power in February 1999, two years before his term was to expire. The decision was most likely due to infighting in the regime, which had become increasingly public. Forty-seven candidates presented themselves for election, but only seven made it to the final list, with Abdelaziz Bouteflika quickly emerging as the leading candidate. Tarnishing the results of the election, four of the candidates officially withdrew from the contest two days before the 15 April election day claiming massive fraud in favor of Bouteflika in the forming of election lists. They were joined the following day by the other two candidates. The fraud claims were rejected by the minister of the interior and the election went ahead with Bouteflika as the single candidate.
Following his election victory, Bouteflika instituted dialogue with opposition groups and at the end of 1999 moved against corruption. Within weeks of his election, Bouteflika announced a "Civil Concord Plan" based upon a 1997 truce between the military and the FIS's Islamic Salvation Army (AIS). In September 1999, a referendum was held on the plan, which was approved by more than 98% of the voters; voter turnout was over 85% nationwide, but was below 50% in eastern regions of the country, which are dominated by the opposition. The plan included an amnesty for those Islamists who renounced violence; up to 5,500 rebels participated in the amnesty, and the AIS formally disbanded in 2000. Those guilty of murder, rape, or the placing of bombs were to be prosecuted; however, the death penalty would not be used, and no prison sentence would be longer than 20 years. The plan was supported by the FIS; however, violence continued, and was still ongoing as of March 2003.
In April 2001, a Berber youth taken into custody by the police was killed, sparking months of demonstrations and rioting in the northeastern region of Kabylie. More than 90 people died in the unrest, which also spread beyond Kabylie. The Berber protesters' complaints went beyond the act of police brutality, addressing concerns of ethnic discrimination, corruption, housing shortages, unemployment, repression, and violence. In May, the mainly Berber party, the Rally for Culture and Democracy, withdrew from the government in protest against the government's handling of the unrest. In October, Bouteflika agreed to a constitutional amendment granting national recognition to the Berber language, Tamazight. However, the language would not be granted "official" status, like Arabic.
In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the United States called upon all states to implement counterterrorism measures. Algeria pledged its support for the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism, and sent the United States a list of 350 Islamic extremists known to be living abroad who may have had contacts with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. Bouteflika made two official state visits to President Bush in 2001, the first such visits by an Algerian president in 15 years. In return for Algeria's aid, the Bush administration agreed to ease restrictions on arms sales to Algeria.
In parliamentary elections held on 30 May 2002, the FLN won 199 of 389 seats in the National Assembly; it was one of 23 parties participating. Four parties, including two Berber parties, boycotted the elections, which were marred by violence and low voter turnout (47%).
On 3 March 2003, French president Jacques Chirac visited Algiers, the first state visit by a French president since Algeria won independence in 1962. Chirac stated that the two countries could not forget the brutal war for independence that had created "countless victims, tore families apart, and shattered destinies and dreams." He laid flowers at a monument for Algerians who fought the French during the war, which was regarded as an act of reconciliation. Chirac also called on the government to use dialogue to end the Islamic insurgency ongoing since 1992.
On 21 May 2003 an earthquake, which measured 6.7 on the Richter scale, struck along Algeria's northern coast. The worst hit areas were east of Algiers. More than 2,200 people were killed, over 9,000 were injured, and over 1,000 people were missing, while 51,000 were made homeless in the Algeria's most devastating quake in more than 20 years. On 27 May an aftershock of a magnitude of 5.8 was centered just a few miles away from the epicenter of the May 21 earthquake. Buildings damaged earlier fell down and survivors accused the government of a slow response and of turning a blind eye to shoddy construction in a quakeprone area. President Bouteflika was pelted with debris as he attempted to tour damaged villages.
Under Bouteflika the security situation in Algeria improved noticeably. However, terrorism was not totally eliminated. Terrorist incidents still occurred, particularly in the provinces of Boumerdes, Tizi-Ouzou, and in the remote southern areas of the country. An estimated 50–60 Algerians were killed monthly in the early 2000s, down from a high of 1,200 or more in the mid-1990s. In a landslide victory Bouteflika was reelected to a second term in April 2004. Promising to devote himself to seeking "true national reconciliation," the government promised the Berber leaders more investment in the Kabylia region and greater recognition of the Tamazight language.
Algeria assumed a two-year seat on the UN Security Council in January 2004.
In January 2005, the arrest of rebel Armed Islamic Group (GIA) head Nourredine Boudiafi was announced. His deputy was killed. It was declared that the group was virtually dismantled. GIA was an Islamic extremist group that since 1992 aimed to overthrow the secular government and replace it with an Islamic state. In August 1992, GIA's founder, Mansouri Miliani, was arrested for his role in the attack on Algiers airport. He was executed in May 1993. GIA's violent terrorist campaigns were aimed at entire villages, journalists and foreign residents. Between 1992 and 1998, GIA violence was responsible for some 100,000 deaths, averaging 1,200 per month, leading to a civil war. Killings continued at a rate of 300 civilians per month well into 2002; more than 100 expatriates were killed since 1993. In March 2005 a government-commissioned report stated that security forces were accountable for the disappearances of more than 6,000 people during the 1990s civil conflict.
Since 1976 Algeria has supported the exiled Sahrawi Polisario Front (Polisario) in the Western Sahara and rejects Moroccan administration of Western Sahara. Algeria experiences continuing border disputes with Libya and Morocco and incursions from armed bandits of the Sahel region who destabilize southern Algerian towns. Algeria and Morocco each accuse the other of harboring militants, smuggling arms, and have imposed visa requirements on each other that Morocco lifted in mid-2004; Algeria has not reciprocated the gesture.
Algerian voters approved a new constitution in 1996 that strengthened the role of the already-dominant executive. Under the constitution, a second legislative body called the Council of the Nations (Senate) would join the already existent National People's Assembly, or Al-Majlis Ech-Chaabi Al-Watani. The number of seats in the National People's Assembly was changed from 380 seats to 389 seats in the 2002 elections; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. In the Council of Nations (Senate) with 144 seats; one-third of the members of the Council are appointed by the president, two-thirds are elected by indirect vote (local and regional government); members serve six-year terms. The constitution requires half the Council to be renewed every three years. This body must approve, by a three-fourths vote, any legislation proceeding from the National Assembly. The president is elected for a five-year term, renewable once. A second round is held if no candidate obtains a simple majority in the first round.
Since the annulment of the 1991 election, the military has been the ultimate power in Algeria. In 1994 it appointed a retired general, Liamine Zeroual, to the presidency. In somewhat irregular elections, Zeroual was elected with 61% of the vote over three other candidates. In 1998, Zeroual announced he would step down as president before his term ended. Abdelaziz Bouteflika won the presidential election of April 1999. He was the lone candidate after all of his rivals pulled out on the eve of the poll, protesting massive fraud.
Elections for the National Assembly were held in June 1997, with pro-government parties winning 57% of the 380 seats. Moderate Islamic parties won over 100 seats, with the rest of the seats going to independent candidates and an ethnic Berber party. Several opposition parties, including the FIS, were barred from participating. Regional and municipal council elections were held in October 1997, with the government's RND winning more than half of the seats.
Elections for the National Assembly were next held on 30 May 2002. The FLN took 199 of the now 389 seats; the National Democratic Rally, Bouteflika's party, took 48 seats; Islah, the Movement for National Reform took 43 seats; the Movement for a Peaceful Society won 38 seats; the socialist Worker's Party won 21 seats; and smaller parties and independents took the remaining 40 seats. Again, the FIS was banned from participating. In local elections held 10 October 2002, the FLN won a majority of town councils and provincial assemblies.
On 8 April 2004 a presidential election took place. The election was democratically waged throughout for the first time since independence. Incumbent president, Bouteflika, competed against five other candidates. Although the Opposition candidates complained of some discrepancies and unfair media coverage, the election was considered the most untainted in Algerian history. Bouteflika was reelected in the first round of the election with 84.99% of the vote. Just over 58% of Algerians eligible to vote participated in the election.
One of the earliest active figures in the struggle for Algerian self-determination was Messali Hadj, who in 1925 formed the Star of North Africa (Étoile Nord Africaine) movement among Algerian workers and intellectuals in Paris and in 1937 founded the Algerian People's Party (Parti Populaire Algérien—PPA). Banned in 1939, the PPA operated illegally and militantly under the Vichy regime, with strong support from students and workers.
In 1944, Ferhat Abbas formed the Friends of the Manifesto and of Liberty (Amis du Manifeste et de la Liberté—AML), a moderate reform group that was later transformed into the Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (Union Démocratique du Manifeste Algérien—UDMA). In 1946, some AML members joined the PPA and, under Messali Hadj's leadership, formed a legal front organization, the Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties (Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques—MTLD). On a program favoring "the return of the Algerian people to national sovereignty," the MTLD won 5 of the 15 elected seats in the National Assembly elections of 1 November 1946; in 1948, however, the MTLD lost all its seats and was reduced to semi-illegality. Two years later, it was suppressed by the police.
In 1951, an Algerian Front was formed by the MTLD, the UDMA, the Algerian Communist Party, and the Society of 'Ulema, a political-cultural organization. Policy differences in the following years resulted in the creation of three groups: supporters of Messali Hadj; centrists, who hoped to obtain constitutional advances by cooperating with the French administration; and a militant group who proposed violent action. By 1954 there was an open split. The centrist majority repudiated Messali Hadj's leadership. An activist group of nine members formerly associated with an MTLD splinter group calling for armed rebellion then established the Revolutionary Committee for Unity and Action (Comité Révolutionnaire d'Unité et d'Action—CRUA) with headquarters in Cairo, divided Algeria into six military zones and appointed commanders for each, and launched a war with France on 1 November 1954.
Shortly thereafter, the CRUA changed its name to the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale—FLN), and its forces became known as the National Liberation Army. The FLN was an amalgamation of various nationalist tendencies in Algeria. Its membership gradually incorporated most members of the former MTLD, most members of the UDMA, and members of the Society of 'Ulema, as well as former independents and young people with no previous political allegiance. Its goal was the complete independence of Algeria, and it appeared to have the support of the great majority of Muslims. After Messali Hadj broke with the FLN, he formed the National Algerian Movement (Mouvement National Algérien—MNA), supported mainly by Algerians in France. The MNA attacked both the FLN and the war through acts of terrorism in France, but became almost completely without influence following Messali's imprisonment.
In August 1956, an FLN congress established an embryo parliament, the 34-member National Committee of the Algerian Revolution, enlarged in 1957 by 20 more members to a total of about 50, and a 5-member executive body, the Executive and Coordinating Committee, enlarged in Cairo in 1957 by additional members. In September 1958, a provisional government was established with Ferhat Abbas as president and with headquarters in Cairo and Tunis. (Benyoussef Ben Khedda succeeded Abbas as premier in August 1961.) President de Gaulle in effect recognized the FLN as the only political organization that had the authority to speak for the Muslims during peace negotiations with the French government. During this period, French expatriates in Algeria organized the Secret Army Organization, which violently opposed Algerian independence.
After independence, differences of opinion arose among the members of the Political Bureau, the FLN's policy-making body, regarding the organization of the FLN. While Ben Bella envisaged the creation of an elite party, Mohammed Khider (assassinated in Spain in January 1967) sought to create a broader mass party. The FLN mobilized popular political participation by forming mass organizations for peasants, youth, guerrilla veterans, and women. It organized itself into departmental federations, sections, and cells, staffed largely by former guerrillas (mujahedin). In April 1964, the first congress of the FLN adopted the Charter of Algiers, a guideline for government policy that provided for a wide range of agricultural, industrial, and social reforms. The FLN's National Charter of April 1976 outlined a plan for creating a Socialist system commensurate with Islamic principles. A new National Charter adopted in January 1986 de-emphasized Socialism and placed greater stress on Islam. The chief organs of the FLN are the Central Committee, the highest policy-making body of both the FLN and the nation, the Political Bureau and the Secretariat. The Islamic Salvation Front is an umbrella organization of groups, which support a government guided by Islamic law. In September 1989 the government approved a multiparty system, and by 31 December 1990, over 30 legal political parties existed, including Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), National Liberation Front (FLN), and Socialist Forces Front (FFS).
With the annulment of elections, several parties, notably the FIS, were outlawed. The main parties that participated in the June 1997 elections included the official government party known as the National Democratic Rally (Rassemblement national pour la démocratie—RND); the Movement for a Peaceful Society (formerly Hamas); Ennahda (a moderate Islamic party); two ethnic-Berber parties, the Socialist Forces Front and the Rally for Culture and Democracy; and the FLN.
Twenty-three parties participated in the May 2002 parliamentary elections. Two Berber parties boycotted the elections, including the Rally for Culture and Democracy and the Socialist Forces Front. The FLN took a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Also winning seats were Islah, the National Democratic Rally, the Movement for a Peaceful Society, the Workers' Party, the Algerian National Front, the Islamic Renaissance Movement, the Party of Algerian Renewal, and the Movement of National Understanding. Independents won 29 of 389 seats.
In June 2003, the leader of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) Abassi Madani and his deputy Ali Belhadj were freed after serving 12-year sentences.
In 1969, a governorate of 48 provinces (wilayats ) system replaced the departments that had been established by the French. Each wilaya has its own elected people's assembly, executive council, and appointed governor (wali ), who is responsible to the Ministry of the Interior. The 48 wilayats have subdivisions called da'iraats (districts), which are further subdivided into 1,541 communes. The commune is the basic collective unit, governed by an assembly elected for four years. Winning a majority of local council and assembly seats in the 10 October 2002 elections was the FLN, taking control of 668 communes and 43 of the country's 48 cities. The National Democratic Rally lost its previously held majority, taking control of 171 communes. The Socialist Forces Front won 65 communes and independents took control of 77. Islamic parties declined in popularity overall.
After independence in 1962, Algeria's judicial system was reorganized. The former French magistrates were replaced by Algerians and the judiciary was extended into regions of the country previously ignored.
The judicial system now includes civil and military courts. Within each wilayat is a court of first instance for civil and some criminal cases. At the head of the system is the Supreme Court. The Special Court of State Security was abolished in 1995.
The constitution guarantees independence of the judiciary. However, executive branch decrees have restricted some of the judiciary's authority. Judges are appointed by the executive branch without legislative approval, and the government can remove judges at will. A judge's term is 10 years.
Algeria's present legal codes, adopted in 1963, are based on the laws of Islam and of other Northern African and Socialist states, as well as on French laws. Efforts were made to harmonize the laws and legal procedures with those of the Maghreb nations. A first plan for judicial reorganization was approved in 1965; this was followed in 1966 with the beginning of large-scale structural reforms. A new civil code was promulgated in 1975 and a new penal code in 1982.
In civilian courts, Shariah (Islamic law) is applied in resolving social issues. Defendants in civilian courts are afforded a wide range of procedural protections including a public trial, right to counsel, right to confront witnesses, and right of appeal.
Military courts have jurisdiction in cases involving military personnel and have heard some cases in which civilians are charged with security-related and terrorism offenses.
The Constitutional Council reviews the constitutionality of treaties, laws, and regulations. The Constitutional Council is not part of the judiciary but it has the authority to nullify unconstitutional laws. The constitution prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. In criminal cases, the suspect must be charged or released within 48 hours of incommunicado detention. However, the 1992 Antiterrorist Law provides up to 12 days of prearraignment detention.
President Bouteflika announced a major reorganization of the judiciary in August 2000. He changed approximately 80% of the heads of the 187 lower courts and all but three of the presidents of the 37 higher-level courts. By the end of 2001, women sat at the head of 26 courts.
Six months of military service is compulsory for males. Algeria's armed forces in 2005 totaled 137,500 active personnel. The Army had 120,000 officers and men, plus reserves of up to 150,000. Weaponry included 920 main battle tanks, 139 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,084 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 910 armored personnel carriers, and 1,019 artillery pieces. The Navy had an estimated 7,500 active personnel. Major naval units included 2 tactical submarines, 3 frigates, 6 corvettes, 24 patrol/coastal vessels, 3 amphibious landing craft and 3 logistics/support ships. The Air Force had an estimated 10,000 active members. Equipment included 178 combat capable aircraft, including 88 fighter aircraft and 72 fighter ground attack aircraft, and 33 attack helicopters. Algerian paramilitary forces totaled an estimated 181,200 personnel, including 20,000 gendarmerie, 16,000 national security forces and 1,200 Republican Guards. Algeria's defense budget was $2.87 billion in 2005.
Algeria was admitted to the United Nations on 8 October 1962 and is a member of ECA and all the nonregional specialized agencies, such as the ICAO, IFC, FAO, IAEA, ILO, IMF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Algeria is an observer in the WTO and was a temporary member of the UN Security Council until December 2005. Algeria also participates in the African Development Bank, G-77, G-15, G-24, League of Arab States, African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Arab Maghreb Union, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), OAPEC, and OPEC. The country is a partner in the OSCE. Algeria is a member of the Nonaligned Movement and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In cooperation on environmental issues, Algeria participates in the Basel Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, MARPOL, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN conventions of the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
Saharan oil and natural gas have been important export items since 1959, and they now dominate Algeria's economy, accounting for over 96% of total export value, 60% of government revenue, and 30% of GDP. Algeria is the largest supplier of natural gas to the EU. During the late 1970s, as oil prices rose, real economic growth topped 20% annually, with the manufacturing sector averaging about 15%; during 1980–81, however, the rate dropped to 7–8% because of the weakening oil market, and a decline of 5% was registered in 1982, followed by an average annual growth rate of 4.5% during 1983–86. Because of the weak oil market, growth continued to fall, to 3.4% in 1989, 1.1% in 1990, and negative growth in 1994 of -1.1%. Debt restructuring accomplished in 1994 and 1995 allowed increased imports and restored economic growth to an estimated 3% per year. The real growth rate in 1998 was 3.2%, and was estimated at 6.1% in 2004. It was expected to reach 6.9% in 2005. These healthy growth rates in the early 21st century were driven by real export growth, based on expanding crude oil production, although government consumption played a role. As of 2005 Algeria had a large trade surplus, high foreign exchange reserves, and had reduced its foreign debt.
Although 14% of Algerians make their living directly from the soil, agriculture produces only about 10–11% of Algeria's GDP in an average year, and 9% in drought years, and meets only a small portion of the country's needs. The government targeted agricultural development as a priority in the late 1990s, but drought in 1997 dimmed agricultural prospects. However, good rains in 2002 produced a stronger performance for cereals in terms of real growth.
Before independence, the Algerian economy was almost completely dependent on the Europeans, who employed more than 90% of those working in industry and commerce, accounted for about 90% of gross business earnings, and provided some 90% of the country's private investment. The exodus of most Europeans in 1962 temporarily disrupted Algeria's economic life. The FLN governments established a Socialist economy by nationalizing the mining industry and creating state farms and state-owned industries on abandoned farms and on expropriated French landholdings. The nationalization with compensation of all foreign-owned companies was completed in 1974, although certain companies operating in partnership with Algerian state enterprises were allowed to continue. In the 1980s, decentralization was emphasized, with over 90 state corporations split into 300 specialized units. It was announced in 1987 that these enterprises would adopt their own annual plans, decide on the prices of their products, and invest their profits freely. In 1990 the money and credit law opened the way for substantial international participation in Algeria's economy. The 1993 investment code opened up Algeria to foreign investment, and investment promotion agencies were created in 1995 in order to stimulate the economy. Since then, Algeria has taken steps to liberalize foreign trade, the price structure, and foreign exchange system, and to reevaluate the public sector while encouraging the private sector and competition.
The dramatic decline in oil prices in 1985–86 affected Algeria at a time when it also faced a heavy foreign debt burden. The Algerian government thus attempted to diversify the economy and privatize business. In the late 1990s and into the 2000s, challenges to the Algerian economy included civil strife, inefficient agricultural methods, and an unemployment rate of 25.4% in 2004 (and possibly as high as 50% for those under the age of 30) that extended into the ranks of professionals, engineers, and highly trained workers. Although the government remains committed to greater economic deregulation and will continue to solicit foreign investment in such sectors as telecommunications, water, and power, the hydrocarbons sector remained the engine of GDP growth in 2005–06. With average crude oil prices rising during that period, Algeria was able to increase its export earnings and trade surplus.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Algeria's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $237.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $7,300. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 7.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 10% of GDP, industry 59.5%, and services 30.5%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.090 billion or about $34 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $232 million or about $7 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.4% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Algeria totaled $27.37 billion or about $861 per capita based on a GDP of $68.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 0.7%. It was estimated that in 1999 about 23% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
In 2005, the estimated workforce stood at 10.15 million. The government employed around 32% of the labor force in 2003, with agriculture accounting for 14%, industry 13.4%, construction and public works 10%, trade 14.6%, and other occupations 16%. An estimated 22.5% of the workforce was unemployed in 2005.
Algerian law permits collective bargaining for all unions. While there is no legal restrictions on a worker's right to join a union, government approval is required by those workers seeking to form a union. Approximately two-thirds of Algerian workers were unionized as of 2005. Minimum wages are set by the government with the advice of the General Union of Algerian Workers (Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens—UGTA). The standard workweek is 37.5 hours, and those employees who worked past the standard workweek were subject to recieving "time-and-a-half " or "double-time," on whether they worked during a holiday, a weekend, or on a normal work day. As of 2005, the minimum wage was around $138 per month. This amount does not provide a family with a decent standard of living. Health and safety regulations are also specified by law, but enforcement is irregular. The minimum age for employment is 16 years. However, child labor remains a problem in agriculture and in the informal economy. UNICEF last reported in 2003, that around 3% of Algerian children worked in some capacity.
Although almost 24% of the population is engaged in agriculture (including subsistence farming), only 3.5% of Algeria's land is cultivated. The soil is poor and subject to erosion, and the water supply is generally irregular and insufficient; about one-quarter of northern Algeria is completely unproductive. Agriculture contributed 13% to GDP in 2004.
Before independence, European-owned agriculture accounted for about two-thirds of vegetable production and employed about 800,000 farm laborers, 700,000 of them Muslims. Most Muslim-owned farms were small—10 hectares (25 acres) or less—and were located mainly in marginal areas on the interior plains and on mountain slopes. The Muslim sector, comprising the bulk of the agricultural population, accounted for only one-third of vegetable production but nearly all the livestock raising.
Within six months after independence was declared, at least half the European-owned land had been vacated. Algerian peasants soon began to work on these abandoned farms under a self-management system. During the 1960s, the government established more than 2,300 state farms on expropriated French landholdings; by the end of the decade, these farms accounted for two-thirds of total agricultural production and employed about 500,000 workers. In July 1971, President Boumedienne announced an agrarian program providing for the breakup of large Algerian-owned farms and their reorganization into cooperatives. The first stage of the plan, the registration of land ownership, began in March 1972. In the second stage, many absentee landlords were forced to hand over part of their land to the state. By July 1973, of a total of 5 million hectares (12.4 million acres) of public land, 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of cultivable land had been redistributed to 54,000 families of landless peasants (fellahin ), and 1,348 cooperatives had been created. By 1980, the number of cooperatives had increased to about 6,000; in the early 1980s, however, the government split large cooperatives into smaller units to improve efficiency. In 1982–83, about 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of land previously nationalized were returned to private ownership, mostly in plots of 10 hectares (25 acres) or less. In 1987, a further breakup of large state-owned farms into private cooperatives was implemented. Long-term leases of land to cooperatives were begun. Farmers were given autonomy in production and investment decisions, including the right to keep profits. The National Union of Algerian Peasants, established in March 1973, played a leading role in the land reform program and has about 1.2 million members. By 1995, most of the cooperatives had been dispersed because of internal disputes and land was divided into individual plots. The government does not officially endorse this development, which compels farmers to sell their output on the black market. The Ministry of Agriculture is considering land privatization as a way to stimulate private investment.
Government policy aims at increased use of fertilizers and improved seeds, conversion of vineyards to the production of cereals and other staple foods, and achievement of self-sufficiency in food production. The main agricultural products continue to be wheat, barley, pulses, fresh vegetables, dates, table and wine grapes, figs, olives, and citrus. Grain and pulse production varies significantly and depends upon the frequency and amount of rainfall during the growing season. Estimated agricultural output in 2004 included 2,600,000 tons of wheat; 1,314,000 tons of barley; 1,800,000 tons of potatoes; 815,000 tons of tomatoes; 360,000 tons of oranges; 275,000 tons of grapes; and 450,000 tons of dates. In 2002, nearly 7.6 million tons of cereals were imported. Modest agricultural productivity growth along with rapid population increase makes Algeria one of the world's largest agricultural import markets; imports of food and agricultural products amount to about $3 billion per year. Food and agricultural products accounted for over 22% of all imports in 2004.
Algeria has 31,800 hectares (78,600 acres) of permanent pastures and grazing land, 13% of the country's total area. About half of the livestock is owned by only 5% of the herdsmen. In 2004 there were an estimated 18,700,000 sheep, 3,200,000 goats, 1,560,000 head of cattle, 245,000 camels, 170,000 donkeys, 44,000 horses, and 43,000 mules. There were also 125 million chickens. Algeria is self-sufficient in poultry meat and eggs, but must import all inputs (chicks, hatching eggs, feed, veterinary products, equipment). Algeria has a severe shortage of milk, meat, and cheese and must therefore rely on imports. Algeria produces about one billion liters of milk annually, while consumption amounts to three billion liters.
Fishing is fairly extensive along the coast, but the industry is relatively undeveloped. Sardines, bogue, mackerel, anchovies, and shellfish are caught. The 2003 catch was 142,000 tons, 54% sardines.
Only 1.6% of the land area is forested. The mountain ranges contain dense forests of evergreens (evergreen oak, Aleppo pine, and cedar) and deciduous trees, whereas the warmer regions contain large numbers of fruit and palm trees. Algeria is an important producer of cork; other forestry products are firewood, charcoal, and wood for industrial use. Roundwood production was estimated at 7.5 million cu m (94.7 million cu ft) in 2003.
Two-thirds of the French-planted forests in eastern Algeria were burned by French forces during the 1954–62 war. Reforestation was begun on 12,100 hectares (30,000 acres) of unused land in the semiarid region in 1960. By 1964, 25 million trees had been planted: eucalyptus in clay soils, Aleppo pine in calcareous regions, and olive trees. Current reforestation projects include the planting of a "green wall" across Algeria from the Moroccan to the Tunisian frontier to halt the encroachment of the Sahara. During the first half of the 1980s, reforestation proceeded at a rate of 52,000 hectares (128,000 acres) per year, but from 1984 to 1994, deforestation averaged about 45,000 hectares (111,200 acres) per year, so that Algeria now has 10% less forested land than in 1979.
In 2000, the government proposed allowing foreign investors to develop mineral deposits held by the national mining companies. The national geologic and mineral research office has identified many mineral deposits. However, they were located in remote areas that lacked infrastructure or government funding for development. With Algeria's proximity to Europe, its major minerals customer, the country's base and precious metals are of interest to foreign investors. Guerrilla activity, though, remains a significant deterrent.
Algeria's phosphate deposits at Djebel Onk, in the northeast, are among the largest in the world, covering about 2,072 sq km (800 sq mi), with an output of 905,000 metric tons in 2003, down from 1.16 million tons in 1998. There are deposits of high-grade iron ore at Ouenza, near the Tunisian border. Production totaled 1.378 million metric tons in 2003; half is exported. Among other mineral production in 2003, zinc concentrate output was 2,796 metric tons, down from 10,452 metric tons in 2000; bentonite, 25,346 metric tons in 2003, up from 22,708 metric in 2000; lead concentrate, 1,105 metric tons in 2002, the last year for which there is any data, according to the US Geological Survey, and up from 818 metric tons in 2000; mercury, 175,00 kg in 2003, down from 215,625 kg, in 2000; crude barite, 45,649 metric tons in 2003, down from 51,925 metric tons in 2000; salt (brine and sea salt), 183,000 metric tons in 2003, up from 182,000 metric tons in 2000; hydraulic lime, estimated at 100,000 metric tons in 2003, up from an estimated 96,000 metric tons, in 2000. Marble, silver, kaolin, sulfur, fuller's earth, and strontium are also mined.
Algeria is an important producer and exporter of oil and gas and supplies a significant portion of Europe's energy requirements. Natural gas and petroleum dominate the economy; in 2003, estimated exports of hydrocarbons were valued at more than 90% of total exports, and around 30% of gross domestic product (GDP). In the 1950s, natural gas was found in the east, near the Libyan border, and at Hassi R'Mel in the Sahara. Algeria's proven natural gas reserves are among the world's largest, totaling an estimated 4.5 5 trillion cu m (160.4 trillion cu ft) as of end 2004. Algeria produced 82 billion cu m (2.9 trillion cu ft) of natural gas in 2004. A 500-km (310-mi) main pipeline connecting Hassi R'Mel to Arzew (between Oran and Mostaganem) was opened in 1961, and branch lines to Oran and Algiers were completed four years later. Since then, six other pipelines have been constructed, including the first trans-Mediterranean gas pipeline (Transmed) to Europe via Sicily, built at a cost of $3 billion. The Transmed consists of three segments, linking Algeria, 550 km (342 mi); Tunisia, 370 km (230 mi); and the Mediterranean to Sicily, 154 km (96 mi) underwater. In 2001, Algeria's total LNG export capacity amounted to over 6 billion cu m (212 billion cu ft) per year. The $2.3-billion Gazoduc Maghreb-Europe pipeline to Spain and Portugal via Morocco began operating in November 1996. Total dry exports of natural gas amounted to 2,066.28 billion cu ft in 2002. Algeria's total natural gas export capacity as of 2001 was 57 billion cu m (2 trillion cu ft).
Oil was discovered at Edjeleh and Hassi Messaoud in 1956 and at Al-Gassi in 1959; by 1969, the Franco-Algeria Cooperative Association (ASCOOP), a petroleum development company, had discovered eight major fields. Proven reserves of crude oil amounted to 11.8 billion barrels as of end 2004; crude oil production averaged 1,933,000 barrels per day in 2004. There are four main pipelines linking the wellheads in the eastern Sahara with Algerian ports and a fifth with the Tunisian port of Sekhira; there are also several branch pipelines. In late 2002, Algeria's total refinery capacity was 450,000 barrels per day. There were four gas liquefaction plants in 2000, three at Arzew and one at Skikda, all operating well below capacity because of disrepair and lack of funds for spare parts. In 2000 Algeria was the world's second-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG); its exports, which went mainly to Western Europe, accounted for 19% of the world's total.
The Société Nationale pour la Recherche, la Production, le Transport, la Transformation et la Commercialisation des Hydrocarbons (Sonatrach), founded in 1964 as the state-owned petroleum company, handles the distribution and transport of oil. On 24 February 1971, President Boumedienne announced the Algerian takeover of controlling interest in all French oil company subsidiaries and the nationalization of all pipelines and natural gas deposits. Holdings of all other foreign petroleum interests in Algeria were nationalized by the end of 1971. Subsequent agreements have generally treated foreign companies as minority partners in Algerian state enterprises. Contracts for sales of natural gas to Western Europe and the United States increased spectacularly in the 1970s but decreased in the 1980s as world energy prices fell, pushing Algeria into severe debt. By 1991, Sonatrach was reversing its monopolistic policy, and forming joint ventures for new exploration contracts. The company planned to invest $20 billion through 2004 to develop Algeria's oil and gas fields, focusing on wet gas field development, enhanced oil recovery techniques, pipeline expansion, exploration, and dry gas field development. In April 2000 Sonatrach announced a $500 million joint venture with Amerada Hess to develop the el-Gassi, el-Agreb, and Zotti oilfields, with the goal of increasing production to 45,000 barrels per day by the end of 2003.
In 2002, net electricity generation was 25.992 billion kWh, of which 95.6% came from fossil fuels, and the rest from hydropower. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 24.151 billion kWh. Total capacity in 2002 was 6.4 million kW.
In 1996, Algeria signed a nuclear cooperative agreement with China, which built the two nuclear reactors in Algeria. Algeria claims that these reactors are for research and the peaceful exploitation of nuclear power. Algeria has signed a cooperative agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and has opened its reactor facilities to agency inspectors.
The industries of Algeria, which traditionally have been concentrated around Algiers and Oran, have included carpet mills, cement factories, chemical plants, automobile assembly plants, food-processing installations, oil refineries, soap factories, and textile plants. Other major industries have produced bricks and tiles, rolled steel, farm machinery, electrical supplies, machine tools, phosphates, sulfuric acid, paper and cartons, matches, and tobacco products.
Before independence, industry made significant gains. New enterprises were developed in food processing and packaging, textiles, leather, chemicals, metalworking, building materials, and farm machinery. A new large steel plant was built at Annaba, a petroleum refinery at Algiers, a petrochemical complex at Arzew, and a phosphate production center at Djebel Onk, near the Tunisian border. Other industries were set up to produce automobiles, tractors, cement, rubber tires, and ammonia.
French firms were nationalized after independence, between 1962 and 1974. The government put great emphasis on the development of the hydrocarbons sector, including the building of refineries and natural gas liquefaction plants. Algeria contains an estimated 11.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, but analysts consider Algeria to be underexplored. As of 2005, Algeria had four oil refineries with a capacity of 450,000 barrels per day. Algeria's crude oil production in 2004 was 1.23 million barrels per day. Algeria is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and its crude oil production quota was set at 862,000 barrels per day as of November 2004. Algeria has been pressing to have its OPEC quota raised, as its production capacity is increasing rapidly.
The government has encouraged diversification away from Algeria's heavy reliance on hydrocarbons, although those efforts have not been entirely successful, especially given the increase in oil and natural gas export revenues since 1999. Algeria is considered to be underexplored, and significant oil and natural gas discoveries have been made in recent years, which have increased Algeria's proven oil reserves to 11.8 billion barrels, placing it 14th in the world in total oil reserves. Algeria's proven natural gas reserves were 160 trillion cu ft in 2005, the eighth-largest in the world. The state-owned hydrocarbons company, Sonatrach, invested nearly $20 billion between 1996 and 2000 on new pipelines and extensions. The company's Trans-Maghreb pipeline opened in 1996, supplying Spain and Portugal with natural gas, and Sonatrach substantially increased the capacity of its Trans-Med gas pipeline to Italy. In 2001, Sonatrach undertook a feasibility study on another natural gas pipeline under the Mediterranean to Sicily, the Italian mainland, and southern France; the project could come on-stream by 2008. The Medgaz natural gas pipeline, to be completed in 2008, will link Beni Saf, Algeria, to Almeria, Spain. As of 2005, there was also the possibility of a Trans-Saharan natural gas pipeline, running from Nigeria, across the Sahara, and on to Algeria and the Mediterranean coast. In 1998, Sonatrach issued bonds for the first time, showing the regime's loosening hold on the state-run enterprise. Algeria's oil and natural gas industries increasingly are becoming more open to foreign investors.
The textile and leather industry declined 14.7% in 2001, and 27 state-owned textile companies had gone out of business since 1996, resulting in a loss of 22,000 jobs. Textile manufacturer Group Texmaco, however, was successful as of 2002. It accounted for 30% of the market and had 18,000 employees, although it was operating at 20% capacity in 2002. The textile industry by 2005 was faced with competition from Asia, particularly China.
As of 2004, industry accounted for about 57.4% of the nation's GDP. The hydrocarbons sector (mostly petroleum and natural gas) alone accounted for 30% of GDP in 2005 and over 96% of export revenues. Algerian industry has been in the process of a structural transformation as it moves from a socialist, government-controlled economy to a free-market economy. Consequently, industrial production has fallen as inefficient plants are closed and large oversized industries are scaled back. As of 2002, of the 1,270 state-owned companies, 53% were considered sound after substantial restructuring, 30% were functioning but in poor financial shape, and the remaining 18% were bankrupt or nearly so (approximately 230 companies). The government has spent $15 billion to restructure industry in the early 2000s. By 2004, the estimated industrial production growth rate stood at 6%.
Since independence, Algeria has made major technological advances, especially in the steel and petrochemical industries. However, Algeria still has a severe shortage of skilled workers and is heavily dependent on foreign technologies. Scientific training is principally conducted at the Hovari Boumedienne University of Sciences and Technology, founded at Algiers in 1974; the Oran University of Sciences and Technology, founded in 1975; the universities of Annaba (founded in 1975), Blida (founded in 1981), Boumerdes (founded in 1981), Constantine (founded in 1969), Oran Es-senia (founded in 1965), and Tlemcen (founded in 1974); and the Ferhat Abbas-Setif University of Setif (founded in 1978). In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 58% of college and university enrollments. The government's National Bureau of Scientific Research operates 18 research centers in biology; anthropology; oceanography and fisheries; astronomy, astrophysics, and geophysics; renewable energy; arid zones; technology transfer; and other fields.
In 2002, Algeria's high technology exports totaled $21 million, 4% of the nation's manufactured exports.
European trading firms formerly played a major role in the economy; however, many Europeans, fearful of eventual Muslim control, sold their holdings or gave them up in 1961–62. After independence, about one-half of the country's shops closed down, and in 1963, state agencies began taking over nearly all wholesaling and marketing operations. Since 1996, the Algerian government has prioritized the privatization of state-owned enterprises.
The principal cities of the north are the largest trade centers. While most trade is done on a cash or credit basis, some bartering still goes on among the rural dwellers and in the Muslim quarters of cities. In the mountain regions there are local market days or special local fairs for the exchange of products during different seasons.
Normal business hours are 8 am to noon and 2 or 2:30 to 5:30 or 6 pm, Saturday–Wednesday, and 8 am to noon on Thursday. Banks are generally open from 9 am to 3 pm, Monday to Thursday, but some banks close for lunch. Shopping is normally carried out from 8am to 12 pm and 2 to 6 pm, Saturday to Thursday. Ramadan hours are shorter.
Crude oil and natural gas account for nearly all of Algeria's export value; industrial equipment and semifinished goods and food-stuffs, especially wheat, dominate the country's imports. Surpluses accrued with the oil and gas price increases beginning in the mid-1970s and continuing through 1985, with the exception of 1978. In 1986, however, because of a severe drop in oil prices, Algeria experienced the first trade deficit since 1978 and the largest ever. The 1986 collapse of oil prices drove the government to implement decentralizing IMF programs in order to stabilize the economy. Algeria was able to register a trade surplus during most of the nineties, except during 1994, after a season of political turmoil. On 30 April 1998, the Algerian government chose not to re-subscribe
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to IMF structural programs. Coupled with low oil prices, this move brought about diminished export revenues, threatening a trade deficit. Rising oil prices during 1999 brought back a trade surplus. Higher oil prices during 2005–06 also increased export earnings and the trade surplus. Average crude oil prices increased by one-third in 2004. Coupled with higher crude production, total export earnings rose to $34.2 billion in 2004, while the trade surplus increased to $16.3 billion.
The majority of Algeria's foreign trade continues to be with the European Union (EU) and the United States. The major exports in 2003 included hydrocarbons (98.1% of all exports), semifinished goods (1.3%), and raw materials (0.2%). The major imports were capital goods (28.8% of all imports), food (17.9%), and semifinished goods (15.2%). Algeria's leading markets in 2004 were the United States (21.1% of all exports), Italy (16.1%), and France (10.6%). Algeria's leading suppliers in 2004 were France (32.3% of all imports), Italy (8.8%), and Germany (6.4%).
Algeria long had a current-accounts deficit, which before independence was covered by the French government. While the departure of Europeans after independence contributed to a more equitable balance of trade (Europeans had been the chief consumers of foreign goods), it also caused a heavy withdrawal of capital and a decrease in French aid, resulting in a continued deterioration of Algeria's payments position. However, with the continued growth of the petroleum sector, Algeria recorded substantial payments surpluses during the 1970s. In 1986, the fall of oil prices brought about a large deficit and an economic restructuring through the IMF that was intended to help service the country's debt and begin government privatization. In 1991, many import restrictions were abolished, although foreign exchange and external credit access were still restricted. By 1996, Algeria promulgated a liberalized trade regime in which nearly all export restrictions were removed and foreign investment was encouraged.
Debt rescheduling by the Paris Club and other lenders allowed the Bank of Algeria in the late 1990s to increase its reserves of hard currency. Algeria must increase its nonhydrocarbon exports, however, in order to generate enough foreign exchange so that when oil prices are low, it will be able to pay for necessary imports and to service its external debt, which stood at $24.7 billion in 2001. The external debt was estimated at $21.9 billion in 2004.
Average crude oil prices increased by one-third in 2004; combined with higher crude production in Algeria, export earnings rose to $34.2 billion, while the trade surplus increased to $16.3 billion. In 2005–06, the outlook for the current account remained strong. Algeria's current-account surplus was forecast to be 18.8% of GDP by the end of 2007. From 2000–04, the current account balance averaged 13% of GDP.
The Central Bank of Algeria, created in December 1962, was the sole bank of issue at that time. Following the separation of the French and Algerian treasuries in late 1962, the Directorate of Treasury and Credit was established as the government's fiscal agent. The state also established cooperative banks. It wasn't until 1996 that private companies were permitted to set up money-changing shops following a directive issued by the Central Bank initiating open market operations. This opened a field previously restricted to state-owned banks. Bank base interest rates officially fell from 18.5 to 15% during 1996, according to the prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia. In 1998, local commercial banks cut interest rates on loans to between 10% and 12.5%, down from a range of 18.5–23.5% in 1996. The Bank of Algeria's primary method of financial control was to limit lending, and interest rate cuts were aimed at encouraging growth.
Foreign banks ceased operations after the nationalization of banks in 1963 and were absorbed by three government-owned banks including the Foreign Bank of Algeria, the National Bank of Algeria, and the People's Credit of Algeria. There were also four government banks for financing economic development and a savings institution that offered housing loans. These included the Algerian Development Bank, the Agricultural Bank for Rural Development, and the Maghreb Bank for Investment and Commerce.
In 1997, the banking industry of Algeria included one Central Bank (Banque d'Algerie), six state-owned banks, one public development bank and one private bank (Union Bank, concentrating on merchant banking since 1995). In 1998, five new private banks opened, including one US-based bank.
The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $16.0 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $26.9 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 3.35%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6%.
The Algiers stock exchange was opened in July 1999. With only three companies listed (a food processing company, a pharmaceutical company, and a hotel) the exchange was in its early stages. Bonds issued in 1998 by Sonatrach, the national oil company, were rated in the Algiers stock exchange on 18 October 1999.
In 1966, a state monopoly based on the Algerian Company of Insurance (ACI), and the Algerian Insurance of Reinsurance Fund (AIRF), replaced foreign insurance companies. Ten Algerian insurance companies were operating in 2003: the Compagnie Algérienne d'Assurances, the Compagnie Algérienne des Assurances Transports, the Compagnie Centrale de Réassurance, the Agricultural Mutual Fund, the Algerian Fund Insurance for Workers in Education and Culture, the CAGEX Insurance Company, and Guarantee for Exports and the Société Nationale d'Assurances. In 1998, Trust-Algeria, the International Company of Insurance and Reinsurance, and Algerian Insurance were approved as Algerian Insurance Companies. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), the state insurer, Société Algérienne d'Assurance (SAA) was the top nonlife and life insurer, with gross written premiums of $81.3 million and $6.4 million, respectively. In 2003, total direct premiums written came to $399 million, of which nonlife premiums totaled $384 million.
The government sponsors an export credit insurance agency, managed by the Algerian Export Management Company, that is financed by 10% of a tax on imported luxury goods. This has been set up to aid the growth of nonhydrocarbon exports.
Algeria's fiscal year coincides with the calendar year. Government expenditures increased rapidly from independence until 1986, when IMF adjustment plans attempted to curb spending. Government expenditures have continued to rise, despite austerity measures and the spread of liberalization to the economy. Instead of gaining funds from the sale of state-run industry, the government has had to foreclose companies for a lack of investors. About 60% of total government revenue came from the petroleum and natural gas industries, which are still state-operated.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Algeria's central government took in revenues of approximately $42 billion and had expenditures of $30.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $11.3 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 14.8% of GDP. Total external debt was $21.54 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues in billions of dinars were 1,603.2 and expenditures were 1,550.6. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $20, based on a official exchange rate for 2002 of 79.682 as reported by the IMF.
The most important sources of government revenue have been oil and gas royalties. Algeria's tax system has been streamlined through the replacement of a number of different taxes by a value-added tax, a personal income tax, and a corporate profits tax. The corporation tax was 45% on distributed profits and 20% on reinvested earnings. Many fiscal advantages have been granted to developing and expanding industries, especially to private investment. For established domestic industry and commerce there is a tax on production (a single tax that was passed on to the consumer) and a tax on industrial and commercial activities.
Algeria's 1993 investment code offered foreign investment companies a three-year exemption from VAT, a property tax abatement, lower customs duties, and a two to five year exemption from corporate income taxes. The tax break was meant to stimulate investment in Algeria's export market. After 1993, foreign workers whose monthly salaries exceeded $1,333 per month paid a 20% income tax, instead of one up to 70%.
A customs union between Algeria and France allows regulations applicable in the metropole to apply also in Algeria, making Algeria a de facto adherent of GATT. By a special agreement with the European Union (EU), Algerian industrial products are granted duty-free entry into the EU market and agricultural products get seasonal tariff reductions, while Algeria gives reciprocal treatment to EU imports. Algeria has also concluded preferential customs agreements with Tunisia and Morocco and is a founding member of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), a trade union composed of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. The UMA intended to create a free trade zone, but this had not yet come to fruition.
Goods from France are admitted at a preferential rate; secondly, goods from other European Union countries; and thirdly, goods from countries that grant Algeria most-favored-nation treatment which are subject to a basic standard tariff. Tariffs on imports ranged from 3–40% in 1998, in addition to a value-added tax (VAT) of 17% on most products, although for some products the VAT is 7%. Some imports are also eligible for the Taxe Spécifique Additionnelle, ranging from 20–110% and generally applied to luxury goods. As part of its application to join the World Trade Organization, Algeria lowered its rates to bring them within acceptable WTO levels. The government has further abolished the required import licenses. The only imports subject to restriction are firearms, explosives, narcotics, and pork products. Pharmaceuticals marketed in their country of origin may be freely imported.
Under investment codes issued in 1983 and 1986, Algeria's foreign investment regime was quite restrictive. Foreign investment was permitted only in joint ventures with state-owned companies, although repatriation of profits was guaranteed. The economy's main hydrocarbon sector and many others were off limits.
The money and credit law of March 1990 allowed majority foreign-owned joint ventures in almost all sectors except the hydrocarbon sector, electricity production, railroad transport, and telecommunications. The law provided for the safe transfer of capital and terms for international arbitration. The hydrocarbon law of November 1991 allowed foreign firms to exploit existing oil fields in partnership with the state oil firm. The Investment Code of October 1993 did not distinguish between investments made by foreigners or Algerians and granted new investors limited tax exemptions and reductions in duty on imported goods.
In 1995, the Algerian government set up the National Agency of Investment Development (Agence de Promotion, de Soutien, et de Suivi des Investissements—APSI) and regional investment promotion agencies to serve as a network of regional one-stop shops to eliminate layers of bureaucracy for investors. In 1996, APSI approved 50 foreign investment projects, including American (2), French (16), Italian (11), Spanish (8), and German (4) investors. As of 2002, 20 foreign-owned businesses had been established and the government set a goal to double this number.
In 1997, foreign direct investment (FDI) was $260 million and from 1998 to 2000 averaged $482 million. In 2000, the German firm Henkel acquired 60% of the state detergent and cleaning products firm, ENAD, and an Egyptian company bought a second GSM mobile phone license. In 2001, FDI more than doubled to $1.196 billion thanks mainly to the privatization and sale of one major state enterprise, the El Hadjar steel complex, SIDER, to the Indian steel firm ISPAT, which acquired 70% ownership. In August 2001, the government reorganized the public sector companies to facilitate investment. The 11 sectoral holding companies into which state economic enterprises (EPEs) had been organized in 1996 were replaced with 28 shareholding management companies and the National Privatization Council was renamed the State Shareholding Council. All sectors were opened to foreign investment in 2001, including the hydrocarbon sector, in which the government put exploratory contracts for particular blocks up for auction.
By 2003, 30 foreign oil and gas companies were working in exploration in Algeria. In 2005, the Algerian parliament adopted a new law to further liberalize the hydrocarbons sector. The law separates the commercial role of Sonatrach, the state-owned hydrocarbons company, from its previous regulatory and procurement/contracting functions. Sonatrach is now compelled to bid on domestic projects alongside foreign firms: it will no longer be an automatic partner in all projects.
Algeria's stock exchange, established in 1999, remains rudimentary, with only four companies listed as of 2005. As part of the government's ambitious privatization program, 11 other state-owned companies are expected to trade on the stock exchange in the near future.
The total value of investment declarations in 2004 was $3.5 billion, of which $2 billion was in nonhydrocarbons areas. There were 105 foreign investment projects in 2004, of which 40 were partnership projects and the rest 100% foreign-owned. Hydrocarbons FDI registered $1.8 billion in 2003, up from $671 million in 1999. This amount represented 10% of all FDI inflows in Africa (excluding South Africa).
Following independence, Algeria adopted an economic policy favoring a socialist organization of society. Under the Charter of Algiers, the basis of Algerian policy was that the workers themselves were responsible for management, while ownership of the property was maintained by the state. The first stage of development, covering 1967–69, set up a basis for expansion of industry, improvement of agriculture, and training of personnel.
The second four-year plan (1974–77) established a heavy industrial base for the economy and largely completed agricultural reforms. The period 1978–79 was used to consolidate economic gains. In 1979, the government decided to limit oil and gas exports and to decentralize industry away from Algiers in order to build up the country's less developed regions. The new five-year plan for 1980–84 switched the emphasis from heavy to light industry and to neglected social areas, especially housing. The second five-year plan (1985–89) emphasized agriculture and water supply in order to reduce the chronic food deficit, but industry (32%) and social infrastructure (27%) were allotted the largest shares of the proposed total investment. By 1999, the government defined broader national economic policy objectives for diversification and development.
In the early 1980s, Algeria said it would allocate 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to aid Third World countries, with about 80% going to other African countries, but Algeria has been chiefly a recipient of aid.
In 1995, Algeria signed a three-year program for debt rescheduling with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and rescheduled $13 billion of debt with the Paris Club. These programs resulted in an improved balance of trade, lowered government expenditures, and a government surplus. The government did not renew its programs with the IMF in 1998, saddling the economy with a total debt in 1998 that amounted to $31 million, and capital expenditures reaching almost 10% of the GDP.
Trade surpluses in the early 2000s led to improvements in Algeria's level of foreign debt. The stock of debt was reduced to $22.5 billion, or 43% of GDP, by the end of 2001, and to $21.9 billion in 2004. In fact, in the early 1990s, Algeria's foreign debt was equivalent to 72% of GDP and servicing it absorbed a similar proportion of export revenue. By 2004, foreign debt had dropped to about one-third that level. Foreign exchange reserves amounted to $36 billion, triple the stock from 2000. The government adopted a fiscal stimulus plan covering the period 2001–04. By 2005, Algeria's fiscal account was healthy, and was expected to record an average surplus of 11.7% of GDP over 2006–07. Inflation was projected to remain modest (the inflation rate averaged 2.6% over the period 2000–04).
In 2002, Algeria entered into an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). Continuing privatization and economic and trade liberalization have been key structural reforms. Another long-term priority is addressing the high rate of unemployment. The government in 2005 had increased spending on labor-intensive housing, road, and water projects. In September 2004 the government announced a $50 billion capital spending package covering the period 2005–09. The country is not free of the violence of the mid-1990s, however, with struggle continuing between Islamists and the army, which controls the government. In October 2005, President Bouteflika's Charter on Peace and National Reconciliation was approved in a referendum, giving Islamist rebels an amnesty and releasing imprisoned opposition party leaders. But it is unclear how effective it will be at healing Algeria's wounds.
A social insurance system for old age, disability, sickness and death cover all employees and self-employed persons. The program is financed with contributions from employees and employers. Retirement is set at age 60 for men and age 55 for women and veterans, with early retirement available for those in arduous work, mothers, and the disabled. Work injury benefits are available to all employed individuals including technical students, voluntary social security administrators, those undergoing rehabilitation, students, and certain prisoners. Only salaried workers are entitled to unemployment benefits. The law also provides for an employment related family allowance funded by the government and the employer.
The Family Code, based on Islamic principles, effectively treats women as legal minors for life, under the authority of the father, husband, or other male head of the family. The code permits polygamy and proscribes marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man while allowing a Muslim man to marry outside the faith. In a court of law, a woman's testimony is not considered as equal to a man's, and women do not have full legal guardianship of their children, requiring the father to sign all official documents.
Women are allowed to work but constitute only 19% of the work force. Traditional Islamic views of the role of women still dominate keeping most women from seeking jobs outside the home. The labor laws prohibit sexual discrimination in the workplace, but this is not enforced. Spousal abuse is a common problem especially in rural areas. Spousal rape is not prohibited by law, and it accounts for an estimated 27% of domestic abuse. Many of the abused women are uneducated and illiterate.
The human rights record remains poor and includes extrajudicial killings, torture, and failure to control abuses by security personnel, including massacres of suspected Islamic militants. In 2004, terrorists also committed numerous abuses in the continuing insurgency. Ethnic tensions between the Arabs and the Berbers, who were the original inhabitants of Algeria, continued. The government created the High Commission for Berber Affairs, which protects and promotes Berber language and culture.
The Ministry of Health has overall responsibility for the health sector, although the Ministry of Defense runs some military hospitals. In 1990, Algeria had 284 hospitals with 60,124 beds (2.4 per 1,000 people; as of 1999 this ratio had declined to an estimated 2.1). There were also 1,309 health centers, 510 polyclinics, and 475 maternity hospitals (64 privately owned) in 1990. In 2004 medical personnel numbered 84.6 doctors and 297.8 nurses per 100,000 people. Health care expenditure was estimated at 3.6% of GDP.
Free medical care was introduced in 1974 under a Social Security system that reimburses 80% of private consultations and prescription drugs.
The principal health problems have been tuberculosis, malaria, trachoma, and malnutrition. By 1999, the incidence of tuberculosis was 45 in 100,000. In 2005, the average life expectancy was 73 years, which represented a steady increase. Infant mortality in 2005 was 31 per 1,000 live births. The government is interested in creating public awareness of birth control. As of 2003 an estimated 51% of women ages 15 to 49 were using some form of contraceptive. The total fertility rate decreased to 3.2 in 2000 from 5.0 in 1987. Malnutrition was present in an estimated 18% of all children under the age of five according to the most recent figures available as of 2000. The HIV prevalence among adults in 2004 was only 0.7 per 100 adults. As of 2004, there were approximately 9,100 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.
Algeria's immunization rates as of 1999 for one-year-old children were: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 83%; and measles, 83%. In 2000, 94% of the population had access to adequate sanitation.
Algeria's government has developed plans to boost domestic production of pharmaceuticals as well as to remedy a serious shortage of dentists and pharmacists.
The need for adequate housing has been a pressing problem for Algeria for several decades. In 1964, the Ministry for Housing and Construction was created to aid in reconstruction and upgrading of damaged and substandard dwellings. The government's 1965 financial reform provided for regularization of ownership and collection of rents from some 500,000 nationalized or sequestered apartments and houses in the major cities. Migration to the coastal cities during the 1960s and 1970s aggravated the housing problem, and in the 1974–77 development plan the government took steps to curb the flow. The 1980–84 plan called for the construction of 450,000 new housing units; the building effort failed to meet the target because of shortages of construction materials. In 1982, the government committed more than $1.5 billion to prefabricated housing, some of it as part of a program to build "model villages" for workers on state farms or in state-owned enterprises. In 1998, the World Bank offered the nation a loan of us$150 million for a 10-year program to improve and create low-income urban housing, thus eliminating urban slums.
Despite all these efforts, 2003 reports indicated that the country still needed 1.5 million to 2 million housing units. The average occupancy rate was at about 7.5 persons per household; with one report indicating that 52% of all households included 15 to 20 members. About half of all housing units are individual houses, with the remaining housing falling into three categories: traditional houses called haouches, flats or apartments, and shacks or other marginal arrangements. In 2000, about 94% of the population had access to improved water sources; 73% had access to improved sanitation systems. The government announced plans to built one million new homes by the end of 2009, but observers were skeptical that this plan could be achieved.
Education in Algeria largely continues to follow the pattern laid down during the French administration, but its scope has been greatly extended. Public primary and secondary schools were unified in 1976 and private schools were abolished. Expenditure on education was estimated at 6% of GDP in 1999. The government has given priority to teacher training, technical and scientific programs, as well as adult literary classes.
About 4.2% of all children were involved in preprimary education programs in 2001. The compulsory education program last for 12 years, with most students beginning at age six. Basic education consists of a nine-year program. Students may then choose to continue in general secondary or technical school programs, with each involving three years of study. Education is compulsory through secondary school. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 95%; 96% for boys and 94% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 67%; 65% for boys and 69% for girls. It is estimated that about 95% of all students complete their primary education. About 79% progress to secondary levels. The pupil to teacher ratio for primary school was at about 28:1 in 2003. The academic year goes from September to June. The public schools are regulated jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the study of Islam is a required part of the curriculum. Arabic is the official language although French and Berber are also in widespread usage.
The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 69.8%, with 79.5% for males and 60.1% for females. In January 2006, there were over 50 universities and other institutes of higher learning. The University of Algiers (founded in 1909), its affiliated institutes, and other regional universities enrolled 267,142 students in 1996. The universities provide a varied program of instruction that stresses development-related subjects. Many technical colleges also are in operation. Approximately 21% of the adult population were enrolled in tertiary programs in 2003. The National Conference of Universities was created in 2000 to serve as a coordinating body for higher education.
The largest libraries in Algeria are those of the University of Algiers (over 800,000 volumes) and the National Library (founded in 1835, over 950,000 volumes). In 2005, the National Library (Bibliothèque nationale d'Algérie) had seven annex locations to supplement its main location in Algiers. There also exist several sizeable university collections, including the University of Constantine (208,000 volumes), the University de Mentouri (240,000 volumes), and the University d'Oran Es-Senia (200,000 volumes). Other collections of size are the Municipal Library in Constantine (25,000 volumes) and the Aubert Library in Oran (26,000 volumes). The Pasteur Institute in Algiers has a special library of over 47,000 volumes, and the Institute of National Studies in Tiaret has a library of 25,000 volumes.
Museums of importance in Algiers include the Bardo National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography (1928), the National Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers (1930), the National Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Art (1897), and the Museum of the Revolution (1968) with a collection of memorabilia celebrating Algeria's long-fought war of independence against France. Various regional museums are located at Constantine, El Biar (west of Algiers), Oran, Sétif, and Skikda. There is a fine antiquities museum in Cherchell, a decorative arts museum in Ghardaia Oasis, and a botanical garden in Beni-Abbes. The situation of many of Algeria's cultural treasures has been in doubt because of ongoing anti-Western civil terrorism.
In 2003, there were an estimated 69 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 727,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 46 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. Satellite, cable, and radiotelephone services link Algeria with most other parts of the world.
As of 1999, President Bouteflika has maintained that the media should ultimately be at the service of the state. As such, radio and television remain primarily under government control. Censorship is not considered a rule of law, but jail terms and fines are enforced against those issuing any statements defaming the president, the army, or other government officials.
The country's independent media includes about 43 publications. The seven largest papers had substantial circulations in 2004: El-Khabar (circulation 530,000), Quotidien d'Oran (195,000), Liberte (120,000), El-Watan (70,000), L'Expression (29,000), Djazair News (20,000) and Chorouk El-Youmi (9,000). There are two state-owned French-speaking papers, El-Moudjahid and Horizons, and two state-owned Arab speaking papers, El-Chaab and El-Massa.
Algeria has approximately 25 radio stations and 46 television stations. Satellite dish antennas are widespread and millions of citizens have access to European and Middle Eastern broadcast stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 244 radios and 114 television sets for every 1,000 people. The Algerian Press Service (APS) and the Algerian News Agency (ANA) are the primary news services.
In 2004 the country had about 897 Internet hosts. In 2003, there were 7.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 16 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.
There are foreign and domestic chambers of commerce, industry, and agriculture in the major cities and the country has a national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce. The African Federation of Mines, Energy, Chemical and Allied Trade Unions is an organization of labor unions, seeking to advance the trade union movement by facilitating communication and cooperation among members and representing the interests of members before business organizations and government agencies. The leading trade union, Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA), sponsors many organizations in Algeria. The "professional trade sectors" affiliated with the UGTA include food, agriculture, construction, teachers, energy, finance, information sciences, light and heavy industry, health social security, and telecommunications. There are some national associations for medical professionals, such as the Algerian Association of Medical Physicists.
The National Union of Algerian Youth (UNJA) was originally established by the National Liberation Front (FLN) in 1969 as the youth wing of the FLN. Since then UNJA has broadened its youth representation and the Algerian National Youth Forum (FNJA) was established to represent other political tendencies. The National Union of Algerian Students (UNEA) and the National League of Algerian Students (LNEA) are active groups of university students. The Government's Ministry of Youth and Sports was established in 1998 and there are other national sports associations, some of which are linked to international associations as well. Other youth NGOs in Algeria include the Federation of Algerian Youth Hostels and the Union of Youth of Seguia El Hamra Río Oro. A scouting movement (Scouts Muslmans Algériens/Algerian Muslim Scouts) is also present.
Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, including one for youth, are active. There is an organization of Amnesty International represented within the country. There are chapters of the Lions Club and Kiwanis International. The Society of St. Vincent De Paul also has members in Algeria.
Learned societies are active in such fields as anthropology, archaeology, geography, history, and various branches of medicine.
Visitors need a valid passport and a visa. There are no required vaccinations, although inoculations against typhoid, tetanus, and rabies are recommended. Vaccination against yellow fever is required of those coming from an infected area.
Among popular tourist attractions are the Casbah and Court of the Great Mosque in Algiers, as well as the excellent Mediterranean beaches, Atlas Mountains resorts, and tours of the Sahara Desert. The government has encouraged tourism as an increasingly important source of foreign exchange. In 2003, there were 1,166,287 visitor arrivals. The majority of foreign tourists were from France and Tunisia, with over 192,000 visitor arrivals from those countries. Receipts from tourism came to $161 million.
The most popular Algerian sport is football (soccer), which is played throughout the country by professionals and amateurs alike. Tennis is widely played as well.
The most famous Algerian of antiquity was St. Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus, 354–430), a Church father and theologian who was born in eastern Numidia. An important 19th-century figure was Abd-el-Kader ('Abd al-Kadir bin-Muhyi ad-Din al-Hasani, 1808–73), emir of Mascara, who led the resistance against the French invaders from 1830 to 1847. Two early figures in the drive for Algerian independence were Messali Hadj (1898?–1974), who organized several political movements, and Ferhat Abbas (1900–86), who led the first provisional government and was elected first speaker of the National Assembly in 1962. Other important nationalist leaders include Ahmed Ben Bella (b.1916), a founder of the FLN and the first premier of independent Algeria, who, after becoming president in 1963, was overthrown and imprisoned for 15 years (until 1980); Belkacem Krim (1922–70), political leader in Kabilia; Benyoussef Ben Khedda (1922–67), head of the provisional government in 1961–62; and Houari Boumedienne (Muhammad Boukharrouba, 1927–78), who overthrew Ben Bella in 1965 and became president in 1976. Boumedienne's successor as president and FLN leader was Col. Chadli Bendjedid (b.1929).
Two renowned French Algerian writers were playwright Jules Roy (1907–2000) and novelist, playwright, and essayist Albert Camus (1913–60), winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. Frantz Fanon (b.Martinique, 1925–61), a psychiatrist, writer, and revolutionary, was a leading analyst of colonialism.
Algeria has no territories or colonies.
Benjamin, Roger. Renoir and Algeria. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
Heggory, Alf Andrew, and Philip Naylor Chiviges. The Historical Dictionary of Algeria. 2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994.
Hourani, Albert Habib. A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002.
McDougall, James (ed.). Nation, Society and Culture in North Africa. London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2003.
MacMaster, Neil. Colonial Migrants and Racism: Algerians in France, 1900–62. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.
Malley, Robert. The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
Roberts, Hugh. Battlefield Algeria 1988–2002: Studies in a Broken Polity. London: Verso, 2002.
Ruedy, John. Modern Algeria: the Origins and Development of a Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
Stora, Benjamin. Algeria, 1830–2000: A Short History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Thomson Gale
|Official Country Name:||People's Democratic Republic of Algeria|
|Number of Primary Schools:||15,426|
|Compulsory Schooling:||9 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||5.1%|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 4,674,947|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 107%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 27:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 102%|
History & Background
Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, after the Sudan. Located in northern Africa, Algeria is bordered by the Mediterranean on the north, on the west by Morocco and Western Sahara, on the southwest by Mauritania and Mali, on the southeast by Niger, and on the east by Libya and Tunisia. The present boundaries were set during the French conquest in the nineteenth century.
Algeria is rich in oil, and the economy is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons. Petroleum and natural gas and nonfuel minerals such as high-grade iron, oil phosphates, mercury, and zinc account for approximately 50 percent of the budget revenue. The state owns more than 450 of the heavy industrial enterprises, particularly steel, and envisions the creation of private small-and medium-sized businesses in commerce, tourism, and transport.
Algeria is divided into 48 wilayas (provinces). Each wilaya has a wilayat (provincial council) headed by prefects appointed by the president and 1,539 local authorities. The Director of Education for each wilaya administers the plans and operations of the schools.
In 2000, the population numbered 31,193,917 people, with 35 percent aged 0 to 14 years, 61 percent aged 15 to 64 years, and 4 percent older than 64. The growth rate in 2000 was estimated at 1.74 percent, down from 3.3 percent in 1988. The mortality rate in children under five years of age was 4.2 percent in 1997; 13 percent were reported to be malnourished. Approximately 90 percent of the inhabitants are concentrated in 12 percent of the land along the coastal area that stretches some 1200 kilometers. More than half (57.2 percent) of Algerians live in urban areas. Approximately 2.5 million Algerians live in France.
The combined Arab-Berber people comprise more than 99 percent of the population (Arabs approximately 80 percent; Berbers 20 percent), with Europeans less than one percent. Islam is the official state religion, with Sunni Muslims numbering over 98 percent of the population. There are also 110,000 Ibadigah Muslims and 150,000 Christians. Together Christians and Jews comprise about one percent of the population.
In 1999, an estimated 23 percent of the population fell below the poverty line and 39 percent were unemployed. Almost 30 percent of the working population holds government positions, 22.0 percent are in agriculture, 16.2 percent in construction and public works, 13.6 percent in industry, 13.5 percent in commerce and services, and 5.2 percent are in transportation and communication.
Algeria derives its name from Al Jazain, which is Arabic for "the Islands," referring to the small islands along the coastline of the capitol Algiers. The territory along the Mediterranean coast has recorded early history, but the areas far south in the Sahara do not have written records. The indigenous people of Algeria and the surrounding Mediterranean area were Berbers, the name given the inhabitants from western Egypt to Morocco since ancient times. The origins of the Berbers are obscure, but they are believed to have migrated across North Africa from Asia. The origin of the Berber language is unknown.
Before the arrival of the French in 1830, Algeria was known as the Barbary Coast (a corruption of Berber) and was notorious for the pirates who preyed on Christian shipping. Piracy remained a serious problem until the U.S. Navy defeated a Barbary fleet off the coast of Algiers in 1815, and it was not completely eradicated entirely until the French attached Algeria.
Algerian history is one of repeated invasions. Phoenician traders (900 through 146 B.C.) established Carthage (present day Tunisia) and established and expanded small settlements along the North African coast. They were followed by the Romans (98 through 117 A.D.), who annexed Berber territory to the Roman Empire. In 429, a Germanic tribe of 800,000 Vandals crossed into Africa from Spain and pillaged Carthage. In 533, the Byzantines (429 through 536) raided and sacked the Vandal kingdom. For more than 1,000 years (642 through 1830), Muslim armies invaded from Cairo, bringing Islam to the Berbers. The Spanish (1504 through 1792) constructed outposts and collected tribute. The Ottomans (1554 through 1830) captured Algiers and established it as the center of the Ottoman Empire. The French (1830 through 1962) captured Algeria and annexed the country. Of all the invaders, it is the Muslim and French conquests that have had the greatest lasting impact.
The Muslim expansion into Algeria dates back to the first decades of Islam. The Arabs were tent-dwelling herdsmen; the Muslim invaders of the Barbary Coast stationed Arab leaders and soldiers in towns but did not settle in Algiers. The Berbers, who were highlanders and cultivators, lived in towns and villages in the countryside, which remained essentially Berber.
The Berbers found it advantageous to join the religion of the Muslim rulers and avoid having a minority status. Islam was compatible with Berber society and conversion to Islam provided a sense of identity and belonging. Between the tenth and the fifteenth centuries, Berber-Arab dynasties developed, eventually becoming Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia (collectively the Maghreb ). Although the Maghreb (literally, place of sunset) today is considered part of the Arab world, the enduring influence of the Berber population gives it a cultural identity distinct from the Islamic lands to the east, in the Mashreq (place of sunrise).
The French forces who invaded Algeria in 1830 encountered fierce resistance. Achieving control of Algeria required the expenditure of a tremendous number of troops and was not complete until 1847. Algeria however, was annexed to France in 1842, after which the French started colonizing the entire country. The French colonists wished to be ruled by the home government rather than by military authorities, and a very close connection with France developed, whereby Algeria came to be regarded as an integral part of France, with representatives in the French parliament. Assimilation, however, was never complete and Algeria enjoyed considerable autonomy.
The colonial authorities imposed a policy of cultural imperialism intended to suppress Algerian cultural identity and to remold the society along French lines. Local culture was actively eliminated, mosques were converted into churches, and old medinas (Arab cities) were pulled down and replaced with streets. Prime farming land was appropriated for European settlers. White French settlers controlled most of the political and economic power, and the indigenous peoples became subservient.
As colonization continued, a new Euro-Algerian people came into being, numbering 800,000 by 1954. Of these, half were of Spanish, Italian, Maltese, or of other non-French origin. The 150,000 Algerian Jews were completely politically assimilated into that group. The Muslim population increased from three to nine million.
The rulers appropriated the habut lands (the religious foundations constituting the main income for religious institutions, including schools) in 1843, allocating insufficient money to maintain Muslim schools and mosques properly or to provide for adequate numbers of teachers and religious leaders for the growing population. As the colonizers ushered undesired changes into Muslim society, they unintentionally created Muslim resistance—a resistance born of the fear of cultural contamination and resentment of political domination.
From 1882 forward, primary instruction for Europeans and Jews was compulsory; Muslim schools were established at the discretion of the governor general. In 1892, more than five times the money was spent educating Europeans as was spent on Muslims, who had five times as many children of school age. Since few Muslim teachers were trained, European teachers staffed Muslim schools. The curriculum was in French, and there were no Arabic studies. It is estimated that, in 1870, only five percent of Muslim children were in any kind of school.
Early attempts at mixed French and Muslim primary and secondary schools had little success, but after 1920 improvement was achieved. In 1949, French and Muslim primary schools were merged. In 1958, only 12 percent of all children attended school. Few Muslims went beyond primary school.
Under French dominion for well over a century, Algerian independence came in 1962 after an eight-year war. A national assembly was elected and a republic was declared. Three years later, a military junta overthrew the government and ruled for 10 years before new elections were held. The National Liberation Front (FLN), the sole political party in Algeria, was a party of primarily secular socialist policies.
The post independence policy of Arabization that included replacing French with Arabic as the state language led to clashes with the Berber population, who saw French as their "avenue to advancement." At the same time, a grassroots Islamic revivalist movement was created that aimed to establish an Islamic state in Algeria.
After independence, free and compulsory education was guaranteed for all. School enrollment rose from 850,000 in 1963 to 3 million in 1975.
With the steep drop in oil prices in 1986, came a number of changes. The economy moved from a rigid, centralized control and placed a greater emphasis on market forces. Public expenditures in the early 1990s were increased to upgrade education and health care. As the Islamists sought to redefine Algerian identity to be more Arabic, more Muslims questioned the legitimacy of the existing political system, which they perceived as too secular and Western. A 1988 protest against austerity measures and food shortages resulted in government promises to relax the FLN monopoly on political power and to work toward a multiparty system.
In 1992, democratic elections were cancelled just as the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)was headed for a landslide victory. The president resigned and handed power over to the military, which led to a civil war between the government and the Islamic fundamentalists. The FIS laid siege to the secular government, which escalated into the destruction of academic institutions, the assassination of students and scholars, and the exodus of over 1,000 academics from the country. By the 1995 election, the violence had become so widespread that the death toll was placed at 45,000. Bombings even reached Paris.
Reports differ on the effects of a 1999 government offer of amnesty to the FIS. Some sources report that, as a result of the offer, the Islamic Salvation Army disbanded in January 2000 and many of the insurgents surrendered under the amnesty program. However, all violence did not end. Other sources reported that, while some of the rebels responded to the offer and disarmed, the FIS still exists and is suspected of assassinations aimed at derailing peace efforts.
The transition from a state-owned economy and one-party regime to a liberal economy and a multiparty regime was accompanied by violence, both physical and symbolic. Officials of the authoritarian, centralist government that has ruled since independence are products of French education and are seen by many Algerians as a "political-economic mafia." Berbers (more specifically Kabyles), whom the French favored in education and employment, moved into administrative jobs after independence, much to the frustration of lesser-educated Arabs. Political turmoil ensued, as the angry Islamic Salvation Front sought to gain power by imposing fundamentalist ideology to transform Algeria into an Islamic state. At stake in the ongoing violence was the complete re-negotiation of the distribution of power.
The dramatic downturn in international petroleum prices in 1998 led to a decline of more than 25 percent of government revenues from oil and gas, amounting to as much as 60 percent of total revenue. Educational expenditures suffered at a time when educational needs were growing. In 1999 however, a degree of optimism was seen regarding Algeria's economic prospects, thanks to rising petroleum prices, and hopes that a return to domestic political stability would attract foreign investment and form the basis for sustained growth.
Algeria, more formally the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a multiparty socialistic state based on French and Islamic law. Suffrage is universal and begins at age 18. The government established the multiparty system in September 1989. One year later, there were an estimated 30 to 50 legal parties. The right to form political parties is guaranteed, provided such parties are not based on differences in religion, language, race, gender, or region.
Language: Three languages are widely spoken. Arabic, the official language, is spoken by 83 percent of the population, although many government and business functions occur in French, which is still widely spoken. Arabic has replaced French as the language of instruction. In 1992, English was introduced in primary schools on an equal footing with French as a first foreign language. Berber, with dialects spoken by approximately 17 percent of the population, was introduced into the schools in 1995.
Two forms of Arabic are used: the classical Arabic of the Quran (Koran) and Algerian dialectical Arabic. Classical Arabic is the essential base of written Arabic and formal speech throughout the Arab world. Written Arabic is psychologically and sociologically important as the vehicle of Islam and Arabic culture and as the link with other Arabic countries. It is the repository of a vast religious, scientific, historical, and literary heritage. Berber is primarily a spoken language with approximately 10 dialects, some with considerable borrowing of Arab words. An ancient Berber ceremonial script, tiffinaugh, survives in some areas.
Literacy: Prior to French occupation in 1830, the literacy rate in Algeria was 40 percent. After 130 years of French rule, it was even worse, as Algeria was left with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world—as low as 15 percent, according to the United Nations. Illiteracy was attacked in stages, with the greatest emphasis initially placed on developing formal education. The National Center for Literacy Education was established in 1964 to supervise the work of local literacy centers. Literacy is regarded as essential to economic development, and from the beginning, it was a prime objective of the independent government. In 1966, only 7.9 percent of women and 29.9 percent of men were literate. In the 1970s, massive efforts to reduce illiteracy resulted in vast improvements, as nominal literacy rose steadily, reaching 48.6 percent in 1985 (62.7 percent male, 35.0 percent female) and 57.4 percent in 1991 (69.8 percent male, 45.5 percent female). In 2000, literacy rates ranged from 62 to 72 percent (males, 73 to 80 percent; females, 43 to 63 percent). Female literacy is improving, but continues to lag in comparison to males.
Culture: Islamic culture constitutes a comprehensive holistic system of thought and behavior, with an equal emphasis on both the spiritual and physical aspects of life and their integration. All Muslims are equal before God and equal among themselves, an orientation that carries over into their philosophy of education for all. Learning in the Muslim culture, a necessity and a religious duty, occupies a central position in Muslim thought. Muslims often quote The Prophet: "God eases the way to paradise for him who seeks learning" and the Quran: "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the tomb;" and "To acquire knowledge is a duty for all Muslims."
Constitutional & Legal Foundations
Algeria was under French constitutional rule until independence was gained in 1962. The first Algerian constitution was adopted in 1963, and a second followed in 1976, which was amended in 1988 and 1989 and revised in 1996.
In the 1996 constitution, the preamble emphasized the Arab, Islamic, and Amazigh (Berber) identity of Algeria. The beginning articles of the constitution declared that Algeria was to be democratic and republic, Islam was to be the state religion, and Arabic was to be the national and official language. The constitution established the High Islamic Council (advisory) and prohibited practices contrary to Islamic morality. Although the constitution declared Islam the state religion, Shari'a (Islamic law) was not incorporated into the state's legal system. Sovereignty rested with the people through their elected representatives.
The Constitution guaranteed the right to free education, made fundamental education compulsory, and allocated to the state the power to organize the educational system and legislate the general rules for scientific research. Control of education, originally vested in the Ministry of Education, now rested in two ministries:the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
In 1995, the Higher Council for Education was created to improve the efficiency of the educational structure and to link the ministries of Education, Higher Education, and Employment. An Arabization law, implemented in 1998, required governmental and educational functions to be conducted in Arabic. The deadline for Arabization in higher education was extended to July 5, 2000. By that time, officials in government ministries had to acquire at least a minimal facility in literary Arabic. Additionally, the media had to increase the use of Arabic.
Modern day education in Algeria has roots first in Moslem and later in French philosophies. The high value placed on knowledge by the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed provided Muslims with incentives to develop education in order to read and learn the Quran and The Prophet. In the earliest schools at the mosques and in other early Quran schools—and even in private homes—instruction was offered in the Quran, the life of the Prophet, and in the grammar, structures, and forms of the Arabic language.
Maktab or kuttab were developed as learning centers for children as were masjid and majlis, adult study groups associated with mosques. Discussion was part of the learning process at the centers and included topics such as legal matters and poetry, as well as the Prophet's life, sayings, and devotional practices. Jami, the Friday mosques, eventually became seats of higher learning. As the Muslims engaged in learning and writing, a number of libraries developed. They were often attached to courts, where collections of books were organized. These large and informal institutions also housed books from other cultural traditions.
From its earliest beginnings, Moslem learning focused on life skills and theological concerns. The Moslem heritage is a philosophy that places high value on education, prescribes it for all Muslims, and uses a comprehensive approach to learning infused with religious teachings. Moslem educational philosophy is based on acquiring self-knowledge, balanced with the recognition of the need for skills to live in the world. The Moslem learning during the medieval period (800 to 1000 A.D.) was conceived as six sciences: celestial spheres and heavenly bodies, earth and geography, medicine and natural science, crafts and vocations, religion and creeds, and political administration. Throughout the medieval period, Muslim women's education was affected by local cultural factors that imposed constraints on their training and role in society. The tenth century saw organized institutional development supported by the state. By the eleventh century, medersa (primary schools) developed into Muslim schools of law and became the primary centers for religious and legal education. They received state support and had endowed professorships and residential facilities. Educational philosophy rested with the intellectuals in informal teaching until the 1880s.
In the early decades of the 1800s, Algerian education was comprised of quranic schools, primary schools, and secondary schools (zaouias ). Jurisprudence, geometry, philology, physics, and astronomy were taught. Higher education institutions did not exist in Algeria and students attended universities in neighboring countries.
Moslems initially withdrew from the French-imposed educational system, a condition that changed when veterans returned from World War I. In 1917, the French made primary education compulsory for boys who lived within two miles of a public Algerian school. The lack of schools and teachers deterred implementation of this decree. In 1944, a plan to enroll one million Algerian boys and girls in primary school by 1964 was introduced. In 1947, Arabic became an official language and was introduced into schools. The destruction of the Moslem schools and the imitation French system imposed by the colonizers left independent Algeria with a strong desire to establish an authentic Algerian system of education. In the way of this major educational change stood a host of impediments.
Political freedom did not bring cultural freedom; the heritage of colonialism was still felt strongly in the educational system. French ideas and influence remained after the departure of French teachers and administrators in 1962. The French left behind a rigid school curriculum complete with very selective formal examinations: La Sixieme (primary school, in the sixth year), the Brevet d'Etudies du Premier Cycle (secondary school, in the fourth year), the Probatoire (secondary school, in the sixth year), and the Baccalauréat (secondary school, in the seventh year). The French educational heritage was a highly centralized, rigid structure designed for the elite; a fact-acquisition based system of learning with major exams throughout the curriculum.
Algerian Philosophy: In 1961, African ministers of education met in Addis Ababa and developed a comprehensive educational plan to set the stage for educational change in Algeria. The plan called for universal primary schooling, rapid increases in secondary and higher education enrollments, and major improvements in the quality of education. With Algerian independence the following year, educational opportunities were opened to all people, marking a shift from the French exclusive elitist system to an Algerian system with equal opportunities for all. Education became a right rather than a privilege.
Algerian authorities recognized very early the role of education in economic development. They realized that for Algeria to develop economically, a literate and trained workforce was a necessity. They planned to channel students into scientific and technical fields, which were most needed by the Algerian industrial and managerial sectors.
The departure of French teachers in 1962 left a gap in the classrooms that was first filled by teachers from the quranic schools and medersas. The marked decline in teaching quality however, led authorities to abandon this practice before these teachers became entrenched in the system. Temporary teachers from nearly 50 countries were brought in to fill the void and to try to overcome the complete disarray caused by independence. Enrollment was only 850,000 at that time (1962), but it quickly swelled. The change in philosophy from education for the few to education for the many was admirable, but the pedagogical and human resources necessary to provide a quality education for all simply were not available—Algeria was not prepared for the massive number of students. In the decade following independence, large enrollments meant hastily trained teachers and improvised classrooms, many in the vacated homes of former French residents. The growing enrollments reached 3.0 million by 1975 and 6.5 million by 1991.
The early independence period between 1962 and 1970 was marked by a series of educational reforms using models and philosophies imported from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. The profusion of imported educational theories and ideas contributed to disorganization and incoherence in the overburdened system. There was a lack of facilities, trained teachers, and instructional materials; confusion caused by differing educational philosophies; rigidity caused by the highly centralized system together; and, unwieldy, large classes. These mounting problems were dealt with on the local level in very sporadic fashion. Critics complained of the lack of long-term planning and integration. A new phenomenon appeared with mass schooling: mass dropouts. These dropouts and other young "un-employeds" developed a kind of antiestablishment attitude and become known as hittiste (those who lean on walls).
This period was called the "impossible emancipation" due to the restrictive political, social, economic, and education factors. This period included a lack of teachers, schools, colleges (only one university existed), financing, managers, and educational expertise. Illiteracy remained very high. The productive and the educational sector of the economy operated independently and without coordination or apparent consultation, forcing the industrial sector to develop its own training capabilities and to draw heavily upon foreign technical aid to meet its needs for skilled manpower. Graduates in scientific and technical fields from public institutions often were inappropriately trained for employment in industry. The guarantee of free universal education that led to a massive influx of students brought large problems.
Riding on the economic crest of the oil boom, the decades of the 1970s and 1980s produced educational reforms, which were more carefully planned than previous attempts. The reforms were often based on imported theories. The goals remained the same—to provide equal opportunity for all, with free, or nominally priced, schooling and scholarships. Priority was given to reducing illiteracy. The policies put in place all aimed toward the Arabization of all curricula, the Arabization of the medium of instruction, and the Algerization of the teaching staff. A number of major policy decisions were made as educational structure developed over the years.
In 1976 the National Charter was created. The highly centralized control of Algerian education was codified in this charter. It was intended to politically unify all or nearly all of the educational institutions. By this time, the public education system was virtually the only education provider, in large part because of the diplomas, titles, and certificates it awarded. Algerians are said to value degrees (more than expertise) for social promotion purposes to the point that degrees are said to exercise a "fatal attraction."
In 1977 the Abolition of Private Education was formed. Private education, primarily in the realm of foreign institutions and schools that were often run by Roman Catholic missions, was abolished.
The Polytechnic Curriculum Theory came into existence in 1978. The theory from East Germany was adopted for the first nine years of schooling, which resulted in the creation of the Foundation School. It was intended to reduce dropouts by combining primary school (at the end of which most dropouts occurred) with middle school.
The École Fondamentale et Polytechnique resulted from pressure for more and better education in 1976-1979, and was designed to bridge the gap between academic and practical studies by combining theory with practice. It was aimed at improving the dropout problem, which had reached epidemic proportions. Also in 1979, Technical colleges were ended just when industry needed large numbers of skilled and semiskilled workers.
The Ministry of Vocational Education was created in 1983. It was given the responsibility of developing a national training system to satisfy the skill requirements of the economy and provide training for as many young people as possible.
In 1985 and 1986 additional reforms developed core programs in general secondary education and channeled university students into vocational specializations, exact sciences, or experimental and human sciences. The Carte Universitere defined Algeria's graduate and postgraduate needs to the end of the century, with each higher education center expected to fill its quota of the national trained manpower requirement.
The University of Further Training (l'Université de la Formation Continué) targeted those students who were oriented toward vocational learning but who were not going to earn the baccalauréate. It was a place for students completing six years of primary school (ending at age 12) who were not old enough to work. The university began operating in 1991. The Ministry of Vocational Education was transferred to the Ministry of Education. The carefully planned educational reforms were often not realistic and were rarely realizable. Either the resources to implement them were lacking or the planning was so remote from the realities of the situation that they reflected no real remedy for the target problem. From 1988 on, social and economic conditions and shortcomings in the education system led to the formation of informal, voluntary educational activities.
In 1989 the National Commission was appointed to study educational reforms. The first baccalauréates that used nothing but Arabic instruction were completed.
In 1995 the Higher Education Council was created. It aimed to structure the education system more effectively by linking the work of the ministries of Education, Higher Education, and Employment.
The Arabization Law replaced French as the language of government and education in 1996. In spite of the reforms and intensive efforts to create an Algerian system, education in 1996 was still often described as consisting of the "wholesale adoption of European theories, policies and practices" that critics lamented "failed to connect with Algerian realities and needs."
The educational system is structured into primary foundation school for nine years, followed by secondary education school for three years, and then the tertiary (university) level. Algerian education is still grounded in the French fact-acquisition orientation, and teaching is almost exclusively in the lecture and memorization mode. In 1996, the total enrollment at primary and secondary schools was equivalent to 86 percent of the school age population (89 percent of the boys, 82 percent of the girls). Enrollment at primary schools in the relevant age group was 97 percent for boys and 91 percent for girls.
A 1995 UNICEF study reported that early childhood education services for children up to 6 years of age were limited. Fewer than 50,000 children were enrolled, exclusive of those in quranic preschools (quranic schools accommodate large numbers of preschool children.). Of those enrolled, 10 percent of children up to 3 years old were in nurseries and 90 percent of 3 to 6 year olds were in kindergartens. Fifty-five percent of those in kindergarten were urban children. Estimates in 1995 of the percentage of preschool age children enrolled in some form of preschool (including quranic schools) ranged from 3 to 20 percent. Reports from 1995 indicated that no preschool services existed for children with special educational needs except for special sections in kindergartens attached to primary schools for those with hearing impairments. Preprimary schools are conducted in Arabic and are not compulsory.
The Foundation School (École Fondamentale et Polytechnique), replaced the French 10-year compulsory school model with a nine-year model. Primary and middle schools were combined, scientific and technical literacy stressed, and closer connections sought between schooling and work. Classes are taught in Arabic, with French considered the first foreign language. Students are oriented either toward secondary school or toward vocational training.
Primary education (Enseignement Primaire ) is organized into three cycles, each comprising of three years. It is compulsory for the nine years between ages 6 and 15. Students completing primary education follow one of three tracks—general, technical or vocational. Students take a final exam (brevet d'enseignement fondamental ) that they must pass for admission to secondary education.
In 1996, the total enrollment in primary schools included 94 percent of the appropriate age groups (97 percent of the boys, 91 percent of the girls). The ministry reports that in 1996 there were 15,426 state primary schools with 4,674,947 students (46 percent were girls) and 149,958 teachers for the first through the sixth years, and 3,038 middle schools (for those age 7 to 9) with 1,762,761 students, of which 38 percent were girls.
There are two types of secondary education: technical and general. Secondary education (Enseignement Secondaire ) begins at age 15 and ends when students take the baccalauréat examination before they proceed to one of the universities, state technical institutes, or vocational training centers, or move directly into employment. The academic year is from September to July, with a 15-day break in December and another in March. Schooling is free, although some scholarships are offered by the state for living expenses.
In 1996, enrollment in the secondary schools included 56 percent of the appropriate age groups (58 percent of the boys and 54 percent of the girls). There were 1,033 secondary schools with 52,210 teachers and 853,303 students. Admission to secondary schools is based upon the student's primary school grades and the student quota at each institution, as set by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Instruction is in Arabic.
Higher education is comprised of universities, national institutes for higher education, engineering schools, and teachers' colleges. The institutions administered by the Ministry of Education produce about 90 percent of the bachelor's degrees. The remaining institutions come under the control of other ministries.
In 1995-1996, a total of 347,410 students enrolled in higher education. Admission is based on the student quota for each institution (set by the ministry) and grades. Allocation to fields of study depends on how well students did in primary subjects in each field. The teaching staff is largely Algerian.
Undergraduate Programs: Admission to undergraduate programs requires the baccalauréat or equivalent (cours préparatoires aux études superiéres, capacité en droit, etc. ). Some popular fields, such as medicine, have additional requirements. Foreign students are admitted if they meet admission requirements and their parents live in Algeria, or if they receive an Algerian scholarship. Scholarships and room and board are arranged by the Centres des Oeuvres Scholaires et Universitaires. The academic year lasts from September to July and consists of two semesters, with a 21-day break in January.
There are two levels of higher education: Level Five, lasting five semesters, and Level Six, lasting eight to 12 semesters. Generally, Level Five leads to qualification as a technologist, while Level Six leads to a first degree (licence ), higher education diploma (diplomé d'études superiéures ), or other professional degree in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and engineering.
Graduate Programs: Graduate student enrollment climbed to 11,987 in 1988-1989, an increase of 998 percent from 1974-1975. Graduate education is designed to train teachers and professors, to answer the need for Arabic in teaching, and to get universities involved in Algeria's development effort. Graduate education is not yet fully developed. Master's (magister ) programs require a first degree (license) or equivalent and take two years (four semesters). Students spend the first year on course work, directed research, seminars, and one foreign language. The second year is spent writing a thesis. Entrance to doctoral level programs (doctorat d'état ) requires a master's degree or equivalent. Foreign students are accepted into graduate school if the Ministry of Education authorizes them.
The diploma of magister contains a "mention" of the performance of the student. The possible mentions are: "Passable" when the general average is at least equal to 10/20 and lower than 12/20; "Rather Well" when the general average equals or exceeds 12/20 but is less than 14/20; "Well" when the general average is at least 14/20 and lower than 16/20; and "Very Well" when the general average is equal or higher than 16/20. The general average is calculated by giving equal weighting to the average of the examinations and the thesis defense. Only those who earn the rating of Very Well, Well, and Rather Well can gain admittance to a doctoral program. Doctoral candidates must also complete a thesis reporting original research and an oral thesis defense.
Language: In the postcolonial Arabization program, restoring Arabic as the general language required teaching citizens who had been educated in a foreign language to learn and use their own. The Higher Council for the National Language oversees the Arabization process. Every government organization created an Arabization department to plan lessons for its workers.
In a radical reversal of policy, the Haut-Commissariat a l'amazighité was created (following an eight-month boycott of school by nearly a million students) and Berber dialects (Amazigh) were introduced into the schools in 1995 by decree of the president. This was a tremendous political-cultural victory for the Berbers (Amazigh means "free men"). Barely 15 years earlier, scribbling a few words in tiffinagh, the characters of the Berber language, meant a stay in prison. One-third of the 48 provinces introduced pilot classes in Berber in the last year of middle school (ninth year) and the first year of high school (tenth year). Training courses for teachers were organized and exams planned for the brevet d'enseignement moyen (middle school certificate) and for the baccalauréat.
Preprimary & Primary Education
The government pays most of the costs (approximately 83 percent) of nurseries, kindergartens, and community-based centers with parents paying the rest. In private centers, parents pay all the costs. Preschool educational institutions, authorized in 1976 by the Ministry of Labor and Social Works are governed by laws updated in 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, and 1992. Children in preschool public institutions receive basic instruction regarding nutrition, health care, and education. There is no standardized curriculum; each institution decides on the activities in its program. Children receive around eight hours of services each day, approximately 1,280 hours a year.
In 1996, the total enrollment in primary schools included 94 percent of the appropriate age groups (97 percent of the boys, 91 percent of the girls). The Ministry reported that in 1996 there were 15,426 state primary schools with 4,674,947 students (46 percent were girls) and 149,958 teachers for the first through the sixth years, and 3,038 middle schools (for those age 7 to 9) with 1,762,761 students (38 percent were girls).
Rural-to-urban inequities exist in the system. The percentage of children enrolled in school is weakest among farmers and seasonal rural workers. In 1990, 9 percent of the students were repeating grades (boys, 11 percent; girls, 7 percent). In 1996, 10 percent of the students were repeating (boys, 13 percent; girls, 8 percent) and nearly 9 percent of all six-year-olds were not in school.
The accepted goal of primary education is to teach children to "practice, research, observe, and discover, as well as depend on themselves in acquiring knowledge and accomplishing their work." Arabic is the language of instruction, but other languages are not excluded.
Primary schools operate on a three cycle system. The curriculum in the first through third year of primary education (basic cycle) for children 6 to 9 years of age provides manual work with education and training tools to develop motor skills and help children understand and adapt to the environment. The second, or "awakening" cycle, is designed for 9- to 12-year-olds and occurs in the fourth through sixth year of education. The educational focus is on reinforcing skills acquired during the first stage plus continued learning in language, mathematics, environment, and religious and national studies. A first foreign language is offered. The third, or training, cycle (also called the middle school) comprises the seventh through the ninth year of education for children 12- to 15-years-old. The curriculum is dedicated to the study of linguistic, social, cultural, religious, and scientific education, as well as mathematics, physics, and various sciences of applied technology. A second foreign language is offered. At the end of the third stage, students take the final brevet d'enseignement fondamental (foundation education certificate, or B.E.F). If they pass, they gain access to general secondary schools, technical secondary schools, or technical training programs.
Special Education: Children and young people with special needs are neither registered nor categorized for official purposes under a policy of encouraging integration. Ministerial circulars were developed in the mid- 1990s concerning the future education of children with various difficulties, such as sensory impairments or chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or asthma.
Special education takes three forms: special classes in primary schools for children with hearing impairments, courses for students who repeat a year, and transition courses for students who arrive in school late. Special education is the combined responsibility of the Ministry of Education (concerned with pedagogy) and the Ministry of Social Affairs (concerned with administration and resourcing), with some additional responsibility shared by the Ministry of Health. The Office of Special Education within the Ministry of Education administers special education. Administrative decisions are made at national and regional levels. The National Consultative Council is responsible for the coordination of services at the national level. Children with severe handicaps are excluded from the public education system; they are placed directly in special care centers. Special education is financed entirely by the government.
The first year of secondary education is comprised of a core curriculum in which courses are grouped into three general areas: accala (languages and social sciences), des sciences (natural and physical sciences and mathematics), and technologie (mathematics, physical sciences, design, and technology.) Extracurricular activities, sponsored by the school or parent associations, are important and include music, painting, and sports. Sports, music, and physical education are also part of the curriculum.
Evaluation is systematic within the secondary school and passage to the next level is based on the results obtained on homework and compositions. Parents are told the results of the evaluations periodically by means of regular bulletins containing each professor's observations and a report at the end of the academic year stating whether the student passed, would be repeating, or would be exclusion (excluded).
At the end of the first year in secondary school, a decision is made as to whether students enter the general secondary education or technical secondary education program based on the wishes of the students, their academic records, and the exigencies of the academic program. For third-year students who have failed the baccalauréate twice, special classes are offered for a total of 19 hours that are tailored to the particular needs of each student. Remedial courses are given daily in the lycées in the evening after normal class hours. The same chance is given to the children returning to the country because they receive a distinct education that permits them to sit for the official exams.
General Secondary Education: The Ministry of Education reports that in 1999, a total of 855,481 students (53 percent girls) were enrolled in secondary education. Students overwhelmingly chose general education (88 percent) over technical education. Some 496,019 students (57 percent girls) were in general education classes while 64,888 students (12 percent girls) were in technical education classes.
General education is considered the most prestigious secondary education and offers five courses of study—exact sciences, natural and life sciences, humanities, foreign language, and religious sciences. The reform of 1985-1986 arranged lessons during the first year of secondary education into core programs to help students identify appropriate specializations by the end of the year. Completion of both technical and general secondary education ends with the baccalauréate examination that determines admission to higher education institutions. Successful completion of general education leads to le diplome de l'enseignement (education diploma).
Technical Secondary Education: There are two types of secondary education: technical and general. Students in technical secondary education study electronics, electrical science/technology, mechanical science, public works and engineering, chemistry, and accounting. Technical education is considered less desirable by Algerians even though new fields of study such as information technology, applied biochemistry, and agricultural education have been added, as well as optional classes in foreign languages and design. Students can specialize in the industrial option of technical education or in the commercial option. The teaching staff is mainly Algerian. Successful study in this program ends with a technical baccalauréate diploma (le diplome du baccalauréat technique ).
Vocational Education: Vocational education in Algeria has a checkered past. Independence from the French found Algeria with no national vocational education policy. Colonial authorities often opened vocational schools as a second-class educational option for the "natives," so not surprisingly, after independence, Algerians expressed a strong distaste for this type of schooling. Also at that time, and for decades to come, the government was the principal employer in the country, and general education was viewed as the appropriate form of training for government employment.
State education initiatives of the 1960s emphasized general education programs, with only limited growth of technical and vocational schools. As late as 1979, only 65 vocational training centers existed, with a combined enrollment of 23,000 students. In the absence of a centralized policy and in spite of slow technical growth in the 1960s and 1970s, technical ministries and public industries developed many training programs to meet the demands for skilled manpower. Most were well managed; the National Petroleum Company's training center (SONATRACH) still functions well. The proliferation of these training programs did result in duplication of effort, however.
In 1983, a Ministry of Vocational Education was created to develop a national training system. Vocational education was expanded and diversified to be available to the large number of students completing primary education but "not qualified by disposition or grades" to continue secondary education.
Vocational education was intended to provide graduates with immediate employment and to provide the country with a trained work force as Algeria concentrated on developing heavy industry. Students were to be trained as apprentices for up to five years. Vocational expansion continued and more than 200 training centers were built, tripling enrollment between 1981 and 1987. In 1990, a total of 325 vocational training schools were in operation and about 200,000 apprentices were in training. Vocational skills were also taught as part of the national service program.
Expansion concentrated on building physical facilities rather than on modern equipment and materials, and without planning for the particular specializations and/or the number of trainees needed. Vocational schools operated without links to specific industries. Vocational training responsibilities were transferred to the Ministry of Education in 1987 when educational philosophy changed. The existing general educational program was refocused toward technical and vocational subjects to change the negative perceptions of technical training and manual labor and to alleviate shortages of skilled workers.
Problems arose in the late 1980s during the worldwide recession. Resources were harder to obtain, training quality declined, and jobs for graduates were scarce. The 1986 drop in oil prices exacerbated the government's financial problems and restricted budget expenditures for education. Only a few training centers actually formed relationships with employers. In spite of decreasing job opportunities, pressure for more vocational training centers increased as a growing school-age population increased the number of dropouts and "push-outs" from the general educational system.
In the early 1990s, Algeria experienced a vocational "crisis." Low student motivation and aptitude were the norm, as those who "couldn't make it" in general education ended up in vocational centers. Low teacher salaries reduced instructional quality as better teachers went to industry. Language difficulties occurred as most instruction in technical subjects was still in French. Finally, poor management and financial constraints compounded all of the other problems.
The oversupply of graduates created a phenomenon of downward vertical substitution, as people with university degrees couldn't get jobs and accepted lower positions. Employers then raised their requirements for those jobs. The lack of systematic, institutionalized job placements meant employment ended up being a very inefficient system of "who you know." A widespread phenomenon of horizontal substitution developed whereby vocational education graduates ended up in positions not related to their training. Poor quality, insufficient funding, and low external efficiency are signs of malfunctions in vocational education, but they are also a normal and logical result of the other role of these schools, that is, the "social parking" function.
The Offices for Practical Works in Vocational Training, created specifically for aiding the production activities of vocational training centers, act as intermediaries between enterprises requiring products and the training centers that provide them. They identify requirements from enterprises, particularly when the demand for products is too large for a single vocational center, fix prices and deadlines, allocate the product demands among various centers, and provide centers with raw materials.
While these offices permit economies of scale from a business perspective, there are educational problems. The main problem is that production and trading concerns very often tend to prevail over pedagogical interests, meaning trainees work on repetitive and monotonous tasks in which the pedagogical dimension is virtually neglected.
Universities are organized into institutes, each of which coordinates several departments. National institutes of higher education, though smaller than the universities, offer degrees in a variety of fields. The engineering schools (grandes écoles ) include polytechnic, veterinary medicine, architecture and urbanization, agriculture, information, telecommunications, and ocean science. Teachers colleges train teachers for both general and technical secondary schools.
Only the University of Algers predates independence. Founded in 1879 on the French model, it stressed autonomy for the university faculty including designing curricula. The system was unwieldy, with duplication of academic offerings and the complete loss of credits by students changing programs. Not until 1946 did the first Algerian students begin attending the University of Algers, and in 1959, only 600 Algerian students (13 percent of all the university students) were in attendance. Independence in 1962 found university attendance still low, numbering only 2,200 Algerians (from the population of 12 million). Attrition was very high.
The massive influx of students following independence led to the large-scale establishment of universities, university centers, and colleges. Within four years, in 1966, there were six universities, two universities of science and technology, five university centers, one agronomic institute, one veterinary institute, one telecommunications institute, one school of architecture and town planning, and one École Normale Superiéure. Enrollment numbered 160,000 students, with 7,947 academic staff. Additional universities were created and the system was reformed in 1971, with major reforms following in 1988. The universities loosely resemble the French model.
By 2000, enrollment in higher education climbed to 298,767 with 20,026 teachers. The number of universities has risen to nine plus two universities of science and technology, four university centers, and 12 colleges and institutes each coordinating several departments. There is a heavy emphasis on engineering institutes and "hard sciences." The academic year is from September to June. Although the central government coordinates the activities of the institutions, they have a fair degree of autonomy.
The reforms of 1985-1986 were intended to channel higher education students into vocational specializations and exact sciences, or into experimental and human sciences, as such subjects traditionally are nonpolitical. Subjects such as chemistry, biochemistry, and industrial chemistry were to be introduced. The basis for the plan, at least in part, was the perceived requirements of the country in terms of developing industry, agriculture, and the administration, as well as to "form distinguished individuals proud of their cultural heritage, their attempts to change their reality, and their contributions to their country."
The political-religious conflict in Algeria is played out in higher education. When the wave of nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s waned, Islamism took its place. Islamic fundamentalists reigned freely on university campuses in the 1980s. In 2000, Islamic fundamentalists existed as a weakened underground movement on the campuses. They have since been banned from these schools.
In 1987, student riots in Constantine and Setif led to the realization that four main university towns—Algiers, Oran, Constantine, and Annaba—hosted 76 percent of the students in higher education. Efforts were made to find ways of decreasing such large concentrations of students.
After the cancellation of the state elections in 1992, protests by the militants quickly spread to university campuses. Low-level violence started in 1992 (usually arson) and escalated dramatically in succeeding years. The violence resulted in a mass exodus of academics from the country, especially in 1994–1995. Between 1992 and 1997, nearly 1,000 academics fled Algeria and settled in France. Many more tried but failed to secure French visas.
Academics have been the victims of assassination since 1992. Faculty members are not the only targets. Rectors and students have been killed, and female students are threatened. One report states that in 1994, by official count, there were more than 2,725 acts of terrorism, more than 80 teachers assassinated, and more than 600 schools, three university centers, and nine training institutes burned down or blown up. Other victims include Communist Party members, socialists, left-wing secularists, academic and intellectual defenders of cultural freedom, academics and scholars who run research centers or who hold government positions, academics known for their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, and foreigners.
By some accounts, the toll of violence has reached 40,000 to 50,000 victims. The assassinations are reported to be part of the strategy of Islamic fundamentalists to deter peace efforts and, in the case of foreigners, deter foreign investment. In addition to the assassinations, increasing violations of university freedoms originate from a number of sectors. Police come on campus and arrest fundamentalist teachers and staff and people professing opposition to dictatorship and other "unpopular" views. Fundamentalists pressure teachers at all levels with threats (especially foreign-language teachers) to quit teaching. Faculty members are reportedly losing control over their syllabi and careers as well as promotion standards. The Teacher Training Institute library in Algiers was turned into a prayer room, thereby forcing an end to the debates and cultural activities previously held there. University officials are pressured to separate males and females in cafeterias. "Nosey Parkers" (universitycreated security forces) harass students, thwart trade union organizing among faculty, and systematically encroach on union free speech and right of assembly. Universities interfere in the bar exam registrations by providing special dispensations to matriculate without taking the examination.
Universities are characterized by huge classes, aging equipment, out-of-date materials, equipment shortages, inadequate supervisors, and diminishing faculty control. The Arabization that already occurred in the social and human sciences reached the exact sciences in 1997. Without Arabic books and instructional materials, such as software, keyboards, and publications, and given a lack of Arabic-speaking teachers, instruction suffers. Access to the science and technology of western cultures is restricted by language limitations. Poor working conditions, inflation-eroded salaries and poor housing led teachers, professors, and assistants in Oran to strike in 1997, a strike that immediately spread to other universities.
Complementary Education: Some complementary education is found at the foreign cultural centers, where language instruction is available, such as English (Centre Culturel Britannique et Centre Culturel Américan) and French (Centre Culturel Français). With one-third of Algeria's postgraduate students studying abroad in 1992, bilingualism remains a crucial asset. Libraries and documentation services at these centers are frequented and solicited by students who find the public and university libraries, as well as the bookstores, insufficient. Other activities at these centers (not so heavily frequented) include painting, photography, music, theater, and more.
Libraries: Major libraries in Algiers include the University of Algiers library containing 800,000 volumes; the National Library housing 950,000 volumes, with special collections including Africa and the Maghreb; the National Archives of Algeria; and the Department for the Distribution of Scientific and Technical Information at the French Cultural Center in Algiers. A Municipal Library containing 25,000 volumes is located in Constantine. Library holdings at universities include Batna (55,000 volumes), Mentouri (240,000 volumes), D'Oran Es-Senia (200,000 volumes), and Abou Bekr Belkaid (Tlemcen: 66,000 volumes). The university center at Mostaganem holds 75,000 volumes and a number of colleges hold modest collections, as do museums and art galleries.
It is difficult to assess the library resources, given that budget restrictions reportedly have forced many to curtail periodical subscriptions. Semiannually, the National Library issues the national bibliography. Separate lists of periodicals are not issued, nor are lists of periodical articles. The National Library is open eight hours a day. There are three library science institutes and one center that provide special training in scientific and technical information.
Some cultural centers are developing children's libraries. Student use of libraries in cultural centers is high. In Oran, Algiers, and Constantine, there are an estimated 50 readers for every reading location. School libraries are poor or nonexistent. No specific budget is allocated to libraries in Algerian schools. Few public libraries have children's sections, as loaning books to children is unlikely. There are no specialized bookshops for children's literature; few keep a section for children's reading. No publishing house specializes in this field. There is no listing of Algerian writers of children's books or systematic advertisement of children's books.
Administration, Finance, & Educational Research
Government Educational Agencies: Algerian education remains highly centralized even though there is a stated aim of gradual decentralization. The Ministry of National Education is the controlling body. The ministry is charged with all activities relative to the education of children of school age (foundation, general secondary, technical secondary, and tertiary) including the programs, evaluation, orientation, communication, finances, planning, cultural, sports and social activities, legal studies, and personnel.
The central administration of the Ministry of Education is comprised of the Secretary General, the Cabinet, and the Inspector General, plus various directors. Four regional offices (north, south, east, and west) are concerned with pedagogy, financial, administrative, and cultural affairs, and, at the local level, each of the wilayas has a Director of Education (D.E.) to implement programs and operations.
The Ministry of Higher Education and Research administers the universities and engineering schools (grandes écoles). It also is responsible for teacher's colleges (écoles normales superiéure and école normale superiéure d'enseignement technique ) and national institutes for higher education (instituts nationaux d'enseignement superiéure ) that train teachers for secondary schools.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education administers preuniversity institutions (foundation and secondary schools). A number of other ministries also contain (specialized) institutes. L'Inspector Générale, created in 1995, is directly under the Minister of Education and is charged with inspecting, controlling, and evaluating local educational institutions. This office coordinates approximately 500 inspectors. There are inspectors concerned with the formation of academic disciplines, lycées and colleges, finances, and scholarly and professional orientation.
A national center (L'office national des examens et concours ) prepares the annual exams; another (Le center national de documentation pédagogique ) purchases all books and educational documents. CNDP (L'Institut national de recherch, pédagogique ) is concerned with pedagogical research and the evaluation of the educational system. The institute is comprised of university professors who serve three-year terms on a scientific council. CNF (Le centre national d'enseignement generalizé ) is charged with distance education and audiovisual methods of instruction for people who cannot go to school.
Educational Budgets: The government alone funds education. In 1994, expenditures on education totaled 79,889,000,000 dinars (5.6 percent of the gross national product and 17.6 percent of total government expenditures.) Capital expenditures totaled 10,200,000,000 dinars. In the 1997 budget, 12.5 percent of the administrative budget was allocated to education and training. Priorities were teacher training, the development of technical and scientific teaching programs, and adult literacy and training initiatives.
Algeria received substantial assistance from the World Bank. Between 1973 and 1980, Algeria contracted five education loan agreements for sums totaling US$276 million. The World Bank has continued to provide funds and technical assistance in connection with fundamental reform in education, the latest phase of which occurred in 1992.
Since the 1980s, funds for the purchase of books and the renewal and maintenance of library collections, journal subscriptions, and laboratory equipment have been reduced dramatically. The reductions coincided with swelling enrollments from the post independence baby boom.
Universities were hurt by the country's economic crisis in the 1990s. In particular, the restrictive measures imposed on the operating and equipment budgets of the Algerian state by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank heavily impacted higher education and scientific research.
Educational Research: Research, an essential ingredient of academic excellence, has returned to the Education Ministry again after a decade of reforms that splintered the national research center, split responsibility for research and higher education, and left academic researchers swamped with teaching assignments. The INRE (Le center national de formation des cadres de l'éducation ) is expected to participate in educational research and experimentation.
The University of Algers houses the National Documentation and Research Center for Education (Centre National de Documentation et de Recherche en Pedagogie ), or CNDRP. In addition, the Center for the Coordination of Studies and Research on the Infrastructure and Facilities of the Ministry of Education and on Scientific Research (Centre de Coordination des Études et des Recherches sur les Infrastructure, les Equipements du Ministére de l'Enseignement et de la Recherche Scientifique ) is located in Algiers. The University d'Algers also hosts the Institut de Psychologie et Sciences de l'Education.
Generally in Algeria, an educational institution is evaluated in terms of quantitative internal criteria such as rates of success, failure, retention and attrition. Rarely are external criteria used such as performance tests, interviews with graduates, employers, and the like.
Literacy: Adults who acquire literacy through adult programs have great difficulty retaining it, a problem that also occurs with early school dropouts. Post-literacy programs, therefore, are more than remedial measures for ensuring the retention and stabilization of literacy skills. They are intended as lifelong education aimed at improving the quality of life through the continuation and application of learning. Literacy is viewed as an integral part of continuing education.
Estimates of adult (15 years and older) literacy in 2000 ranged from 62 to 72 percent, with male literacy estimated to be from 73 to 80 percent and female literacy, 48 to 63 percent. The National Centre for Literacy Education came into being in 1964 and adopted the concept of functional literacy education with the intent of providing social, political, and vocational education in addition to traditional reading, writing, and counting literacy education.
Adult Education: Continuing education includes all age groups. It is not limited to vocational instruction. Its aim is continuing progress in all fields. Following independence, teachers in all primary schools were compelled to give part of their time to adult education.
From 1988 on, social factors fostered the development of voluntary educational activities. Conditions such as the growth of unemployment among young people, qualified as well as unqualified; the inflexibility of public schools; the effects of the French-Arabic language conflict on the educational system; and other factors led to voluntary educational activities. Some activities are aimed at making up for the inadequacy of the public schools, others are more lifelong in nature, and some provide complementary training for social groups with religious or political motivation.
Distance Education: There were 3.1 million televisions and 7,000 fax machines in 1997, and there was one Internet provider in 1999 with 2,250 Internet users. Algeria's distance education programs, utilizing 18 television broadcast stations in 1999 (not counting low power stations), are run by CNEG (Centre National d'Enseignement Généralisé ). CNEG is charged with the organization, administration, and teaching methods of the country's education system. The range and scale of CNEG's operation and activities is extensive. In 1991, it was reported that since the inception of CNEG's distance teaching programs, more than one million people had enrolled in the various courses and programs offered—including many females.
In 1990 there were approximately 100,000 students enrolled at the institution. Regional centers provide nationwide coverage of CNEGs activities. Courses are offered in general and technical education up to the baccalauréate, for certificates and diplomas at various levels, and for specialist (professional) training. Courses in education, humanities, music, arts, languages, social sciences, economics, mathematics, science, medicine, medical jobs and professions, and first aid are taught.
The first American production subtitled in Arabic was broadcast in July 1990 on ENTV, the Algerian television network. Some 85 percent of the programs on ENTV were already in dialectical Arabic and Berber as early as 1992, even though dubbing and subtitling are both difficult and expensive. French broadcasts have declined. Funding comes from the government, student fees, and receipts from the sale of course materials. The media and methods of instruction include printed course materials, local press, audio/video cassettes, radio broadcasts, telephone, and group study.
Training & Qualifications: Primary school teachers are trained at institutes of educational technology (institute de technologie de l'éducation ). Students graduating from intermediate schools enroll in these institutes for two years, the last year as a student teacher. Success on the terminal examination leads to the certificate of general culture (certificat de culture generale et professionelle ). Students who obtain a baccalauréate train at the Institut de Formation de Professeurs École Moyenne (Middle School Teacher Training Institute) to become middle (third-cycle foundation) schoolteachers. Teachers for special education are recruited from those with teaching experience in regular schools; they can participate in special education training courses lasting for one or two years.
Teachers for general and technical secondary education come from the teachers' colleges (écoles normales superierures and écoles normales d'enseignement technique ) and national institutes for higher education (institutes nationaux d'enseignement superiéure ). Secondary teachers are more specialized than foundation schoolteachers, either in a particular field such as mathematics or in a more general area such as social science. Entry-level teachers at the universities require at least the third-cycle master's-level qualification. Teacher's salaries are low, which has led to strikes at the universities.
Adult Instruction: Each group of teachers and instructors is given approximately one month of instruction on how to teach adults. Adult instructors fall into three categories. Full-time instructors, considered the best and most likely to try new methods and systems, are viewed as the backbone of the system. Second are the part-time instructors who hold other jobs. They are not under supervision and cannot be required to use specific educational methods, but nevertheless are important. The third type include the workers from different sectors who understand their sector and the workers in it, but who rarely have any training in teaching.
Arabization in the education system included replacing foreign instructors with Arabic teachers, replacing the Eurocentric curriculum with an Arabic/African one, and replacing French with Arabic as the medium of instruction. Not everyone was pleased with the results. "The Arabization in the schools has actually often been managed under disastrous conditions and has delivered a generation of illiterate bilinguals mastering neither Arabic nor French," say the critics.
Arabization was intended to be the vehicle for creating a national identity. Whether or not this has happened, it has created a number of problems, including linguistic generational differences. Parents, particularly middle class parents educated in French, have difficulty following their children's education and in transmitting to their children the culture and cultural information that they themselves have acquired, thereby depriving children of considerable cultural knowledge.
The most experienced administrators find it difficult to communicate to their young recruits (mostly Arabic speakers) their knowledge and their savoir-faire. The communication difficulties occurring between officials of different generations are due not only to purely linguistic differences, but also to psycho-cultural factors bound up with the linguistic differences.
Additional problems occur at training centers where the teachers are often technicians and qualified workers who most often acquired their knowledge and experience in the French language. The students, however, often have poor command of both French and Arabic.
In higher education, the government sought to ease the transition to Arabic by organizing a summer crash course for French-speaking teachers, promising adequate supplies of Arabic science manuals and a working party to establish new terminology. The decree proved impossible to enforce. Many academics did not take the crash course, much of the teaching material is still in French, and the student level of classical Arabic is often inadequate. There are difficulties for students entering sciences, and in particular, medicine, without adequate knowledge of French. Some of the best secondary students fail or quit.
Literacy rates have steadily risen since independence, reaching between 62 and 72 percent in 2000. These are "nominal" literacy rates, which undoubtedly overestimate functional literacy. Too often individuals barely achieving literacy don't retain it.
The first year for students at a university proves to be terribly overcrowded and the students, who are poorly prepared by the lycées, are left to the least competent staff because fully qualified academics do not take first-year students. Many university teachers began teaching when they were taking graduate courses and eventually became permanent staff members without completing their studies. With the mass exodus of the teachers fleeing the violence, a large part of the experienced teaching staff left just as the student numbers increased from 300,000 to 384,000. The exodus has seriously affected scientific research. The universities are further stressed by huge classes, overstressed infrastructures, inadequate and unskilled supervisors, insufficient and old equipment, and a lack of up-to-date educational and scientific materials.
Vocational education suffers from problems with the language of instruction, poor teaching, haphazard job placement (lack of systematization), lack of industrial linkages, and lack of flexibility. These problems produce graduates with inadequate skills in unwanted areas and the inability to adapt.
Algeria still has the fact-acquisition orientation to instruction. It is woven into the fabric of education. The teachers, as their teachers before them, are themselves products of the lecture-rote memorization system (both a French and Islamic heritage) thereby automatically perpetuating the system. The fact-recall examinations further reinforce this orientation. Teachers teach for the exams and until higher order skills such as critical thinking are measured, the situation will not change. Outdated methods and materials and a lack of internships means that students don't get practical hands-on experience. Knowledge is often out of date, citing 10-year-old computer programs. Students complain of insufficient class hours, as classes are often reduced because of strikes.
Funding is inadequate in every sector. Poor pay deters better students from entering teaching. Absent or obsolete equipment and materials lower instructional quality, as do overcrowded schools, classes, and education conducted in multiple shifts.
The Franco-Arabic language split impacts both vocational and collegiate education. The language skill levels of students and of instructors are factors, as is the availability of manuals and teaching materials in the language of instruction.
Since the late 1980s, every sector of Algerian society has been affected by a deep and on-going crisis of violence. This crisis has touched every aspect of life. It is the most serious problem impacting Algerian education today. The violence is a reaction to grinding poverty and blocked opportunity. It is far more a power struggle than a religious issue, and it will continue until the socioeconomic underpinnings are alleviated. The violence has damaged educational progress on every front.
Education in Algeria is clouded by the civil war. Beyond the human and physical damage is the damage caused by the restrictive direction the Islamists seek to impose. The isolationist approach, evidenced by the violent opposition to all foreign ideas and influences, operates to cripple educational progress. Until the violence and intimidation are curtailed, it is hard to foresee a bright future.
Illiteracy rates are still high, but literacy efforts appear to be working and need to be continued as a priority. There are major problems of educational quality and quantity that need to be addressed. Increased funding is part of the answer, but will not by itself cure the problems of ineffective pedagogy, language splits and fluency, lack of coherence between educational levels, and absence of linkages to the work world and to the users of the system. Rigid bureaucracy is slow to react and out of touch with the realities of the work world. Teacher training needs upgrading with models of better pedagogic techniques through in-service training, distance learning, and improved teaching materials and equipment.
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—M. June Allard and Pamela R. McKay
COPYRIGHT 2001 The Gale Group Inc.
Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria
Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Constantine
Batna, Béchar, Bejaia, Biskra, Blida, Djelfa, I-n-Salah, Médéa, Ouargla, Saïda, Sétif, Sidi-Bel-Abbes, Skikda, Tamanrasset, Tiaret, Tindouf, Tlemcen, Touggourt
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Algeria. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
ALGERIA , whose acknowledged history reaches back beyond 200 B.C., is the largest of the countries in northwest Africa which embody the Mahgreb, the area between the sea and the Sahara. Known to the ancient Romans as Numidia, it has been host to successive Mediterranean and African cultures, for which visible remains abound, from a Roman aqueduct in the capital city of Algiers, to the Phoenician ruins and Maurentian tomb just one hour's drive to the west. In recent times, it nurtured the first independence movement on the African continent, negotiated the release of American hostages from Iran, and has been a leader in regional diplomatic initiatives.
Algeria has produced cultural path-finders, from St. Augustine to Albert Camus. It is a country of the traditional and the modern—one sister will wear the concealing haik, while another ventures out in jeans; a family returns to its digital television set after having sacrificed a lamb for tomorrow's feast.
This is a country of contrasts and contradictions. Arabic and French intermingle in language and traditions. The Tauregs of the desert, although Muslim, use the Maltese cross as their sign. Spectacular coastlines are in geographic counterpoint with the great desert expanses, and the inviting Kabylia foothills give way to the foreboding Atlas highlands.
Algiers, capital of Algeria, is one of Africa's largest urban areas. Originally constructed for 750,000 people, its metropolitan area now teems with over four million inhabitants. It is situated on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, about midway between Tangier and Tunis and opposite the island of Majorca, at latitude 36°36'N and longitude 3°04'E.
Algiers was founded by the Phoenicians as one of their numerous North African colonies. The town was also visited by the Carthaginians and Romans and later destroyed by the Vandals in the 5th century A.D. It was revived under a Berber dynasty in the 10th century as a commerce center. Algiers became a haven in the 16th century for Moors escaping persecution in Spain. Many of these settlers resorted to piracy against Spanish cargo vessels. These pirate attacks continued until roughly 1830, when the French captured the city. Algiers became a military and administrative headquarters for France's colonial empire in North and West Africa. During World War II, Algiers became the headquarters of Allied forces in North Africa. The city played a major role in Algeria's uprising against French rule. In 1962, after the country gained its independence, Algiers became the nation's capital.
From the sea, Algiers is a spectacular sight. The city rises sharply from the port area and business district to the residential areas along tree-covered hills. In sunlight, the white buildings of "Algér la Blanche" gleam against the blue Mediterranean below, and the green of pines and parks above.
Architecturally, the city is European with a strong Mediterranean flavor. The famous Casbah, an interesting Arab quarter in the heart of the city, contains most of what remains of the Turkish city of the 16th to 18th centuries, but falls short of the romantic image created by the movies. More characteristic of modern Algiers are the many apartment buildings and grand villas with their views of the city and the sea. Among the multitude of mosques are a few dating from the 17th century, and others that once were constructed as churches by the French. Traffic, especially during morning, midday, and evening rush hours, is very heavy and often frustrating.
The Mediterranean climate reminds Americans of southern California. Compared to Washington, DC, the summer (May to October) is longer and more moderate, except when the hot sirocco (desert wind) blows in from the Sahara. Heat and humidity can combine to make a summer day uncomfortable, but there are many more days of excellent weather. Throughout this warm season, the sandy beaches and the waters of the Mediterranean provide relief and recreation. The cooler heights of the nearby mountains at Chrea and Tala Guilef are also pleasant at this time. Despite its warm summers, Algiers has what is often described as a "cold climate with a hot sun." Winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing. Cool to cold weather generally begins in November and lasts into April, but the "rainy season" lasts about five months.
Fewer than 500 Americans reside throughout Algeria, and are principally employed in the hydrocarbon sector, working in central and southern Algeria.
Staples can be purchased locally, but prices are higher than in the U.S. Frequent shortages occur and the quality is often inferior to American varieties. Fresh fruit and vegetables of good quality are plentiful in season. Markets carry beef, chicken, lamb, fish and shrimp, but all are expensive. Eggs are always available, but butter is occasionally hard to find. Pork products are not available.
Apparel for all seasons is required in Algeria—from bathing suits to warm coats. Rainwear and umbrellas are advisable for all members of the family. A Washington, D.C. wardrobe is suitable for an extended stay. Although winters are not as cold in Algiers, strong winds and less effective heating/insulation in buildings can make the climate seem quite uncomfortable.
Some clothing suitable to Western tastes is available, but is much more expensive than in the U.S. Shoes are not usually of good quality, nor do they conform to American preference.
Because dry cleaning is unpredictable in quality and availability, men find that wash-and-wear clothes of medium weight are useful for office wear, with some lightweight suits for really hot days. Winter clothes can be worn from November to April, and an additional sweater or vest is welcome in winter. A topcoat is sometimes useful.
Women dress for professional or office jobs as they would in Washington, DC; others tend to dress informally, wearing skirts and sweaters in winter and cotton dresses in summer. Conservative dress minimizes embarrassment; shorts should not be worn in public. Street-length dinner and cocktail dresses are appropriate in the evening although, occasionally, a long dress is needed for a formal event. Shawls and sweaters are advisable at night, even in summer.
Neither men or women should wear sports clothes that reveal shoulders, arms, or legs, especially when touring religious sites.
Children have the same clothing needs in Algiers as they would in Washington, DC. Good quality clothing for children is not always available.
Supplies and Services
Services available in Algiers, but not up to U.S. standards, include tailoring; dressmaking; shoe repair; and radio, TV, and other electrical appliance repair. Dry cleaning is fair. Barber and beauty service is available, but many women prefer to have haircuts, permanents, etc., done on trips abroad.
Items difficult to locate in Algiers include linens, plastic ware, shower curtains, coat hangers, Scotch tape, adhesive tape, glue, paper napkins, toys, books, records, and special occasion gifts and cards. Few toiletries are available locally.
The predominant religion in Algeria is Islam, but other faiths are respected. In Algiers, there are several Catholic churches that offer masses in French and Italian, and sometimes in English. English-speaking priests will hear confessions for Americans. One Jewish synagogue continues to hold services. The British Protestant Church is nondenominational and has services each Friday, plus Sunday school for children. In Oran, places of worship include one Protestant and two Catholic churches, both with French-language rituals. A weekly, informal, nondenominational service is conducted in various private homes.
Competent and adequately trained domestic help is difficult to find, but it is possible to employ people for cleaning, laundering, shopping, and child care. Part-time gardeners are available. A good cook is rare, and wages quite high. Social-security payments are required, but the rate varies depending on the work schedule. Algerian law requires all household staff to have 1.5 paid vacation days each month, plus a free day each week. Employers usually recognize Islamic holidays with a cash gift. Many expatriates have hired foreign household help, from such countries as the Philippines, to work in their homes
The American School of Algiers, the only English-language school, offers coeducational instruction from pre-kindergarten through grade nine. It is located in El Biar, one mile from downtown Algiers. In 1991, the staff included an American principal, 14 full-time and three part-time teachers, a secretary, and classroom aides. Classes are held from September to June. The standard U.S. curriculum is followed and adapted to accommodate children of many countries, with emphasis on local educational opportunities such as field trips and excursions. Science, music, art, and physical education are also offered. Extracurricular activities include computers, year-book, school newspaper, and a literary magazine. The school's library has 8,000 volumes and a variety of multimedia materials. The three-acre campus consists of eight buildings with 14 classrooms, a science lab, computer lab, and two playing fields. French is taught in grades four through eight. The school has a capacity for 215 students. Many nationalities are represented among the student body. Students are required to speak and understand English well enough to follow courses. Parents of children with special needs should contact the school directly before moving to Algiers; the address is: 5 Chemin Cheikh Bechir Brahimi, El Biar, Algiers, Algeria.
An English-language secondary school is not available, but there is a French lycée, equivalent to U.S. high school. American students are admitted if space is available and if the student has adequate French-language ability. The French system is also available below the lycée level. In addition, German, Japanese, Egyptian, and Italian schools are in operation in Algiers.
Some parents have found local private nursery schools satisfactory for pre-kindergarten children. One English-language play school is available for children three to five years old. The French kindergarten will accept children at age four.
Most families send children of high school age to international schools abroad.
The Algerian national passion is soccer; it is played in the streets, in stadiums, and in schoolyards. Algerian women rarely attend sports events and European women never go unescorted; even with an escort, they usually feel conspicuous.
Tennis is one of the most popular sports in Algiers, and can be played year round. Golf also is available at an 18-hole golf course, Route de Chéraga, on the heights of Algiers. Algiers' outdoor swimming and water sports season is from May through September. Several public beaches are a 30 to 60 minute drive, although those closest to Algiers are very crowded on weekends and may be polluted. Better beaches are located an hour from Algiers. Because no facilities are available, beach umbrellas, mats, barbecue grills, and ice chests are a must. Unescorted women should not visit beaches.
Algiers Bay and nearby coastal waters provide possibilities for boating, wind surfing, and spearfishing. Caution and experience are necessary on the water, as currents and winds can be treacherous.
Several riding clubs in the vicinity of Algiers offer adequate facilities (including jumps) at reasonable rates. In winter, limited skiing on difficult slopes is available in the Algerian mountains.
Wild boar and waterfowl hunting is difficult, but possible. A government hunting license is required. The importation of firearms is restricted to sporting weapons, and special permission must be obtained beforehand. Hunting can be organized through ONAT, the national tourist agency, which provides, as part of its hunting service, facilities for acquiring authorization to carry arms. These tours are extremely expensive.
Algeria offers many opportunities for pleasant day, weekend, and longer outings to points of scenic beauty and historic interest. However, because roads can be rough and acceptable tourist facilities (including restrooms) are rarely available, every trip can be an adventure.
In and around Algiers itself, one finds the Casbah, museums, the Forest of Bainem (a good hiking and picnicking area), the beautiful flowers and greenery of the Jardin d'Essai, and many beaches.
Easily arranged one-day trips include: the mountain resort of Chrea; Tizi-Ouzou, "capital of the Kabyle"; and the ancient Roman seaport of Cherchell (Caesarea). The extensive Roman ruins of Tipasa, about 50 miles from Algiers, overlook the azure waters of the Mediterranean, forming a scene of unmatched beauty.
Farther away, for weekend trips, are Annaba (the ancient Hippo Regius); Bou Saada, gateway to the Sahara; and many beach and mountain resorts east and west of the capital. The government travel organization has established an extensive network of lodgings and spas at regional capitals, mineral springs, skiing sites, and other appropriate points. Modestly appointed, and usually with restaurants, they vary in quality from barely acceptable to good. The staffs occasionally speak English. Some adequate private hotels and inns also can be found. Because reservations are often difficult to confirm, and accommodations may not be properly cleaned, lighted, or heated, many travelers provide their own camping equipment and sleeping bags. Water can be a problem, and it is always advisable to take along enough for drinking and washing. Finally, because acceptable restaurants may not exist en route, most people carry food for breakfasts and lunches.
On a long weekend driving tour, the visitor can see such attractions as Timgad—possibly the most extensive Roman ruins anywhere, and certainly unmatched outside Pompeii; El-Oued, an oasis town of considerable charm; Oran and Western Algeria, a region very different from the Algerois; Hass R'mel and Hassi Messaoud, hydrocarbon production centers; and Tunis, Tunisia, or Fez, Morocco.
The actual Sahara is a longer trip, but well worth it. For travel in the Hoggar-Tassili and Saharan areas, one can fly to Tamanrasset or Djanet and hire a Land Rover or join a tour there. The trip is long—it is about as far from Algiers to Tamanrasset as from Algiers to Edinburgh, Scotland.
Movies, some in French, most in Arabic, are the principal commercial entertainment in Algiers. Cinemas are crowded and rarely attended by women. Live theater has a limited season, with emphasis on Arabic productions.
Algiers has a number of museums devoted to art, history, and anthropology. A major amusement park complex and a zoo in the suburb of Ben Aknoun offer entertainment opportunities.
Algiers has many restaurants which serve French and/or Algerian dishes, and a few serving Chinese/Vietnamese food. Some restaurants feature folkloric entertainment. However, because most restaurants (even the smaller ones) are state-owned, quality and availability of food and service at even the best can vary dramatically. That, combined with endemic parking problems, makes dining out in Algiers something of an adventure.
For those interested in photography, Algiers' unusual architecture and magnificent views offer many subjects for pictures. Photographic supplies should be brought from home as local supplies are limited and expensive. Discretion must be used in photographing individuals and mosques; military and strategic installations should never be photographed.
A good shortwave radio, phonograph, or cassette player are desirable. Records and music cassettes can be purchased locally, but prices are very high.
Algiers has no American-sponsored fraternal organizations, and most mixing of the American official and private communities is through entertaining in the home. An informal English-speaking women's coffee group meets each month in a member's home.
Social activities for American children consist of privately sponsored gatherings, such as birthday parties for young children, camping trips, and beach parties. The American School and the British Church arrange a number of activities, including occasional weekend trips.
Algeria's political and cultural orientation limits opportunities for meeting host-country nationals, although relationships are possible; it is generally easier to become acquainted with nationals of other countries.
The French, Italian, and German Cultural Centers have film showings, exhibits, concerts, and language classes for those interested.
Oran, Algeria's second largest city and most modern port, is the economic and cultural capital of a region rich in history and natural beauty. Situated on a high plateau that overlooks the Mediterranean, it is flanked on the west by the Djebel Murdjadjo which rises 1,500 feet; on the crest of this mountain are an historic fort, an abandoned cathedral, and the hermitage-like home of the marabout (dervish) Sidi Abdelkader El Djilali. Another picturesque site is Lion Mountain which stretches east, 10 miles along the coast. Situated between the Mediterranean coast and miles of vineyards, it is impressive in its graceful plunge to the sea.
Archaeological remains show that Oran has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The first known residents of the area were Berber herdsmen and the Berber culture dominated despite successive visits by the Phoenicians, Carthagenians, Romans, and the Germanic Vandals. In the Middle Ages the Berber kingdom of Tahert, near the modern-day city of Tiaret, made the area well-known for scholars and commerce.
Berber dynasties like the Almoravids fought off the encroaching Arabs for almost three centuries, but slowly the Arab culture took hold and gave the region its present Arab-Berber mix. Europeans reappeared in the region when, in the 16th century, the Spanish occupied the city-state of Oran and neighboring Mers El Kebir. The Ottoman Turks drove out the Spanish from most of their Algerian enclaves, but the Spaniards clung to Oran for 300 years and built forts that still dominate the port and the town.
After the French invasion of Algiers in 1830, the Oran region was a center of resistance to French rule. Emir Abdel Kader waged a 15-year struggle against the French before being defeated and deported.
French and Spanish settlers arrived and Oran, surrounded by fertile countryside, became the main port for the Algerian wine industry.
Oran was occupied briefly by the U.S. Army during World War II as Algeria was used as a staging area for the invasion of Sicily. During the late 1950s, Oran was the scene of civil strife between French underground terrorists and Algerian nationalists. The violence prompted the mass exodus of the French. The city's fortunes declined for a time, but began to revive some years after Algerian independence was gained in 1962. The hydrocarbon and construction industries have breathed new life into the region's economy. In the Arzew Industrial Zone, built along a bay 25 miles east of Oran, two immense natural gas liquefaction plants are among the most important petrochemical installations in Algeria. Their enormous gas flares dominate the landscape and, on a clear night, are visible all the way to Oran.
South of Oran lies a region of rich agricultural land planted in vineyards, wheat fields, olive trees, and orange groves. Farther south are rugged mountains with wheat and olives, a high plateau of grazing land, and rocky wastelands extending more than 100 miles from the coast.
The industrial part of Oran, in the outlying south-southeastern districts, contains hundreds of small food-processing and diversified manufacturing plants and a small iron and steel mill. Principal exports are wine, cereals, vegetables, and fruits.
Oran is an international port that is connected by rail to Algiers, Béchar, and Morocco. Oran-Es Senia International Airport is located approximately six miles (ten kilometers) from the city.
Oran's Mediterranean climate and physical beauty are striking and resembles parts of California and northern Florida. Winters bring rainy winds and cool weather, with daytime temperatures in the 50s. Summer lasts from May to October, with fine, sunny weather and a constant breeze off the sea. This is the time to enjoy the beaches.
Close to one million people live in urban Oran, including an English-speaking community concentrated around Arzew. The French community in Oran numbers several thousand and includes teachers and technical assistance personnel. The city is mostly Muslim, and nearly all of the French-built churches have been converted into mosques. The culture is a distinct mix of Arabic and Western. There are mosques in every neighborhood and the five-times daily prayer call rises from minarets all over the city. In the streets, veiled women walk alongside those dressed in the latest fashions from France. Although Algeria has many women doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, segregation of the sexes remains the custom. Women rarely go out alone and are seldom seen in the city's cafes.
Consulates in Oran, other than that of the U.S., represent France, Spain, Italy, and Morocco.
Education at public schools in Oran is conducted in Arabic and French. The Lycée Pasteur, operated by the French Government, offers kindergarten through high school for dependents of French functionaries and other non-Algerian students. All instruction is in French, and the curriculum is more rigorous than that of the typical American high school.
French -or classical Arabic-language instruction from private tutors is available. Group classes in either language or in computer basics are sponsored by the French Cultural Center. The Catholic church offers lessons in modern, standard Arabic.
Instruction in the arts is offered by the Oran Municipal Conservatory, which conducts classes in a variety of musical instruments, harmony, dance, and dramatic arts. Courses in tennis, judo, skin diving, and karate may be arranged at clubs.
Recreation and Entertainment
In Oran, soccer is the most popular spectator sport, and weekly matches are held in the city's stadium. Women rarely attend. The Oran area has fine beaches and windsurfing is growing in popularity. The American community has a full program of recreational sports, including softball and a tennis club. Several aerobic exercise groups have formed. Other activities in and around the city include excellent saltwater fishing, sailing, and scuba diving, although it is difficult to charter a boat. Wild boar and small game hunting is also available.
Within the district are many points of scenic interest, beach resorts, towns, and wooded mountainsides. Although not so rich in Roman ruins as the eastern and central parts of the country, opportunities do exist for archaeological and historical study. Principal historic sites in Oran include the 16th century Santa Cruz Fortress and the Mosque of the Pasha of Sidi El Houari dates from the 18th century.
Algeria is a beautiful country with a surprising variety of environments. Deep forests of cork and pine, mountains, windy steppes, and desert sands are all only a few hours drive from Oran. Opportunities for hiking and picnicking are excellent.
Organized tours outside of Oran are available. The Moroccan border, with good sight-seeing and shopping opportunities, is only two hours away by car. The Spanish enclave of Melilla, with its fascinating history and well-stocked duty-free shops, is less than a six-hour-drive away. Ferries go regularly from Oran to Marseille and to Alicante.
Entertainment opportunities in Oran are not particularly good. A number of movie theaters show films in French and Arabic. Occasional French-language or Arabic plays are performed in the Opéra Municipal (Municipal Opera House), and concerts by visiting artists are presented at the Oran Municipal Conservatory about twice a year.
The French Cultural Center sponsors a busy program of films, lectures, and concerts. It also maintains a library and a "filmotheque."
Oran is a quiet, easy-going provincial city. Patience and initiative reap ample rewards. The American community in Oran is extremely small. However, expatriates and their families often join in sports, barbecues, films, and other social activities with the American community in Arzew. Most Algerian social life revolves around the family and most Algerians do not entertain. However, younger Algerians are often attracted to American films or music, or seek opportunities to practice their English.
Annaba, a Mediterranean port in northeastern Algeria, was called Bône until the country achieved its independence from France. In the early centuries A.D., under the Romans, it had been known as the port city of Hippo Regius. Later it became the see of St. Augustine, and a center of Christianity. Augustine, recognized as the founder of Christian theology, was born in the year 354 at Tagaste, about 40 miles south of Hippo, and served the district as bishop. He died in 430, during the time that the Vandals were besieging Hippo.
Annaba was founded by the Carthaginians, and once was a residence of ancient Numidian kings. After its many centuries of Roman and Vandal occupation, it came under Arab rule in the seventh century, and was held during the Middle Ages by Algerines, Italians, and Spaniards. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a center for European trade. The French captured Annaba in 1832.
Now a modern city of close to one million people, Annaba is surrounded by wheat farms, forests, and mines. It is a main trading and fishing port and Algeria's chief exporter of iron ore and phosphates. Annaba is connected by railway and roads to Algiers and other major cities in northeastern Algeria. The city is known for its chemical plants, iron and steel factories, automobile and railroad workshops, and fertilizer plant.
There are few English-speaking people in the area, but some Europeans and Americans with a knowledge of French visit or conduct business here.
Constantine (Qacentina), the ancient city of Cirta, lies on rocky heights above a river valley in the northeastern part of Algeria. Its port is Skikda, which was known as Philippeville under the French. Constantine has a population of roughly one million. Suburbs have developed to the southwest and east of the city.
In the second century B.C., Constantine (then Cirta) was the capital and commercial center of Numidia. After being destroyed by wars, it was rebuilt in the year 311 by the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great, and he gave it his name. The city was a provincial capital under the Turks in the 16th century, and was taken by French forces in 1837. It was occupied in 1942 during World War II by U.S. troops.
Constantine rests on a rocky, diamond-shaped plateau and, since Roman times, has been entirely surrounded by a wall. The city is a study in contrasts. The Rue Didouche Moutad divides the city into two parts. Western sections of the city, with its wide squares and straight streets, exhibits a strong French influence. The Souk el-Ghezel mosque, which was converted into the Notre-Dame des Sept-Douleurs Cathedral by the French, and the Casbah are major attractions. Eastern and southeastern areas of Constantine, however, exhibits strong examples of Islamic architecture such as the Salah Bey and Sīdī Lakhdar mosques. Many skilled trades are represented in the eastern sector and entire streets are devoted to one craft. Throughout the city, there are ruins of Roman fortifications and many medieval walls and gates.
The city has several public institutions. These include the municipal library, the museum of Cirta, and the University of Constantine, which was founded in 1969. Also Constantine-Ain-el Bey International Airport is located roughly six miles (ten kilometers) outside of Constantine.
BATNA is a city in northeastern Algeria. Originally established as a French military outpost in 1844, Batna is currently a trading center for forest and agricultural products. Roman ruins at Tazault-Lambese (Lambessa) seven miles (11 kilometers) to the southeast and Timgrad (Thamugadi) 17 miles (27 kilometers) to the east-southeast attract many tourists. Batna has an estimated population of 185,000.
BÉCHAR , formerly known as Colomb-Béchar, was just a village before coal was found here in 1907. It thrived on the activity of the coal mines until petroleum production seized the market. Located in the northwestern region of Algeria roughly 36 miles (58 kilometers) south of the Moroccan border, Béchar has an estimated population of 107,000. The city is noted for its leatherwork and jewelry. Dates, vegetables, figs, cereals, and almonds are produced near Béchar. Bituminous coal reserves in the region are not exploited to their greatest potential because of high transportation costs. The city was once the site of a French Foreign Legion post.
Before 1962, BEJAIA was named Bougie. Since the discovery of oil in Algeria, this Arab city has been a major port for oil and trade. Situated in the northeastern part of Algeria, 115 miles east of Algiers, the city is divided into a coastal, industrial section and a residential section 500 feet higher. Bejaia is a busy market town and exports iron ore, phosphates, olive oil, wine, and cork. The population is estimated over 125,000.
With January temperatures averaging 52°F, BISKRA is a common vacation spot in winter. Located in northeastern Algeria on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert, Biskra has a population of about 130,000. The area surrounding Biskra is very arid and most of the population live in oases. Dates, figs, pomegranates, and apricots are grown near Biskra. Biskra's major exports are dates and olives.
After devastating earthquakes in 1825 and 1867, BLIDA , which lies in northern Algeria, 25 miles southwest of the capital, was rebuilt into a commercially active center. This city is known for its beautiful orange groves and rose gardens that cover miles of landscape. Several light manufacturing industries are located in areas surrounding Blida. Crops grown near Blida include barley, citrus fruits, wheat, tobacco, olives, and vegetables. In 2000, Blida's population was estimated at 165,000.
DJELFA is located in north-central Algeria. The town, founded in 1852 as a French military post, is a meeting place for the Ouled Naïl. The Ouled Naïl are a semi-nomadic people who live in black-and-red striped tents and claim they are direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. The area surrounding Djelfa is notable for its abundance of Neolithic rock carvings dating from 7,000 to 5,000 B.C. Djelfa is primarily a trading center for goats, sheep, and other livestock. The population of Djelfa is over 85,000.
The oasis town of I-N-SALAH is situated in central Algeria and has a population of roughly over 21,000. Visited primarily by the nomadic Tuareg people, I-n-Salah is a transportation center for the export of dates. At one time, I-n-Salah was located on the ancient trans-Saharan caravan routes and served as a major trade link between north and central Africa. The town's importance has declined considerably due to the exodus of workers to developing gas fields 60 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of I-n-Salah and prohibitive transportation costs. I-n-Salah is composed of four walled villages or ksars. The ksars are surrounded by fruit and vegetable gardens and palm groves. Also, they are irrigated by artesian wells and surrounded by hedges that protect against the Saharan desert's corrosive sand.
MÉDÉA , located in north-central Algeria, is roughly 56 miles (90 kilometers) south of Algiers. The present-day city is situated on the site of an ancient Roman military post and has a history dating back to the 10th century. The town is French in character, with a rectangular city plan, red tile-roofed buildings, and beautiful public gardens. The hills surrounding Médéa are covered with vineyards, orchards, and farms that yield abundant grain. Médéa's chief products are wines, irrigation equipment, and various handicrafts. The city has an estimated population of over 85,000.
OUARGLA , situated in east-central Algeria, was originally settled by the Berbers and Black Africans. The town is walled with six gates and dominated by a large mosque. Irrigated date palm groves and vegetable gardens surround the town. Ouargla is a trading center, especially for woolen carpets, basketry, and livestock. Oil and natural gas wells to the southwest and east-southeast of town have increased Ouargla's population and local economy. The town is also home to the Saharan museum.
The town of SAÏDA was established as a French military outpost and once housed a regiment of the French Foreign Legion. Situated in northwestern Algeria, Saïda is noted for its fine leatherwork and mineral waters, which are bottled and sold throughout Algeria. Areas to the north of Saïda are fertile and supply abundant crops of grapes, olives, and wheat. Saïda is also a trading center for sheep and wool.
An ancient northeastern city dating back to the first century, SÉTIF is now a local medium for trade and communications. It is known for carpets and flour. Sétif, laid out in a grid pattern of wide streets, is one of Algeria's highest places at an altitude of 36,000 feet. The University of Sétif was founded in 1978. Remains of an ancient Byzantine fortress are located north of the city. In 1959, a Roman cemetery was found near the center of town. Located in a cereal-growing area, it is one of the most populated cities in Algeria, with a resident count estimated over 185,000.
Although it was completely surrounded by a wall until the 1930s, SIDI-BEL-ABBES now has a modern look with wide boulevards and squares. South of Oran, in the northwestern region of the country, this commercially vibrant city's infrastructure is comprised of factories, highways, and railroads. Industry includes a farm-machine manufacturing complex. The surrounding area, once swampy, now produces barley, wheat, and grapes. Once France's Foreign Legion headquarters, Sidi-Bel-Abbes is now a trade center with an estimated population over 150,000.
SKIKDA , situated on the Mediterranean Sea, 40 miles northeast of Constantine, is rich in history, with its Roman background still evident in a cemetery and the largest Roman theater in Algeria. A local museum houses many Roman artifacts. Skikda is an industrial city of roughly 129,000, whose major exports are fish, olive oil, and fruits. A natural-gas pipeline from Hassi R'Mel to Skikda became operational in 1970, leading to the development of petrochemical industries and oil refineries. Skikda also exports large quantities of marble, iron, lead, and iron ore. Many city residents of Italian and Portuguese origin left the city after Algerian independence in 1962. Today, the population is predominantly Muslim. Before Algeria's independence, this French city was known as Philippeville.
TAMANRASSET , also called Tamenghest (after 1981) and located in extreme southern Algeria, was originally established as a military outpost to guard the trans-Saharan trade routes. Surrounded by the barren Sahara Desert, some of the world's highest known temperatures have been recorded here. Tamanrasset is located at an oasis where, despite the difficult climate, citrus fruits, apricots, dates, almonds, cereals, corn, and figs are grown. The Tuareg people are the town's main inhabitants. Their red houses and the area's magnificent, rugged scenery make Tamanrasset a popular tourist attraction during the cooler months. Visitors are also drawn to the Museum of the Hoggar, which offers many exhibits depicting Tuareg life and culture. The town has an estimated population of 38,000.
Throughout history, the northern town of TIARET has been occupied at various times by the Berbers, Arabs, Turks, and French. Today, Tiaret is an agricultural center specializing in cereal production and livestock raising. The town is also noted for its purebred Arabian horses.
TINDOUF is situated in extreme western Algeria. The town has a large population of Regeibat nomads and, due to its location near the borders of Mauritania, Morocco, and Western Sahara, is of strategic importance. Rich deposits of iron ore are at Gara Djebilet 93 miles (150 kilometers) to the southeast.
TLEMCEN , close to Morocco in the northwestern part of Algeria, is rich in tradition and history. Its famous mosque of Sidi Bou Medine dates back to the 14th century. The city is sharply divided between the Hadars (the middle class descended from the Moors), the Koulouglis (descendants of Turks and Arab women), and the traditional Jewish community. Each group lives within its own sector of town. Tlemcen's winding, narrow, arched streets are crowded with shops, cafes, and mosques. The city has a pleasant climate. It is located sufficiently inland to avoid the stifling humidity of the Mediterranean coast, but is near enough to cool sea breezes in the summer. Known for its crafts, Tlemcen produces handmade leather goods, copperware, silk tapestries, and carpets. The town supports a bustling trade in agricultural products. It is also known for furniture and food processing. The railroad connects Tlemcen to other cities, including Beni-Saf.
TOUGGOURT , located in northeastern Algeria, is an oasis town where cereals, date palms, and vegetables are grown. Inhabited by the Rouarha, a people of Berber origin, and Jewish converts to Islam (Medjaia), Touggourt is a typical Saharan town of dried mud or clay-stone buildings and winding streets. Located at the junction of ancient trans-Saharan caravan routes, Touggourt is a trading center for livestock, woven cloth, and carpets. The estimated population is over 75,000.
Geography and Climate
Algeria, the second largest Arab/African country, after the Sudan, is almost one-third the size of the continental United States. With an area of 918,497 square miles, Algeria is more than three times the size of Texas.
Its geography is a contrast between the mountainous, fertile terrain of the north and the great expanse of arid desert in the south. Nearly 90 percent of the population lives on the productive coastal strip. The major cities of Algiers, Oran, and Annaba are located in this area, within a quadrilateral that extends about 50 miles inland from the coast, and stretches some 950 miles from Morocco on the west to Tunisia on the east.
South of this coastal plain rise the beautifully rugged hills and mountains of the Kabylie and the Aurès. Behind the mountains lies the high plateau, a semi-arid rangeland. Beyond that, some 200 miles inland, is the vast Sahara Desert, which comprises 90 percent of the country.
The climate varies. Coastal areas, including Algiers, have a pleasant, mild climate which becomes hot in summer, and chilly and rainy for several months in winter. Alistair Horne, in Savage War of Peace, describes it thus: "The summer in Algiers is long and torrid, and by the end of it, the Europeans tend to feel like fruits that have ripened too long in the sun… Through much of the year—winters that sparkle and springs that warm—the climate, like the architecture, is that of the northern Mediterranean."
Inland mountain regions between the coast and the desert have cooler weather, with temperatures below freezing for long periods in winter. Spring and fall in the Tell (that part of northern Algeria that receives an average annual rainfall of 16 inches or more and is, therefore, usable for agriculture), are mild and enjoyable. The Tell and the Sahara both have climatic extremes, although in different ways. The Tell is very cold in winter and very hot in summer. The Sahara's extremes are between daytime (warm in winter, intensely hot in late spring, summer, and early fall) and nighttime (extremely cold year round).
Algeria's population, a mixture of Arab, Berber, Turkish, and West African (in the Sahara) in origin, numbers nearly 31.8 million and is 99% Moslem. The principal languages are French and Arabic, although several Berber dialects are spoken and remain the mother tongue in many rural areas. A strong program of Arabization is underway; French is still widely used for official purposes, although this is expected to cease soon. Few people speak English.
Algeria has one of the world's highest population growth rates (2.3% in 2000). At least 70% of the population is under age 30. The traditional Moslem male-dominated culture is very much in evidence. Although women are participating more in Algerian society, the pace of change is slow. Many Algerian women still wear the traditional veil and' "haik" a white wrap-around silk or nylon cover robe. Others, however, wear jeans and Western clothes, particularly in cities. After dark, women are rarely seen in public places. Relationships between Americans and Algerians proceed more formally and slowly than those to which Americans are accustomed due to the restraints placed upon women and the reserve in most Algerians' attitudes toward strangers.
The Algerian Parliament is made up of a directly elected lower house, the National Popular Assembly, and an indirectly (and partially appointed) upper house. The government's executive departments are headed by ministers.
After gaining independence in 1961, Algeria had a single-party state dominated by the country's army and supported by the bureaucracy and the National Liberation Front (FLN). The FLN's rule ended in 1988 following wide-spread rioting. Under the 1989 Constitution, there was to be a transition to a pluralist republic with a strong president. The democratization process was suspended in 1992 when the Army forced the President to resign, canceled the second round of parliamentary elections which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win, and installed a ruling five-man High State Committee, which banned the FIS and jailed more of its leaders. The cancellation of the elections in 1992 escalated fighting between the security forces and armed Islamist groups seeking to overthrow the government and impose an Islamic state.
President Liamine Zeroual, a former general, was elected in November 1995 to a 5-year term. Zeroual had previously served as president of a transition government established by the Army in 1994. The President controls defense and foreign policy, appoints and dismisses the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers, and may dissolve the legislature. The presidential election was competitive. Three opposition candidates had some access to state-controlled television and radio and also received heavy coverage in the independent press. Zeroual received 61% of the votes according to government figures; losing candidates claimed that there were instances of fraud, but did not contest the Zeroual's victory. In June 1997 Algeria held the first legislative elections since January 1992.
In May 1996 the President began reviewing with legal opposition parties a memorandum containing his ideas on how to develop a political system. These included amending the Constitution to define acceptable political practices and to establish a second parliamentary chamber (a senate). The President also insisted the electoral and political party laws be changed. In September, several important opposition political parties joined with the President to sign a national charter encompassing these ideas. In November the government obtained approval of proposed changes to the Constitution, including provision of a second parliamentary chamber and greater presidential authority, in a flawed popular referendum.
The government's security apparatus is composed of the Army, Air Force, Navy, the national gendarmerie, the national police, communal guards (a local police), and local self-defense forces. All of these elements are involved in counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations. The security forces were responsible for numerous serious human rights abuses.
The economy is slowly developing from a centrally planned system to a more market-oriented system, in the wake of stabilization policies and structural reforms undertaken in 1994 and 1995. The pace of structural reform slowed in 1996.
Noncompetitive and unprofitable state enterprises constituted the bulk of the industrial sector. The state-owned petroleum sector's output represented about a quarter of national income and about 95% of export earnings in 1996. Algeria is a middle-income country whose annual per capita income is about $1,700. Unemployment continued to rise in 1996, hitting young people especially hard. About 70% of persons under the age of 30 could not find adequate employment. Some made a living from petty smuggling or street peddling.
Although the government's human rights performance improved somewhat, there were continued serious human rights abuses. The security forces carried out extrajudicial killings, were responsible for numerous cases of disappearance, routinely tortured or otherwise abused detainees, and arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado many of those suspected of involvement with armed Islamist groups. Poor prison conditions, lengthy trial delays, illegal searches, and infringement on citizens' privacy rights also remained problems. The government heavily censored news about security incidents and the armed groups. The government also continued to restrict freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement. The Family Code limited women's civil rights, while domestic violence against women remained a serious problem.
Armed groups and terrorists also committed numerous serious abuses, killing thousands of civilians. Armed Islamists have conducted a widespread insurgency since elections were canceled in January 1992. Although some areas of the country saw less conflict in 1996 than heretofore, acts of terrorism were still numerous. Islamist groups targeted government officials and families of security service members. They also assassinated political and religious figures, businessmen, teachers, journalists, state enterprise workers, farmers, and children. Armed Islamists targeted women especially; there were repeated instances of kidnaping and rape. Bombs left in cars, cafes, and markets killed and maimed people indiscriminately. By the end of 1996, most commonly accepted casualty estimates were than 60,000 people had been killed during five years of turmoil.
Since diplomatic relations were restored in 1974, Algerian-U.S. relations have gradually improved. This is due to Algeria's role in the Iran hostage crisis in 1981 and to increased commercial ties. Algerian-French relations have gone through periodic ups and downs. Ties with France cover an extremely broad spectrum. France is Algeria's leading exporter. Approximately 800,000 Algerians live and work in France. About 50 countries maintain resident diplomatic missions in Algiers.
After the cancellation of parliamentary elections in January 1992, which the Islamist opposition party, the Islamic Salvation Front (in French, FIS) was poised to win, a building confrontation between the military-backed government and Islamist armed groups quickly expanded. The armed groups' operations included attacks on the security services, and they also targeted schools, public buildings, security service members, and a variety of noncombatants, including journalists, intellectuals, government officials, women, and even children. Unofficial estimates of the dead range from 30,000-60,000 during nearly five years of fighting. In addition, over 120 foreigners have been murdered since December 1993. The Armed Islamic Group, thought responsible for those murders, also threatened foreigners and Algerians working in the hydrocarbons sector specifically. Although many Algerians perceive the violence is receding somewhat, fighting and terrorist incidents erupt regularly; no prompt military solution to the conflict seems possible.
The flag of Algeria consists of two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and white with a red five-pointed star within a red crescent; the crescent, star, and the color green are traditional symbols of Islam.
Arts, Science, Education
Before independence, a predominantly foreign scientific and artistic community thrived in Algeria. It was well-supported by the French Government and was intended mainly for the European community. From this community developed the University of Algiers, two libraries (each with more than a half-million books), important research in solar energy and anthropology, and a small but highly regarded group of writers and painters—Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus among them.
Since the revolution, Algerians have maintained many of these French foundations and traditions. At the same time, they are developing institutions and customs more typical of their own character and needs.
Although it is small, the Algerian artistic community is active and well-supported by the government and news media. Several painters have achieved local and international reputations and often present exhibitions of their works.
The country has a long tradition of handicrafts, especially in rural areas. Although modernization is eradicating many of these, among the crafts found here are hand-woven textiles, including flat-weave rugs and strips of tenting; traditional garments; pottery; basketry; coppercraft; brasswork; and leatherwork. The most notable is the Kabylie style of engraved silver jewelry decorated with coral and enamel inlays. Also notable are the intricate and colorful tiles which have for centuries decorated the courtyards and doorways of Algeria.
Expenditure on education has grown steadily since independence. Emphasis is now being placed on secondary and higher education. The University of Algiers (founded in 1909), its affiliated institutes, and other regional universities provide a varied program of instruction that stresses development-related subjects. Many technical colleges also are in operation as well.
In the mid-1990s, less than half of Algeria's population was literate.
Commerce and Industry
Despite Algeria's ongoing security difficulties, the Algerian economy is steadily growing. The engines of this growth are the hydrocarbons and agriculture sectors. Other sectors of the economy, especially industry, are suffering. The government, in conjunction with programs backed by the IMF and World Bank, is working to develop the economy from one centrally planned to one which is market oriented. In addition, the government is seeking to modernize Algeria's financial markets by working to establish secondary credit markets and attract private investment into commercial banking. These financial reforms should help spur investment, which so far has been minimal outside the food processing sector. Sustained economic growth in northern Algeria will likely await a resolution of Algeria's political turmoil, which so far has scared off many investors.
Algeria, whose territory is one-third the size of the U.S., has devoted significant resources to expanding and modernizing the transport and telecommunications sectors since the 1970s. Today, Algeria has a relatively well-developed infrastructure as a result. Unfortunately, armed groups fighting the government have often targeted the power and telecommunications networks as well as rail and road transport lines.
The Chambre de Commerce d'Alger is located at 6, boulevard Anatole France, Algiers; the other Chambers of Commerce are in Oran, at 8, boulevard de la Soumman; and in Constantine, at Palais Consulaire, rue Seguy-Villevaleix.
Frequent flights link Algiers' main airport, Dar-el-Bëida, to all major European cities. Flights are available to Paris, a two hour trip. Flying time to Marseille is one hour; Madrid, two hours; London, three hours; and Palma de Mallorca, a lovely vacation spot in the Baleares province of Spain, 45 minutes. Air service is available to Tunis and Casablanca. Tickets are expensive. During summer months, flights are heavily booked and obtaining reservations can be complicated. Ticket restrictions complicate arrangements for connecting flights.
Travel facilities in the Oran area are much the same, with daily heavily booked flights to Algiers, Marseille, and Paris.
Domestic commercial air service is provided by the national airline, Air Algérie, and serves all major interior and coastal cities. Because a policy of decentralization has increased emphasis on the development of interior cities, service to the Sahara is frequent. Fares are reasonable; but unannounced schedule changes also are frequent. Decentralization has created extreme crowding, and travelers often face a lengthy wait at airports for subsequent flights.
Algeria has international air facilities at Constantine, Annaba, and Tlemcen as well as at Algiers and Oran. Many other airports, smaller in size, and a number of airstrips are in operation throughout the country.
Shipping from Algiers is primarily cargo, but some passenger ships call at the port. A ferry service runs daily between Algiers and Marseille; twice weekly between Oran and Spanish ports.
Algeria has a good network of roads which are kept passable; but local travel can be an adventure. Although most Algerian drivers are extremely courteous, defensive driving is a must; the highway fatality rate is very high. "Fender-benders" are almost unavoidable, even for especially cautious drivers. Extremely heavy traffic should be expected in the cities, and particularly on weekend outings. It is not uncommon for a 30-mile beach trip to take six hours.
Algeria has over 3,000 miles (4,700 kilometers) of railway that connect all the major cities and towns in Algeria. However, trains are often overcrowded, unclean, and frequently late.
Public bus service in Algiers is not generally used by Americans because of overcrowding and erratic schedules. Intercity bus service is more dependable; most official Americans do not use the service, however, because of the crowding and unacceptable bus stations. The national tourist agency, offers bus tours to oases and other points of interest.
Taxis are very difficult to find except at the airport and major hotels. Drivers do not cruise, but wait at widely scattered stands throughout the city. Little service is available after hours and holidays. Taxis are metered and fares are not exceptionally high. Surcharges are often collected after dark. A tip of 10 percent is customary.
A private car is a necessity in Algiers. Walking in Algiers is very difficult because of the narrow, hilly, winding streets, which often do not have sidewalks. These same streets make driving conditions difficult at best—worse during rush hours. Parking can be time consuming and frustrating. A small car is most practical for city driving, although cars should have sufficient space to make long trips comfortable. To see the many sights scattered in diverse areas of Algeria requires extensive travel. Reliable repair and maintenance facilities for American cars are not widespread, but there are adequate facilities for small foreign cars such as Renault, Volkswagen, Peugeot, or Fiat. Japanese-made vehicles are seen with increasing frequency. Cars with left-hand drive are standard, but right-hand drive vehicles are not prohibited. Algerian safety laws require yellow headlights and the use of seat belts outside the city limits. Additional seat belts may be needed to secure a child's car seat. Emission control devices on U.S. models should be removed and cars adapted to receive local gasoline.
Third-party liability insurance is mandatory and must be purchased from Caisse Algérienne d'Assurance et de Réassurance (CAAR), a national company. It is relatively expensive. Insurance in Algeria is valid only within the borders of Algeria. When outside the country, coverage applicable to the visited countries must be purchased at the border.
Members of the official communities representing other countries do not need Algerian drivers' licenses if they hold valid permits issued elsewhere.
Telephone and Telegraph
Local and international telephone service is generally adequate, but it is sometimes difficult to get calls through to the U.S. Although international calls are expensive (about $1.65 per minute to the U.S.), direct dialing is available to most countries, including the U.S.
International airmail from the U.S. takes 712 days. Surface letters take a month. Parcel post service is irregular because the U.S. does not have a parcel agreement with Algeria. Once a parcel is received, lengthy customs delays may be experienced.
Radio and TV
Medium-wave and long-wave radios can receive French language programs from Radio Television Algerienne, Radio Diffusion Francaise, Europe No. 1, Monte Carlo, the Voice of America (evenings only), the BBC, and Moroccan-based Medi 1.
Reception of foreign shortwave broadcasts varies with the season, but BBC can be received clearly, as can Armed Forces Radio and Television Service broadcasts. Algerian television broadcasts between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m. daily. Many movies and the late-night newscasts are in French. Arabic programming (some-times dubbed American films) is the general rule. Algerian television uses the PAL system, so U.S. receivers will not work in Algeria.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
Three Arabic dailies are available in Algeria, and seven daily papers are published in French.
Few foreign publications are available locally. Magazines are usually subscribed to by individuals as they cannot be found in local newsstands.
Health and Medicine
Algiers and the other major cities have several large nationalized hospitals and clinics. These facilities, however, are considered to be below U.S. standards. For the most part, noncritical obstetrical, surgical, and emergency patients are sent to London (medevac point) or the U.S. (in the case of official Americans, to the nearest U.S. military facility). In critical emergencies, an Algerian military hospital will care for patients through special arrangement.
No American doctors currently practice in the country, but some foreign-trained local physicians and specialists are available. A number of these maintain private practices.
Public sanitation standards are lower here than in Western Europe or the U.S., although (in Algiers) garbage is collected almost daily. Feral cats and various vermin abound. While sewage systems are adequate during the dry season, they often overflow during and after rains, and sometimes there are almost daily water interruptions.
High year-round humidity makes this area inadvisable for persons with serious respiratory ailments and sinus trouble. Children seem particularly susceptible to colds and respiratory infections.
Rabies is endemic in Algeria. The three-inoculation anti-rabies series should be considered before entering the country.
Mosquitoes are a definite nuisance in the residential areas of Algiers, and are found in some areas year round. In certain parts of the country, malaria is prevalent. Therefore, malaria prophylaxis should be taken.
During periods of drought, water supply from the city is sporadic, oftentimes no more than once every three days.
All water used for drinking and ice cubes should be boiled. Bottled water is generally available. Typhoid and gamma globulin immunizations are recommended. Local milk should be boiled before consumption. Doctors recommend "long conservation" milk (boiled under pressure) for infants and small children; it can be kept unopened without refrigeration for a reasonably lengthy period. Both evaporated and powdered milk are usually available.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed and soaked in a disinfectant, and rinsed in boiled water.
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
Passage, Customs and Duties
No American passenger ships serve the Mediterranean. The best air connections for Algiers are from Paris, with direct flights available daily. It is also possible to fly from Madrid, Zurich, Rome, Frankfurt, or London. Daily flights go from Paris to Oran, and four to five flights a day are scheduled between Oran and Algiers.
Passports and visas are required for U.S. cietizens traveling to Algeria. For more information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria at 2137 Wyoming Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 265-2800 or go to http://www.algeria-us.org/ on the Internet.
Smallpox vaccinations are required. Yellow fever and/or cholera vaccination certificates are required for travelers arriving from infected areas. Inoculations which should be kept current include the complete polio series, diphtheria and tetanus, typhoid, cholera, and gamma globulin.
Americans living in or visiting Algeria are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Algeria and obtain updated information on travel and security within Algeria. The U.S. Embassy is located at 4 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi, B.P. 549 (Alger-gare) 16000, in the capital city of Algiers. The telephone number is  (21) 691-425/255/186. The fax number for the U.S. Embassy is  (21) 69-39-79. The U.S. Embassy workweek is Sunday through Thursday. The former U.S. Consulate in Oran is closed.
There are no restrictions on importing or exporting pets. Rabies, however, is common in Algeria. Pets must have certificates of inoculation and good health, and proof that rabies vaccination has been given within the last three months. Many hotels in Algeria will not accept pets, especially the SONATOUR (or national) hotels. Some will accept small pets more readily. None have kennels.
Firearms and Ammunition
The importation of firearms and ammunition is discouraged; handguns are strictly prohibited by Algerian law.
Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures
The Algerian unit of currency is the dinar (DA). It is divided into hundredths which, in popular usage, are called francs. Algerian currency notes may not be exported or imported.
The metric system of weights and measures is used.
Officially a Muslim Arab country, Algeria still follows the Gregorian calendar for most purposes, and Friday is the day of rest.
Jan. … New Year's Day
Mar. 8…Women's Day
May 1…Labor Day
June 19 …Revolution Recovery Day
July 5 …Independence Day
Nov. 1 …Revolution Day
…Hijra New Year*
…Mawlid an Nabi*
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:
Alf, Andrew Heggon. Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Algeria. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, IN, 1972.
Algeria. Les Guides Bleus: Hachett, Paris, 1974.
Algeria. Nagel: Geneva, 1971.
Area Handbook for Algeria. Foreign Area Studies, American University. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1979.
Horne, Alistair. Savage War of Peace. MacMillan Ltd: Great Britain, 1977. Viking Press: New York, 1978. Penguin Books, Ltd.: United Kingdom and New York, 1979. (This book is the best introduction.)
Humbaraci, Arslan. Algeria: A Revolution That Failed. Pall Mall Press, Ltd: London, 1966.
Kraft, Joseph. Struggle for Algeria. Doubleday: New York, 1961.
M'rabet, Fadila. Las Femme Algerienne. Maspero, 1964.
Ouandt, William. Revolution & Political Leadership. Algeria 1954-1968, M.I.T. Press: Cambridge, MA, 1969.
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Gale Group
Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria
Al-Jumhuriyah al Jaza'iriyah
LOCATION AND SIZE.
Algeria is located in North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It shares borders with Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Tunisia. Taken together, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia form what is known as the Arab Maghreb or West. With an area of 2,381,740 square kilometers (919,595 square miles) and a short coastline of 998 kilometers (620 miles), Algeria is the second largest country in Africa after Sudan, and is slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas. Algeria's capital city, Algiers, is located in the north on the Mediterranean Sea. Other major cities include Annaba and Oran, both in the north.
The population of Algeria was estimated at 31,193,917 in July of 2000, an increase of 6.2 million from the 1990 population of 25,010,000. In 2000, Algeria's birth rate stood at 23.14 per 1,000, while the death rate was reported at 5.3 per 1,000. With a projected growth rate of 1.7 percent between 2000 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 39.8 million by the year 2015. Muslims, mostly of the Malekite Sunni tradition, make up 99 percent of the population, while Christians and Jews make up the remaining 1 percent. A small percentage of the population are the indigenous Berbers, who speak Tamazight. Since 1995, the Berbers have been given wider autonomy and have been allowed to speak and teach their language. Arabic is the official and dominant language.
Algeria's population growth has slowed significantly since the early 1990s, reaching 2.8 percent in 1998, down from 3.06 percent in 1987. The slowdown is mostly attributable to a falling birth rate, which is now 2.15 children per family. Population growth is expected to drop even further in the coming years. The success of the Algerian government's family planning policies has ensured wider access to contraceptives and family planning education. The Comite national de la population (CNP) was established in October 1997 to oversee and coordinate national planning policies.
The population is generally young, with some 35 percent below the age of 14 and just 4 percent older than 65. Given the population makeup and the significant drop in the population growth rate, the government is faced with the daunting challenge of creating new employment opportunities, and is bracing itself for an aging population in the coming decades. Algeria's young population has also been a source of political instability, feeding an anti-government Islamic backlash that began in the early 1990s. Unemployment and limited job opportunities are largely responsible for an Islamic insurgency that has destabilized the country since 1991.
As in many developing countries, a majority of Algerians live in urban areas. In 1997, 60 percent of the population was urban, an increase of 29 percent from 1966, but the trend toward rural-urban migration is believed to have leveled off. Most of the population is concentrated in the north, with the capital Algiers and its suburbs being home to the largest concentration of Algerians; 4 million people live in the capital.
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
Algeria's small-to medium-sized economy is largely dependent on the hydrocarbons sector, which accounts for about 95 percent of export earnings, 52 percent of budget revenues, and 25 percent of GDP. The second-largest natural gas exporter in the world, Algeria is home to the fifth-largest reserves of gas worldwide. Algeria also has the 14th-largest reserves of oil in the world. The European Union is the largest market for Algerian natural gas.
The industrial sector is the largest contributor to the economy, accounting for 51 percent of GDP and employing 13.6 percent of the labor force of 9.1 million workers. The sector is dominated by oil-related industries. Other light industries can also be found, but their contribution to GDP is modest. The services sector is the second-largest economic sector, accounting for 37 percent of GDP and employing 13.5 percent of the labor force. The agricultural sector contributes 11-12 percent of GDP annually and employs some 22 percent of the labor force.
Algeria entered the twentieth century as a French colony heavily dependent on agriculture. Soon after the conquest of Algeria in 1830, the French created large agricultural tracts, built factories and businesses, and exploited cheap local labor. Until Algeria's independence in 1962, the bulk of its economic activity and wealth was controlled by the French colonizers, who successfully developed a small industry and a sophisticated export trade that provided food and raw materials to France in return for capital and consumer goods . The French also controlled about 30 percent of the total arable land, and were responsible for most of agricultural production and exports.
Since 1962, Algeria's economy has been centrally-planned, despite state efforts to privatize the economy and attract foreign investment. The country's huge foreign debt , which in 1999 reached US$30 billion according to the CIA, forced the government to launch an economic reform program in 1989. The government also concluded agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the late 1980s and 1990s to secure international credit for its envisioned reform program.
This program has been largely successful, with the government curbing inflation , cutting budget spending, and preserving foreign exchange reserves . The adoption of the economic reforms program has also accelerated growth and succeeded in reestablishing economic stability. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the program was coupled with austerity measures designed to reduce Algeria's external debt , which has proven difficult to control. In 1995, the government approved a framework for the privatization and restructuring of public sector enterprises. A financial sector reform program has also been initiated, although progress has been slow. As a result, Algeria has managed to achieve an average annual real growth rate of 5.5 percent since the mid-1990s, with the hydrocarbon sector being the main driving force of economic growth.
While the government has managed to achieve some progress toward economic recovery and reform, the country's troubled economy continues to be heavily dependent on volatile oil and gas revenues. Furthermore, the slow pace of the reform program, coupled with political turmoil, has failed to attract sufficient foreign investment or to create sufficient employment opportunities. Neither the hydrocarbon sector nor agriculture is capable of providing enough jobs to counteract long-standing unemployment problems. The rate of unemployment in 1999 was reported at 30 percent. By contrast, unemployment in the United States in 1999 was just 4.2 percent. The challenge to create new job opportunities for Algeria's young population is one of the biggest tasks facing the government.
Government bureaucracy is a major impediment to the conduct of business in Algeria. Red tape permeates all government ministries and the commercial court system, which resolves disputes between merchants and other businesspeople. Corruption is also widespread at all levels of the public sector, largely as a result of the low wages and difficult living conditions. In 1998, the government launched an anti-corruption drive, which resulted in as many as 2,000 public officials being prosecuted or awaiting trial on charges ranging from petty crime to grand larceny.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
After a bitter guerilla war with France (guerilla wars are fought with non-conventional methods by small units against larger, more conventional armies), which held Algeria as a colony, the country finally achieved independence in 1962. But Algeria's economy was in a state of chaos. Skilled labor was in short supply, as the French had taken with them most of the skilled personnel who ran the country. Until the late 1980s, Algeria's successive governments reacted by instituting a highly centralized socialist system that ensured the government a central role in the economy. Algeria's first president, Ahmad Ben Bella, moved to nationalize land and property previously owned by the French colonialists, which by 1963 had fallen under state control. Oil companies were nationalized in 1971, while agricultural land was placed under the control of workers. During this phase, the government placed special emphasis on the development of capital-intensive heavy industry. However, these state-led development programs and socialist policies soon proved to be a failure. The agricultural sector was particularly hit by bureaucratic mismanagement, inefficiency, and graft.
It was not until 1985 that the government came to realize the high costs associated with its socialist policies. Falling world oil prices, coupled with a high food import bill and a growing foreign debt burden, forced the government to re-evaluate its policies and abandon socialist policies. High unemployment rates, a lack of consumer goods, and shortages in basic foodstuffs threatened the country's political stability, as signs of popular unrest began to manifest themselves in protests. In 1985, President Chadli Benjedid shifted the focus of the country's development plans toward building a diversified economy by placing greater emphasis on agriculture. Benjedid's economic liberalization program sought to reduce central planning and decrease government control over the economy.
Since independence, Algeria has been ruled by 1 party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), which has largely used its dominance to impose heavily centralized economic structures that were justified through socialist ideology. However, the regime's priority on heavy industry and centralized management led to the neglect of the agricultural sector and the basic needs of its growing population. The decade of the 1980s laid bare the failure of the FLN to achieve either a lasting political consensus or a sustainable basis for economic growth. The sharp decline of oil prices in the mid-1980s, coupled with an intolerable debt burden and a high food imports bill, precipitated a financial crisis that accelerated the decline of the regime's appeal. Civil unrest and widespread demonstrations in 1988 sent a clear signal that the government's command of the people's allegiance had worn thin.
In an attempt to reverse the situation, the regime experimented with democracy between 1988 and 1991. In June 1990, elections for local councils resulted in an astonishing victory for Islamic fundamentalists, with the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) winning more than half the nation's towns and cities, including the capital of Algiers. In parliamentary elections in December 1991, the FIS continued to make impressive gains and appeared poised to take control of the government in the run-off vote slated for January 1992. Before this crucial election could take place, however, the army stepped in to put an end to this democratic experiment and its unforeseen consequences, canceling the elections, banning the FIS, and imprisoning its leaders. The military's decision to abort the electoral process led to the unraveling of what little political consensus and national unity once existed. The FLN had been discredited both by its inability to defeat the Islamists at the polls and its failure to manage the country's relatively rich economic resources.
Since 1992, Islamic militants have gone underground and launched a campaign of terror against the government. More than 75,000 Algerians have been killed in the ensuing armed struggle. Islamic militants have also staged attacks against the country's infrastructure —including telephone exchanges, electrical stations, rail links, and the international airport—as well as multinational oil facilities. The military has responded to growing terrorist attacks with a ferocious crackdown on militants. Since 1992, thousands of Islamic rebels have been killed by security forces during routine raids and ambushes. Even so, these efforts do not appear to have lessened the militants' resolve, and the spiral of violence continues.
Presidential, parliamentary, and local elections were organized in November 1995 through October 1997. These elections were aimed at transforming the military junta (a group of military leaders who rule a country) into a democratically elected government, and thus putting an end to the Islamic rebels' claims that the regime was not legitimate. However, with the army running the country, the political scene remains riddled with problems. Under pressure from the military, Gen. Liamine Zeroual, who won the 1995 presidential elections, announced his untimely resignation in September 1998, paving the way for the 15 April 1999 election of Abdulaziz Bouteflika, a 62-year-old former foreign minister. Bouteflika's election raised hope that the 7-year civil war may come to an end, but the violence is far from over. Shortly after taking office, Bouteflika declared general amnesty for Islamic militants who give up their arms and return to the fold of the nation.
Structurally, the Algerian government is a republic, with a president directly elected for a 5-year term and a bicameral (2-house) Parliament. The 380 members of the National People's Assemby are popularly elected for 4-year terms, while the 144 seats in the Council of Nations are filled with either members appointed by the president or elected by indirect vote. The prime minister is appointed by the president. However, this ideal government structure has rarely been achieved in Algeria, where ongoing civil and political struggles have meant the suspension, cancellation, and rescheduling of elections, and frequent interference by the military.
Since the 1960s, Algerian politics have been dominated by the military, which has constituted the power base of the regime. The role of the military, which has traditionally also played a big role in the economy, was briefly suspended in 1989 following the restoration of democracy in the country. By 1991, the military, which forms the bulk of the security apparatus, was back into politics to counter the Islamic insurgency. Today, the military in Algeria is stronger than ever and its powers are so extensive that no president can be nominated without the consent of the generals running Algeria behind the scenes.
The major source of government revenues comes from hydrocarbon receipts and customs duties , in addition to corporate, salary, road, and property taxes. According to the IMF, in 1999, taxes accounted for 13.5 percent of the central government's non-hydrocarbon revenue. Tax revenues decreased from 16.2 percent in 1997 to 13.5 percent in 1999, the direct result of the 1998 tax reforms, which sought to lower tax rates across the board. Taxes come in different forms. Taxes on goods and services account for the largest proportion of tax revenues, making up 6.4 percent of the total. Customs duties, which in 1999 accounted for 3.5 percent of tax revenues, are the second largest contributor. Taxes on income and profits and on wage income together accounted for 4.5 percent of government revenues.
However, tax evasion is a major problem, costing the government an estimated AD30 billion a year. Tax revenues dropped slightly from AD329.8 billion in 1998 to AD314.8 billion in 1999. The government's plans to press ahead with plans to improve tax collection measures in line with the IMF's recommendations are complicated by economic and political uncertainties—mainly the ongoing civil war.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
Algeria enjoys an extensive though aging infrastructure that has been largely neglected since independence. The country is serviced by a network of over 104,000 kilometers (64,626 miles) of primary and secondary roads, 71,656 kilometers (44,527 miles) of which are paved. According to the EIU Country Profile, Algeria's poor road system claims the lives of 10 people a day, while the cost of accidents to the state is estimated at AD10 billion annually. The road system is badly in need of repairs, and repair and renovation costs are estimated at AD227 billion. Roads, especially in urban areas, are highly congested. Plans are underway to privatize the road system in 2001 to cover the renovation costs, but the process is likely to be slow, despite the availability of foreign financing for the projects. Similarly, the nations' railway system, which consists of 4,820 kilometers (2,995 miles) of track, is troubled. The state's railway company, Societe national de transport ferroviare (SNTF) is also slated for privatization, but the process has been stifled by the lack of progress in the restructuring of the industry to focus on business activities. Rail lines have more than once sustained damage as a result of sabotage attacks by Islamic militants. The SNTF has been heavily indebted for years, and the railway system is mostly used to transport cargo.
Algeria has 4 major airports, located in Algiers, Oran, Annaba, and Constantine, all of which are fairly modern. Several airlines stopped service to Algeria in December 1994, following the hijacking of an Air France airplane at Houari Boumedienne airport. Many European airlines, with the exception of Air France, have resumed flights since 1999. The national carrier, Air Algerie, serves 37 destinations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. It carries 3 million passengers per year. Plans are currently underway in 2001 to upgrade the country's airports and expand their capacities and privatize Air Algerie. Algeria has 9 major ports, at Algiers, Oran, Bejaia, Arzew, and Annaba. The government plans to expand the handling capacity at the ports of Algiers and Oran in 2001.
Electrical power is supplied to Algerians by the state-owned power company, Sonelgaz. Over 90 percent of Algeria's 21.38 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of power is generated from gas, while the remaining 7 percent is generated by hydroelectric power stations in Kabylie. Over 94 percent of homes are connected, and the government is planning in 2001 to extend the power network to rural areas at the rate of 150,000 new homes annually. Like the rest of state-owned companies, Sonelgaz is slated for restructuring.
Telecommunications services in Algeria are generally aging, but are better in the north than they are in the south. Telephone service is provided by the Ministry of Posts and Telecomunications. The country had 1.17 million telephone lines in use in 1995, and some 33,500 mobile cellular phones in 1999. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in 2001 is upgrading the country's phone lines using fiber optic technology and digital systems. In 1999, the country had 1 Internet service provider.
Algeria's low-to medium-size economy is heavily dependent on natural gas and hydrocarbons, which account for about 95 percent of export earnings, 52 percent of budget revenues, and 25 percent of GDP. The industrial sector is the largest contributor to the economy, accounting for 51 percent of GDP and employing 13.6 percent of the labor force. The sector is dominated by oil-related industries. Other light industries can also be found, but their contribution to GDP is modest. The services sector is the second largest economic sector, accounting for 37 percent of GDP and employing 13.5
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Setsa||Cable subscribersa||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computersa||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999and are per 1,000 people.|
|bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
percent of the labor force. The agricultural sector contributes 11-12 percent of GDP annually and employs some 22 percent of the labor force. The sector, however, has been vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, and production has fluctuated accordingly.
Two of the greatest obstacles to growth in all of Algeria's economy are inefficiency in the state-controlled public sector and the state's central role in the economy. Recognizing these obstacles, Algeria has targeted certain sectors, mainly state-owned enterprises, for privatization. Years of inefficient state control over the economy have finally given way to reform. The government has embarked on an ambitious restructuring program coordinated with the IMF and its successful implementation is one of the main challenges facing the government in 2001.
Agricultural production is a moderate contributor to the Algerian economy, accounting for 11-12 percent of GDP and 22 percent of total employment in 1997. The sector's contribution to the economy, however, has declined sharply since independence. Years of government restructuring, lack of investment, meager water resources, and dependence on rainwater for irrigation have contributed to this decline. The production of cereals as well as orchard and industrial crops has significantly dropped. As a result, Algeria today has become dependent on food imports, accounting for close to 75 percent of food needs.
Although Algeria is the second-largest country in Africa, the arable land of about 8.2 million hectares accounts for only 3.4 percent of the total land area. The vast Sahara desert, which spans much of the south central part of the country, is not available for agriculture. Between 1961 and 1987, all arable land was controlled by the state, which divided the land into state farms, known as domaines agricoles socialistes. State farms were dismantled in 1987 and the land was divided into smaller collective and individual farms. Despite these measures, about one-third of cultivable land in Algeria is still owned by the government, which leases the land to private investors and farmers. The remaining two-thirds of arable land (about 5 million hectares) is privately owned.
Algeria's main crops are cereals (mainly wheat and barley), citrus fruit, vegetables, and grapes. Fresh dates exports have risen sharply in the past decade and have become the second-largest export after hydrocarbons. Some 72,000 hectares are cultivated with palm trees, mainly in the Saharan oases. Algerian dates are mainly exported to France, Russia, Senegal, and Belgium. Algeria was once a major exporter of wine and associated products. Despite government efforts to revive the sector, production has fallen significantly since 1962, reaching 248,000 hectoliters (6,552,160 U.S. gallons) in 1996, down from 410,000 hectoliters (10,832,200 U.S. gallons) in 1992. Algeria is also a producer of olive oil, and production has generally averaged around 150,000 hecto-liters (3,963,000 U.S. gallons) annually.
The bulk of Algeria's crops are cultivated in the fertile but narrow plains around Bejaïa and Annaba in the east, in the Mitidja Plain south of Algiers, and beyond Oran from Sidi Bel Abbes to Tlemcen. The agricultural sector's dependence on rainwater for irrigation has often affected its production levels, especially during droughts. The cereal harvest, for example, was badly affected by drought conditions that plagued North Africa in 2000, producing only half of its annual yield. Hence, despite government efforts to extend funding and technical assistance to farmers and increase the productivity of the agricultural sector, Algeria imports the bulk of the food it consumes, especially cereals (mainly wheat).
Though Algeria's location would suggest that the country would have a booming fishing industry, actual fishing production remains low, largely due to under-exploitation. Since the late 1990s, the government has embarked on a modernization program to increase the productivity of the sector, but most fishing activity continues to center around small boats and family-owned businesses. The government has also been trying to attract foreign investment in this sector, in the year 2000 granting some 20 Japanese fishing boats the right to fish in Algerian waters. This agreement was based on a provision that the catch does not exceed 750,000 metric tons of red tuna a year.
Hydrocarbons, mainly oil and gas, are the country's main exports. Algeria's oil and gas reserves rank 14th and 5th largest in the world, respectively. During the 1970s, Algeria was a large producer of oil, but has since lost that status as oil was replaced by gas production as the country's main source of export revenue. Oil, first produced in commercial quantities in the late 1950s, accounted for 73 percent of Algeria's hydrocarbon productions in 1980, but now accounts for about 20 percent. France, Spain, Belgium, Turkey, and the United States are the main consumers of Algeria's oil, and plans are underway to expand export activities, mainly to Europe. Although most restrictions on oil exports were removed in the 1990s and the government no longer subsidizes the sector, the state-owned company Sonatrach continues to retain full control over its activities.
The oil sector opened to foreign investment in 1991. As a result, foreign companies are now allowed to invest and even buy existing oilfields, and despite the high political risk associated with these investments, several foreign companies operate in the country in 2001. A total of 18 foreign companies operate in the oil sector, bringing in around US$1.5 billion in investments. Natural gas production began in 1961, and in 2000 represented 57 percent of total proven hydrocarbon reserves. Algeria is the second-largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world after Indonesia. The bulk of Algeria's gas is exported to Europe through 2 major pipelines that run through Tunisia and Morocco. Since the late 1990s, the government has been engaged in efforts to upgrade and expand oil and liquefied natural gas exploration by attracting foreign investments. It has also moved to increase the production of liquefied petroleum gas as a means to diversify income from this sector.
Algeria's non-hydrocarbon mining infrastructure remains underdeveloped. In addition to oil and natural gas, Algeria mines gold in the southeast Hoggar region and diamonds near the Mali borders, and exports high-grade ore, iron pyrites, phosphates, lead, zinc, mercury, barite, and antimony. Since the late 1990s, the government has made progress in removing restrictions on foreign and private investment in the non-energy mining sector in an effort to minimize the state's control over the sector. The sand, marble, and gold sectors have received special interest from small private investors.
The non-hydrocarbon manufacturing sector is a moderate though declining contributor to the Algerian economy. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000, though manufacturing accounted for 12 percent of GDP in 1993, its contribution fell to 9 percent in 1999. The decline in manufacturing's contribution to GDP can be attributed mainly to the legacy of centralization and inefficiency that have characterized the state enterprises controlling the sector. Algeria's manufacturing industries are beset by an oversized bureaucracy and debt, and have, as a result, lost their ability to compete with imported finished products. The government's efforts since the 1980s to restructure the industrial sector into smaller state-run units and encourage joint ventures with the private sector have failed to produce the desired turnaround.
Before independence, food processing, textiles, cigarettes, and clothing constituted the main manufacturing activities in the country. Since the mid-1960s, a greater emphasis has been placed on heavy industry. Historically, Algerian companies have processed petro-chemicals, steel, metals, electronics, clothing, leather, paper, timber, chemicals, and construction equipment. Petrochemicals are an important contributor to GDP. Petrochemical industries include methanol, resins and plastics, and fertilizers, and are centered in the 2 cities of Skikda and Arzew. Production in the private sector recorded a 10-percent increase in 1999, in contrast to the non-hydrocarbon industrial state sector, which saw a drop in output of 1.5 percent in 1999. The pharmaceuticals, chemicals, construction equipment, and leather industries were the leading performers.
Financial services in Algeria are fairly outdated, and the lack of modern services is an obstacle to the growth of the private sector and foreign investment alike. Until 1998, the banking sector was dominated by 3 major state-owned banks. But private banks, including U.S. and French banks, have been allowed to operate in the country since 1998 as part of a government plan to reform the sector. A new money and credit law was adopted in 1990, and although the Treasury purchased most of the local banks' debt in 1994, these banks continue to suffer from bad loans , mismanagement, and political interference. The Algerian stock exchange was officially opened in 1999, also part of the government's plan to privatize the economy.
Tourism is not a major contributor to GDP, despite government efforts to encourage the sector. Its promising potential is stifled by a lack of investment and the endemic political violence in the country, although the south, where some of the government's most recent projects are located, has been spared from these problems. Potential holiday destinations are the mountains and deserts of the interior and the country's beaches. Although foreign tourists have since 1998 started returning to Algeria, the sector has a long way to go to full recovery.
Lacking many large commercial centers other than Algiers, Oran, and their suburbs, Algeria has a poorly developed retail sector. While Algiers is home to a variety of retail stores, the majority of towns in the interior of the country have small family-owned shops, farmer's markets, and temporary roadside stands.
Over the past several decades, Algeria has maintained a trade surplus , largely due to the export of hydrocarbons, which accounts for 90 percent of exports. In 1999 that surplus reached $4.4 billion on exports of $13.7 billion and imports of $9.3 billion. This surplus has endured even when oil prices dropped, as they did in 1998 when the trade surplus reached US$1.5 billion. Nonhydrocarbon exports, although minimal, have risen in the last 3 years, but much of that is believed to have come as a result of repayment of debt owed to the former Soviet Union in the form of goods.
The value of imports increased between 1987 and 1995. Merchandise imports fell between 1996 and 1998, thanks to a good harvest, but rose slightly in 1999 due to an increase in domestic demand. Capital equipment accounted for 34 percent of imports, while food has generally accounted for almost 25 percent of imports. Semi-finished products were in third position, accounting for 27 percent of total imports.
The European Union and the United States are Algeria's main trade partners. The EU, which is negotiating a new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) agreement with Algeria, is a major importer of the country's hydrocarbons. In 1999, Italy—Algeria's largest trade
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Algeria|
|SOURCE : International Monetary Fund.International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
partner in the last decade—accounted for 17.8 percent of exports, followed by France (12.4 percent) and Spain (10.2 percent). The United States is Algeria's second-largest trading partner, accounting for 16.4 percent of exports in 1999. France is Algeria's main source of imports, accounting for 29.8 percent, followed by Italy (9.7 percent), Germany (6.8 percent), and Spain (5.9 percent). The United States comes in the fifth place, providing 5.3 percent of Algeria's total imports.
The value of the Algerian dinar held steady until September 1994, due to the central bank's policy of setting it at a fixed rate against other widely used currencies. This policy resulted in a wide gap between the official rate and informal exchange rates on the black market , where the dinar sold as high as 6 times the official rate at the end of 1989. The dinar has since been stable, but only after the government introduced full convertibility, allowing local importers to bid for hard currency in the local banking system. The country's strong foreign exchange reserves have allowed the banking system to meet the currency demands of the local market. Since 1998, the dinar has averaged AD66.57 to the U.S. dollar, but had slightly devaluated at the end of 2000, averaging 79.14 to the U.S. dollar.
|Exchange rates: Algeria|
|Algerian dinars per US$1|
|SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
POVERTY AND WEALTH
In the first 2 decades after independence, the government of Algeria made impressive gains in terms of raising living standards in the country by creating employment opportunities in the public sector and extending social benefits. However, the country's declining economic conditions since the 1980s, brought about by falling oil prices and years of inefficient state control, have had serious implications for the living standards of Algerians. High unemployment and inflation rates since the 1980s have led to a sharp increase in the incidence of poverty in the country. Between 1988 and 1995, the percentage of the population below the poverty line increased from 8 percent to 14 percent. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000-01, GDP per capita in 1994 dropped by 2.5 percent over the preceding decade. While unemployment and poverty figures rose sharply in urban areas, the countryside was more seriously affected; almost 70 percent of the poor live in rural areas. Unemployment is especially serious among younger, unskilled workers.
Despite widespread poverty, however, uneven development has led to the emergence of an affluent class that controls most of the country's wealth, enjoying an elevated standard of living and visiting shopping centers featuring the best imported goods. Living in the suburbs of Algiers and Oran, the wealthy send their children to private schools and universities abroad. Yet not far from these affluent neighborhoods, a significant number of poor Algerians live in squalor, with poor and overcrowded housing, limited food supplies, and inadequate access to clean water, good quality health care, or education. The extremes are reflected in the country's distribution of income: in 1996, the wealthiest 20 percent of Algerians controlled 42.6 percent of the country's wealth, while the poorest 20 percent controlled only 7 percent of wealth. This uneven distribution of income has been exacerbated by chronic housing shortages, which have given rise to poor shantytowns in most cities. These shortages have been the result of high population growth rates and decades of rural-urban migration. This has prompted the government since the early 1980s to shift
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Algeria|
|Survey year: 1995|
|Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.|
|SOURCE : 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
its spending priorities to address the housing shortages by constructing subsidized housing units and prefabricated houses at moderate cost.
The decline in living standards in Algeria continued throughout the 1990s, as the government embarked on a structural reform program to reverse economic decline, and as subsidies of basic foodstuffs were lifted. Unemployment numbers also continued to rise, standing at 2.3 million in 1999, and representing about 25 percent of the labor force, according to official estimates. Another 10 percent of the labor force is believed to be underemployed .
Algeria's mounting economic difficulties fueled public discontent that culminated in the Islamic rebellion against the state that began in 1991. The military's decision to abort the electoral process led to the unraveling of what little political consensus and national unity once existed. The FLN had been discredited both by its inability to defeat the Islamists at the polls and by its failure to manage the country's relatively rich economic resources. In the absence of viable secular parties, the Islamists claimed to represent the voice of the people.
Algeria's labor force has steadily increased in the course of the past 2 decades. In 2000, Algeria's labor force was estimated at 9.1 million, up 2.7 million since 1995. The majority of the labor force is concentrated in the public and agricultural sectors. Algerian workers are relatively poorly educated, as technical and basic education have lagged in the 1990s.
Algerian labor has a tradition of unionization, headed by the Union Generale des Travailleurs Algeriens (UGTA). About two-thirds of the labor force is unionized. UGTA has been a powerful force in negotiating public sector wages with the government, but the 1990 labor law brought collective bargaining to an end. However, GTA still retains its power to organize public-sector strikes to protest the decline of wages. These strikes, however, have seldom succeeded in forcing concessions from the government.
The government has adopted labor rights regulating working conditions and other rights of workers. The minimum age for employment is 16 years. These regulations, however, are rarely enforced, and child labor, especially in the agricultural sector, remains widespread. The minimum wage is US$90 (6,000 dinars) per month. The standard workweek is 40 hours.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
1830. France occupies Algeria and begins to lay down the economic foundation of its colony.
1933. Anti-French political protests begin and continue through 1956.
1950. Ahmad Ben Bella founds the Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action (Comité Révolutionnaire d'Unité et d'Action—CRUA), later renamed the National Liberation Front (FLN).
1962. After a guerilla war, Algeria gains independence from France. The Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria is formally proclaimed. First President Ahmad Ben Bella forms country's first cabinet since independence.
1963. President Ben Bella declares that all agricultural, industrial, and commercial properties previously operated and occupied by Europeans are vacant, legalizing their confiscation by the state.
1970. The first Four-Year Plan emphasizing capital-intensive heavy industry is adopted.
1971. President Houari Boumedienne launches an agricultural reform plan calling for the seizure of additional property and the redistribution of the newly acquired public lands to cooperative farms.
1976. Boumedienne drafts the National Charter; the constitution is promulgated.
1977. Boumedienne's death sets off a struggle within the FLN to choose a successor. Colonel Chadli Bendjedid is sworn in on 9 February 1979.
1980. The First Five-Year Plan (1980-84) and Second Five-Year Plan (1985-89) aiming at diversifying the economy are adopted.
1985. The 1985-89 Four-Year plan places greater emphasis on agriculture and decreased central planning.
1987. The Ministry of Planning is abolished.
1988. Popular protests break out; government declares state of emergency.
1989. New constitution promising pluralism is adopted. Abbassi Madani and Ali Belhadj found the Islamic Salvation Front.
1991. Government cancels national elections. FIS wages rebellion against the state.
1992. Parliament is dissolved.
1999. President Bouteflika announces national reconciliation plan to end the civil conflict.
Algeria entered the 21st century under a cloud of economic uncertainty. For much of the century, state control of the economy and the government's experiment with socialism has left the economy in shambles. The economic reform program waged in the early 1990s has set the stage for partial economic recovery, however. Some progress has been achieved in terms of improving transparency, cutting budget expenditures, updating legislation, and liberalizing the telecommunications market. Wide-ranging structural reforms have also been achieved.
The pace of Algeria's economic reform program, however, has been rather slow. Despite major reform efforts, the public sector continues to be a major force in the economy. Long-term challenges include servicing the country's huge external debt, further privatizing state-owned enterprises, and attracting foreign investment. More importantly, the government is faced with the daunting challenge of improving living standards, which have steadily declined over the last few decades, and creating new job prospects for Algeria's youth, who account for over 50 percent of the population. If left unresolved, the problem of unemployment in particular may potentially become a renewed source of political instability and a credible challenge to the regime. Much work is also needed on the political front. The government will have to improve the unstable security situation in the country to attract foreign investments. To that end, it has to find a way to end the cycle of violence waged by Islamic insurgents since 1991, which has become a major obstacle to foreign investments and economic recovery.
Algeria has no territories or colonies.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Algeria, 2000/2001. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.
The Embassy of Algeria in Washington, D.C. <http://www.algeria-us.org>. Accessed August 2001.
International Monetary Fund. Algeria: Recent Economic Developments. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, August 2000.
Ruedy, John. Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.
U.S. Department of State. Country Commercial Guide: Algeria Fiscal Year 1996. <gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu:70/00ftp:DOSFan:Gopher:12%20Business%20Affairs:04%20Country%20Commercial%20Guides:Algeria%20Commercial%20Guide>. Accessed June 2001.
U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Algeria. <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/algeria.html>. Accessed February 2001.
Algerian dinar (AD). One Algerian dinar equals one hundred centimes. There are coins of 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 dinars, and 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 centimes. Paper currency comes in denominations of AD1,000, 500, 200, 100, and 50.
Petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products.
Capital goods, food and beverages, and consumer goods.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$147.6 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$13.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$9.3 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Gale Group Inc.
Algeria (ăljēr´ēə), Arab. Al Djazair, Fr. Algérie, officially People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, republic (2005 est. pop. 32,532,000), 919,590 sq mi (2,381,741 sq km), NW Africa, bordering on Mauritania, Western Sahara, and Morocco in the west, on the Mediterranean Sea in the north, on Tunisia and Libya in the east, and on Niger and Mali in the south. It is the largest country in Africa. Algiers is the capital and largest city.
Land and People
Algeria falls into two main geographical areas, the northern region and the much larger Saharan or southern region. The northern region, which is part of the Maghreb, is made up of four parallel east-west zones: a narrow lowland strip (interspersed with mountains) along the country's 600-mi (970-km) Mediterranean coastline; the Tell Atlas Mts. (highest point: c.7,570 ft/2,310 m), which have a Mediterranean climate and abundant fertile soil; the sparsely populated, semiarid Plateau of the Chotts (average elevation c.3,500 ft/1,070 m), containing a number of shallow salt lakes (chotts) and supporting mainly sheep and goat herders; and the Saharan Atlas Mts., a broken series of mountain ranges and massifs (highest point: 7,638 ft/2,330 m), also a semiarid area and used chiefly for pasturing livestock. The Chéliff River, which flows into the Mediterranean, is the largest of the country's few permanent streams. N Algeria is subject to earthquakes, which, as in 1954, 1980, and 2003, may be devastating, killing and injuring thousands.
The arid and very sparsely populated Saharan region has an average elevation of c.1,500 ft (460 m), but reaches greater heights in the Ahaggar Mts. in the south, where Algeria's loftiest point, Mt. Tahat (9,850 ft/3,002 m), is located. Most of the region is covered with gravel or rocks, with little vegetation; there are also large areas of sand dunes in the north (the Great Western Erg) and east (the Great Eastern Erg). Important oases include Touggourt, Biskra, Chenachane, In Zize, and Tin Rerhoh.
In addition to the capital, major cities include Annaba, Blida, Constantine, Mostaganem, Oran, Sétif, Sidi-bel-Abbès, Skikda, and Tlemcen. Berbers once constituted the chief ethnic group in Algeria, but have been largely assimilated into Arab culture. The Berbers, beginning in the late 7th cent. AD, adopted the Arabic language and Islam from the small number of Arabs who settled in the country. Today those of Arab-Berber descent make up some 99% of the population. Arabic is the main language, although about 15% of the population still speaks a Berber language. These inhabitants live mostly in the mountainous regions of the north, but also include the nomadic Tuareg of the Sahara. Relations between Arabic-speaking and Berber-speaking Algerians have long been marked by tension. Arabic was made the sole national language in 1980, but that policy was reversed in 2002, when Tamazight, a Berber tongue, was also recognized as a national language. French is widely spoken, and about 1% of the Algerian population is of European descent (before independence Europeans accounted for some 10%). Almost all Algerians are adherents of the Sunni Muslim faith, the state religion.
About 15% of Algeria's workers are engaged in farming; agriculture contributes less to the country's GDP than either mining or manufacturing. The state plays a leading role in planning the economy and owns many important industrial concerns, including the mining and financial sectors. Since the late 1990s, there has been some privatization and openness to foreign investment.
Farming is concentrated in the fertile valleys and basins of the north and in the oases of the Sahara. The principal crops are wheat, barley, oats, wine grapes, olives, citrus, figs, and dates. Algeria is also an important producer of cork. Large numbers of sheep, poultry, goats, and cattle are raised, and there is a small fishing industry.
Petroleum and natural gas, found principally in the E Sahara, are Algeria's most important mineral resources and its leading exports. Production was decreased in the 1980s in order to delay the depletion of resources but rose again in the late 1990s. There are oil pipelines to the seaports of Arzew and Bejaïa in Algeria and As Sukhayrah in Tunisia. In 1993, a gas pipeline was laid between Hassi R'Mel (Algeria's main gas producing field) and Seville, Spain. Other minerals extracted in significant quantities include iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, and zinc. The country's leading industries include food and beverage processing, (notably olive oil and wine), petrochemicals, and light manufacturing. Algeria's limited rail and road networks serve mainly the northern region.
In recent years the annual earnings from Algeria's exports have been substantially higher than the cost of its imports. The chief imports are machinery, food and beverages, and consumer goods. The principal exports besides petroleum and natural gas are wine and agricultural goods (especially fruit). Algeria's main trade partners are France, the United States, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Since independence, there has been large-scale emigration to France by Algerian job seekers, who contribute substantial cash remittances to the country's economy.
Algeria is governed under the constitution of 1976 as amended. The executive branch is headed by the president, who is popularly elected for a five-year term and may be reelected. The bicameral parliament consists of the 362-seat National People's Assembly, whose members are elected by popular vote to five-year terms, and the 144-seat Council of Nations, whose members are appointed by the president (one third) or elected by indirect vote and serve six-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 48 provinces.
To the Early Nineteenth Century
The earliest recorded inhabitants of Algeria were Berber-speaking peoples who by the 2d millennium BC were living in small village-based political units. In the 9th cent. BC, Carthage was founded in modern-day Tunisia, and Carthaginians eventually established trading posts at Annaba, Skikda, and Algiers. Coastal Algeria was known as Numidia and was usually divided into two kingdoms, both of which were strongly influenced by Carthage. The kingdoms of Numidia were united by King Masinissa (c.238–149 BC).
In 146 BC, Rome destroyed Carthage, and by 106 BC, after defeating King Jugurtha of Numidia, it held coastal Algeria. The Romans also gained control of the Tell Atlas region and part of the Plateau of the Chotts; the rest of present-day Algeria remained under Berber rulers and was outside Roman rule. Under Rome, the cities were built up and impressive public works (including roads and aqueducts) were constructed. Much grain was shipped from Algeria to Rome. By the Christian era, Algeria (divided into Numidia and Mauritania Caesariensis) was an integral, albeit relatively unimportant, part of the Roman Empire. One of its most famous citizens was St. Augustine (354–430), who was bishop of Hippo (now Annaba) and a leading opponent of Donatism (which was in part a Berber protest against Roman rule).
By the 5th cent. Roman civilization in Algeria had been eroded by incursions of Berbers, and the destruction wreaked by the Vandals (who passed through Algeria on their way to Tunisia) in 430–431 marked the end of effective Roman control. Algeria again came under the control of numerous small indigenous political units. In the early 6th cent. a temporary veneer of unity and order was forged by the Byzantine Empire, which conquered parts of the North African coast including the region E of Algiers. In the late 7th and early 8th cent. Muslim Arabs conquered Algeria and ousted the Byzantines. Although few Arabs settled in the region, they had a profound influence as most of the Berbers quickly became Muslims and gradually absorbed the Arabic language and culture. In addition, the Arabs intermarried with the Berbers.
A number of small Muslim states rose and fell in Algeria, but generally the eastern part of the country came under the influence of dynasties centered in Tunisia (notably the Aghlabid of Kairouan) and the western part was controlled by states centered in Morocco (notably the Almoravids and Almohads). Also, in the 8th and 9th cent. Tlemcen was the center of the Muslim Kharajite sect, and in the early 10th cent. the Fatimid dynasty began its major rise from a base in NE Algeria. In the late 15th cent. Spain expelled the Muslims from its soil and soon thereafter captured the coastal cities of Algeria. Algerians appealed to Turkish pirates (especially the Barbarossa brothers) for help, and, with the aid of the Ottoman Empire, they ended Spanish control by the mid-16th cent. Algeria then came under Ottoman rule.
The country was at first governed by officials sent from Constantinople, but in 1671 the dey (ruler) of Algiers, chosen by local civilian, military, and pirate leaders to govern for life and virtually independent of the Ottoman Empire, became head of Algeria. The country was divided into three provinces (Constantine, Titteri, and Mascara), each governed by a bey. The power of the Ottomans, and later of the deys, did not extend much beyond the Tell Atlas. The coast was a stronghold of pirates (see Barbary States) who preyed on Mediterranean shipping. Privateering reached a high point in the 16th and 17th cent. and declined thereafter; there was a temporary increase during the Napoleonic Wars (early 19th cent.). A large percentage of the dey's revenues came from pirates. Considerable trade with Europe also was conducted from Algerian ports; the chief exports were wheat, fruit, and woven goods. The country was in addition a center of the slave trade, most of the slaves being persons captured by pirates.
Algeria in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
In an effort to discourage privateering from Algerian ports, a British fleet bombarded Algiers in 1816. By this time the dey's power was greatly circumscribed by the three beys and by independent-minded Berber groups, and he effectively controlled only a small part of the coastal region. In the 1820s a minor dispute with the French resulted in Charles X of France imposing a naval blockade of Algeria and then, in June, 1830, invading the country. The dey capitulated in July, 1830, but most of the country resisted.
In 1834 the French renewed their drive to occupy Algeria and in 1837 they took Constantine, the last major city to retain its independence. However, the Berber leader Abd al-Kader, whose power was centered in the hinterland of Oran, held out against the French until 1847, when Gen. T. R. Bugeaud de la Piconnerie led a major military campaign against him. Colonization by Europeans (half of whom were French and the rest mainly Spanish, Italian, and Maltese) began c.1840 and accelerated after 1848, when Algeria was declared French territory. By 1880 persons of European descent numbered about 375,000, and they controlled most of the better farmland. However, France continued to face isolated (but occasionally fierce) resistance, mainly in Kabylia (see Kabyles) and the Sahara region, until 1910.
In 1900 the country was given administrative and financial autonomy and placed under a governor-general, whose advisers were mainly European. By this time the colonists had started large-scale agricultural and industrial enterprises (introducing, among other things, wine and tobacco production) and had built roads, railroads, schools, and hospitals. The cities in particular were modernized. These improvements were intended for the Europeans' own use, and the Muslims benefited little from them, being left with scant political or economic power and with few legal rights. Although the official French policy in Algeria was to encourage the Muslims to adapt to European ways as preparation for full citizenship, very little was done to implement this policy, and there was virtually no mixing between the European and Muslim populations.
After World War I two types of protest groups were started by the Muslims. One movement called for a fully independent, Muslim-controlled Algeria; an early exponent was Messali Hadj, who in 1924 founded the Star of North Africa movement (later called, successively, the Party of the Algerian People and the Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties, or MTLD). The other faction sought assimilation with France and the equality of Muslims and Europeans in Algeria; its chief exponent was Ferhat Abbas, who, however, after several rebuffs by the French, was calling for Algerian autonomy by the mid-1940s and advocated complete independence by the early 1950s.
In World War II, Algeria at first came under the Vichy regime but later became (1942) Allied headquarters in North Africa; it also served for a time as the seat of Charles de Gaulle's Free French government. In 1945, a spontaneous nationalist uprising in Sétif resulted in the killing of more than 100 Europeans; the French responded by a sweeping crackdown during which at least 1,500 Muslims (estimates have run as high as 45,000) were killed. In 1947 the French national assembly passed the Statute of Algeria, under which the Muslims were to be given some additional political power. Most of the statute's provisions were not implemented, however, and the colonists (in partnership with the French government) continued to control Algerian affairs.
A radical group of Muslims seceded in 1954 from Messali's MTLD, formed the National Liberation Front (FLN; its military arm was called the National Liberation Army or ALN), and attacked police posts and other government offices in the Batna-Constantine region. In the following months the revolt gradually spread to other parts of the country. The MTLD was reorganized into the Algerian Nationalist Movement, which, led by Messali, unsuccessfully competed with—and at times fought against—the FLN.
In 1955, the FLN carried out more extensive attacks on the colonists (especially in the Skikda area), and the French responded with severe reprisals. By 1956 the FLN had the support of virtually all Algerian nationalists except Messali, controlled much of the countryside, and was organizing frequent attacks in the cities (especially Algiers). In 1957 the French successfully put down the resistance, and the FLN was forced to concentrate on guerrilla activities in the rural areas; the French also constructed electrified barriers along Algeria's borders with Morocco and Tunisia in order to reduce the infiltration of men and matériel. By this time, about 500,000 French troops were stationed in Algeria.
In 1958 there were demonstrations in Algeria by colonists and elements of the French army who feared that the government in France might negotiate a settlement with the Muslims that would undermine the Europeans' position; an ensuing political crisis in France resulted in the return to power of de Gaulle and the establishment of the Fifth French Republic. Fighting continued, and in 1959 the FLN established at Tunis the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA), with Ferhat Abbas as prime minister.
By 1960, de Gaulle had come to recognize the inevitability of some form of Algerian independence; the main problem concerned the future status of the almost one million European colonists, many of whom had been born in Algeria. Sensing the direction of French policy, the colonists and army (both of whom aimed for the full integration of Algeria with France) staged major protests in 1960 and 1961, but both were put down by de Gaulle. In mid-1961, Ferhat Abbas resigned as prime minister of the GPRA and was replaced by Ben Yusuf Ben Khedda. Shortly thereafter, negotiations with the French government began, and in Mar., 1962, an agreement was signed. The accord provided for an end to the fighting and for Algerian independence after a transition period.
The people of France overwhelmingly approved the agreement in a referendum held in early Apr., 1962, but members of the French army in Algeria, banded together in the Secret Army Organization (OAS), launched an armed campaign against Muslims in an attempt to prevent the implementation of the accord. In late April, however, their leader, Gen. Raoul Salan, was captured, and by late June the army revolt had been ended. Already in April colonists had begun to leave Algeria in large numbers; by October only about 250,000 remained, and most of them soon left as well. As a result of the more than seven years' fighting at least 100,000 Muslim and 10,000 French soldiers had been killed; in addition, many thousands of Muslim civilians and a much smaller number of colonists lost their lives.
Algeria after Independence
On July 1, 1962, the people of Algeria voted almost unanimously for independence in a referendum, and on July 3, France recognized Algeria's sovereignty. As a result of the fighting and of the exodus of colonists, the Algerian economy lay in ruins. Ben Khedda, the moderate leader of the GPRA, formed the initial Algerian government, but in Sept., 1962, he was replaced as prime minister by Ahmed Ben Bella, a leftist radical who had the support of the ALN (led by Houari Boumedienne). A constituent assembly chosen in late 1962 established a strong presidential government, and in Sept., 1963, Ben Bella was elected president. Ben Bella, who increasingly concentrated power in his hands, followed a left-wing domestic policy that included the confiscation of European-held farms and the nationalization of various parts of the economy. From 1963 to 1965 the Socialist Forces Front, a Berber group that had fought against French rule, mounted a rebellion against the new Arab-dominated Algerian government.
In 1965, Ben Bella was deposed in a bloodless coup by Boumedienne, his defense minister, who suspended the constitution and established a ruling revolutionary council, of which he became president. At first Boumedienne faced resistance from students and regional groups, but by the end of 1968 he had a secure hold on power. Algeria gave strong vocal support to the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 and also contributed soldiers and matériel. After an initial slowdown Boumedienne increased the pace of state involvement in the economy. In 1971 he nationalized (with compensation) French oil and natural gas companies in Algeria, and by 1972 output had reached record levels. Price rises for petroleum and natural gas in 1973–74 resulted in considerably higher export earnings.
Boumedienne died in 1978 and was succeeded as head of the republic by FLN leader Colonel Chadli Bendjedid. Berbers rioted in 1980 over legislation making Arabic the only official language, and in the same year a massive earthquake struck NW Algeria, killing an estimated 4,500 people. The 1986 collapse of world oil prices plunged the country into a severe recession. Riots in 1988 led to a series of constitutional reforms in 1989 that legalized opposition parties and guaranteed workers the right to strike; at the same time, government control was established over the media.
Civil unrest resulting from a rise in Islamic fundamentalism led to the postponement of national elections set for June, 1991. When first-round elections were held in December, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) took a commanding lead and was poised to win power. But in early 1992, Bendjedid resigned under pressure, and the military canceled the second round of elections and imposed a state of emergency. FIS activists were arrested and jailed, and their party banned. Islamic militants responded with a campaign of violence. An interim military council took power, with former independence leader Mohammed Boudiaf as president; he was assassinated in June, 1992, and succeeded by Ali Kalfa.
In Jan., 1994, Gen. Liamine Zéroual was appointed president. Under Zéroual, limited efforts at negotiations with the Islamic opposition were followed by a renewed crackdown. Zéroual won the Nov., 1995, presidential elections, which were boycotted by Islamic militants. Fighting continued, and he resigned early in 1999. Presidential elections held in Apr., 1999, were won by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the candidate of the military oligarchy; all the opposition candidates had withdrawn before the vote, claiming ballot-rigging.
The Islamic Salvation Army, the armed wing of the outlawed FIS, renounced its armed struggle in June, 1999; its members were to be granted amnesty (approved in a referendum in September) and invited to join government forces in fighting other radical guerrillas still waging war against the state. In Jan., 2000, President Bouteflika granted a blanket pardon to the Islamic Salvation Army forces, and the government announced that 80% of all the Islamic guerrillas had surrendered under the amnesty. Violence has diminished since then, but attacks do continue to occur. It is estimated that as many as 150,000 people were killed in the violence and repression that began in 1992.
The easing of the fighting has brought such issues as government corruption and widespread poverty and unemployment (estimated at 30%) to the fore. In addition, in 2001 there were large demonstrations and clashes with police by Berbers, who remained deeply unhappy about Arabic's status as the sole national language, a policy that was reversed the following year. Berber protests also sparked demonstrations against the country's stagnant economy by non-Berber Algerians. Parliamentary elections in May, 2002, were boycotted by a number of major opposition parties and many voters, and the FLN won more than half the seats.
French president Jacques Chirac made a state visit to Algeria in Mar., 2003; it was the first such visit since Algerian independence. Two months later a strong earthquake devastated many towns east of the capital, killing more than 2,200 people. The ineffective official response to the disaster led to public outrage and widespread criticism of the government. Late in 2003, tensions between the president and Ali Benflis, the FLN party leader and a former prime minister, led to a split in the government and within the party. Bouteflika was returned to office in Apr., 2004, in an election that observers called Algeria's fairest to date, but the vote for Bouteflika (83%) led Benflis, his main opponent, to accuse the government of massive fraud.
In 2005 the government reached an agreement with Berber leaders that promised economic aid and greater recognition of the Berber language and culture, but many of the details were not finalized. Voters approved a government national reconciliation plan that would provide amnesty for many Islamic insurgents and government security forces and compensate the families of persons killed in the insurgency. The plan, which was criticized by human-rights groups for absolving government forces of their involvement in extrajudicial killings, came into effect in 2006. At the same time, Algeria's remaining Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas, while largely confined to more remote mountain and desert regions, continued to mount attacks against the government and sought to expand their influence through training non-Algerian Islamists and recruiting fighters for non-Algerian conflicts from among Muslims in Europe and elsewhere outside Algeria. The main fundamentalist guerrilla group also officially aligned itself with Al Qaeda, and in Dec., 2007, mounted bombings against government and UN buildings in Algiers. Bombings, some of them significant, and other attacks continued into 2009. By 2012, however, government counterinsurgency efforts largely had confined the group to the rugged Kabylia region, and its attacks were much diminished. Other Islamist guerrillas, associated with a Mali-based group, have launched attacks in the remote Saharan south.
The May, 2007, parliamentary elections were won by the FLN-led governing coalition, whose three parties secured nearly two thirds of the seats. Turnout was light, however, with a little more than a third of the voters going to the polls, and some parties boycotted or were banned from the campaign. In Nov., 2008, parliament ended presidential term limits, enabling Bouteflika to run for a third term in 2009. In Apr., 2009, the president was reelected with 90% of the vote; although the election was boycotted by some opposition parties, the goverment said there was a 74% turnout.
In Jan., 2011, protests overs food prices soon turned into protests demanding political reforms, paralleling those in other Arab nations. They continued in subsequent weeks, but after the government in February ended the state of emergency dated to the military takeover in 1992, the protests dwindled. In April, the president promised to enact democratic constitutional and legal reforms. Elections for the parliament in May, 2012, resulted in a significant majority for the FLN-led government, but opposition parties denounced the result, and turnout appeared to be much lighter than the 42% announced by the government. Bouteflika, despite significant health problems, won a fourth term as president in Apr., 2014; turnout was reported at nearly 52%, with more than 81% voting for the president. Several candidates withdrew from the race after Bouteflika announced he would run; his main opponent, a former ally, alleged the voting was affected by serious irregularities.
See H. D. Nelson, ed., Algeria (4th ed. 1983); M. Bennoune, The Making of Contemporary Algeria, 1830–1987 (1988); F. Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (tr. 1988); J. Ruedy, Modern Algeria (1991); A. Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962 (1977, repr. 2006).
Copyright The Columbia University Press
RecipesSaffron and Raisin Couscous with Fresh Mint................. 2
Fresh Sweet Dates......................................................... 3
Etzai (Mint Tea)............................................................. 4
Banadura Salata B'Kizbara (Salad) ................................. 5
Sweet Couscous Dessert................................................ 5
Stuffed Dates and Walnuts ............................................ 6
Algerian Cooked Carrot Salad........................................ 7
Chlada Fakya (Fresh Fruit Medley)................................. 8
Cucumber & Yogurt Soup............................................. 8
1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
Algeria is located in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea. The fertile and mountainous northern region is home to the olive tree, cork oak, and vast evergreen forests where boars and jackals roam. Fig, agave, and various palm trees grow in the warmer areas. The grape vine is native to the coastal plain. Central Algeria consists of the High Plateaus that contain salt marshes and dry or shallow salt lakes. The land becomes more arid (dry) the farther south one travels, eventually becoming the Sahara Desert. Roughly 80 percent of the country is desert, where vegetation is sparse. Camels are widely used in this arid region, although jackals, rabbits, scorpions, and snakes also occupy the deserts.
The coastal region has a typical Mediterranean climate—pleasant nearly year round, with winter temperatures rarely falling below freezing (32°F). Rainfall is also abundant along the coast. Farther inland, higher altitudes receive considerable frost and occasional snow. Little or no rainfall occurs throughout the summer months in this region. In the Sahara Desert, rainfall is unpredictable and unevenly distributed.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
Algerian cuisine traces its roots to various countries and ancient cultures that once ruled, visited, or traded with the country. Berber tribesmen were one of the country's earliest inhabitants. Their arrival, which may extend as far back as 30,000 B.C., marked the beginning of wheat cultivation, smen (aged, cooked butter), and fruit consumption, such as dates. The introduction of semolina wheat by the Carthaginians (who occupied much of northern Africa) led the Berbers to first create couscous, Algeria's national dish. The Romans, who eventually took over Algeria, also grew various grains. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Algeria ranked among the top ten importers of grain (such as wheat and barley) in the world, according to ArabicNews.com.
Muslim Arabs invaded Algeria in the 600s, bringing exotic spices such as saffron, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon from the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia. They also introduced the Islamic religion to the Berbers. Islam continues to influence almost every aspect of an Algerian's life, including the diet.
Olives (and olive oil) and fruits such as oranges, plums, and peaches were brought across the Mediterranean from Spain during an invasion in the 1500s. Sweet pastries from the Turkish Ottomans and tea from European traders also made their way into Algerian cuisine around this time.
In the early 1800s, Algerians were driven off their own lands and forced to surrender their crops and farmland to the French. The French introduced their diet and culture to the Algerians, including their well-known loaves of bread and the establishment of sidewalk cafés. This French legacy remains evident in Algerian culture. In fact, Algeria's second language is French. (Arabic is the official language.)
Tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, and chilies, significant to Algerian local cuisine, were brought over from the New World.
Saffron and Raisin Couscous with Fresh Mint
- 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups couscous
- ¼ cup raisins
- 3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- In a saucepan, bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and add the saffron.
- Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Return the pan to the heat, return to a boil, and mix in the olive oil, salt, couscous, and raisins.
- Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Top with the fresh mint.
Makes 8 servings.
Fresh Sweet Dates
- 1 pound fresh dates
- ½ cup butter
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
- Remove the pits from the dates and arrange in 6 individual serving dishes.
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in the flour.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the flour turns golden brown. Be careful not to burn.
- Remove the flour mixture from the heat and stir in the cardamom.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, stirring occasionally.
- While still warm, pour over the warm dates and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
3 FOODS OF THE ALGERIANS
Traditional Algerian cuisine, a colorful combination of Berber, Turkish, French, and Arab tastes, can be either extremely mild or packed with flavorful seasonings. Ginger, saffron, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, and mint are essential in any Algerian pantry.
Couscous, the national dish, is often mistaken as a grain itself, rather than pasta. The pasta dough is a mixture of water and coarse, grainy semolina wheat particles. The dough is then crumbled through a sieve to create tiny pellets. Algerians prefer lamb, chicken, or fish to be placed on a bed of warm couscous, along with cooked vegetables such as carrots, chickpeas, and tomatoes, and spicy stews. Couscous can also be used in desserts by adding a variety of ingredients, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, dates, and figs.
No Algerian meal would be complete without bread, normally a long, French loaf. Similar to Middle Eastern customs, bread is often used to scoop food off of a plate or to soak up a spicy sauce or stew. More traditional Berber families usually eat flat, wheat bread.
Mechoui, a roasted whole lamb cooked on an outdoor spit, is usually prepared when a large group of people gathers together. The animal is seasoned with herb butter so the skin is crispy and the meat inside is tender and juicy. Bread and various dried fruits and vegetables, including dates (whose trees can thrive in the country's Sahara desert), often accompany mechoui.
Beverages such as mint tea are a favorite among all North African countries. Tea is usually offered to visiting guests, though coffee flavored with cardamom is another option. With the abundance of fruits year round, fresh juices are plentiful and children tend to favor apricot nectar. Sharbats, fruit or nut-flavored milk drinks, are popular with all ages, including sahlab, a sweet, milky drink. Traditional Berbers, in particular, prefer drinks made from goat milk, although cow milk is now available. Basbousa (Egyptian semolina cake), tamina (roasted semolina with butter and honey), and sweetened couscous are just a few sweets enjoyed by the Algerians.
Etzai (Mint Tea)
- 1½ Tablespoons green tea
- Boiling water
- 3 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
- Put the tea in a teapot.
- Pour in a cupful of boiling water, then immediately pour it out again. This is to wash the leaves.
- Add the sugar to taste, then the mint leaves.
- Pour in boiling water 12 inches away from the top (this oxygenates the tea) and stir well. Be extremely careful not to splash the boiling water.
- Serve the tea very hot, again pouring it from a height of about 12 inches.
- 3 cups (8 ounces each) milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup coconut
- ¼ cup walnuts or pistachios, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and set aside.
- In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over low to medium heat.
- As soon as the milk boils, reduce the heat.
- Stir in the sugar, and allow the milk to simmer until the sugar has dissolved (no more than 1 minute).
- Slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the milk, making sure to whisk rapidly to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. The milk will gradually thicken.
- When it reaches the consistency of a thick gravy, remove from heat.
- Pour sahlab into decorative small bowls, glasses, or mugs.
- Sprinkle with raisins, coconut, chopped nuts, and cinnamon, if desired.
- Serve hot.
Makes 6 servings.
Banadura Salata B'Kizbara (Tomato and Coriander Salad)
- ½ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- 1 small hot chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 5 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled
- 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Slice the peeled tomatoes and place in a bowl.
- Sprinkle the chopped coriander over the tomatoes.
- Mix the chopped chili pepper with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Beat the olive oil into the chili-lemon juice mixture.
- Pour over the tomatoes and coriander.
- Let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
Sweet Couscous Dessert
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons couscous
- ⅔ cup warm water
- ⅔ cup fresh dates
- ⅔ cup ready-to-eat prunes
- 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
- Rose petals, to decorate (optional)
- Place the couscous in a bowl and cover with ⅔ cup warm water.
- Leave 15 minutes to plump up.
- Halve each date lengthwise, remove the seed and cut into 4 pieces.
- Roughly chop the prunes.
- Fluff up the grains of couscous with a fork, then place in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and steam over simmering water for 15 minutes until hot.
- Transfer to a bowl and fluff up again with a fork.
- Add the melted butter, sugar, dates, and prunes.
- Pile the couscous into a cone shape in a serving dish.
- Mix the cinnamon and nutmeg together and sprinkle over couscous.
- Serve decorated with rose petals, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
The overwhelming majority of Algerians, about 99 percent, follow the beliefs of Islam, the country's official religion (Christians and Jews make up only 1 percent of the population).
The Algerian observance of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year (most often November or December), is the most celebrated of all holidays. During the monthlong observance, Muslims are required to fast (avoid consuming food and drink) between sunrise and sunset, although young, growing children and pregnant women may be allowed to eat a small amount. At the end of each day during Ramadan, sometimes as late as midnight, families join together for a feast. French loaves or wheat bread and a pot of hot mint tea will likely serve as refreshments.
The meal marking the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, is the most important feast. It almost always begins with soup or stew. Lamb or beef is most often served as the main dish, although families living close to the Mediterranean in northern Algeria enjoy a variety of seafood. In most Algerian homes, a bowl of fresh fruit is placed on the table at the end of the meal. Traditionally, each person is responsible for peeling and slicing his or her own fruit. However, on special occasions such as Eid al-Fitr, the host will often serve the fruit already peeled, sliced, and flavored (most often with cinnamon and various citrus juices).
Other popular holiday celebrations are Labor Day (May 1), and the anniversary of the revolution over French control (November 1). Two local festivals that are celebrated every spring are the cherry moussem (festival) in Tlemcen and the tomato moussem in Adrar.
A Typical Holiday Menu
Cucumber and yogurt soup
Stuffed dates and walnuts
Roast stuffed leg of lamb
Tomato and raisin-stuffed eggplant
Potato & chickpea salad
Fresh fruit medley
Stuffed Dates and Walnuts
- 12 fresh dates
- ½ cup ground almonds
- 2 Tablespoons pistachio nuts, very finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- Orange flower water (found at specialty stores)
- 24 walnut halves
- Powdered sugar, to decorate
- With a sharp knife, make a slit down the length of each date and carefully remove the seed.
- In a bowl, mix together the ground almonds, chopped pistachio nuts, and granulated sugar.
- Add enough orange flower water to make a smooth paste.
- Shape half of the paste into 12 nuggets the size of date seeds and use to stuff the dates.
- Use the remaining paste to sandwich the walnut halves together in pairs.
- Sift a little powdered sugar over the stuffed dates and walnuts. Serves best with rich coffee.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Algerian Cooked Carrot Salad
- 1 pound carrots
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
- Lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- Parsley, chopped
- Scrape the carrots and cut them into four pieces lengthwise.
- Cook in a little water with garlic and a pinch of salt and sugar for 15 minutes.
- Drain and chill the carrots.
- Just before serving, cover with lemon juice, about ¼ teaspoon of salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Makes 6 servings.
Chlada Fakya (Fresh Fruit Medley)
- ½ cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ honeydew melon, peeled, seeded, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup strawberries, cut in half, stemmed, washed
- 2 bananas, peeled and thinly sliced
- 5 seedless oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ cup orange juice
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- In medium serving bowl, carefully toss cantaloupe, honeydew melon, strawberries, bananas, and oranges.
- In a small bowl, mix orange and lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and pour over fruit.
- Toss gently, and refrigerate until ready to serve (at the end of a holiday feast, for example). Toss again before serving in individual bowls.
Makes 6 servings.
Cucumber & Yogurt Soup
- 1 large cucumber
- 2½ cups plain yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 lemon rind, finely grated
- 2 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup ice water
- Mint leaves, to garnish
- Rinse the cucumber and trim the ends. Do not peel.
- Grate the cucumber into a bowl.
- Stir in the yogurt, garlic, lemon rind, and chopped mint.
- Season well with salt and pepper.
- Cover the bowl and chill 1 hour.
- Stir in ⅔ cup ice water. Add more water if the soup seems a little thick.
- Adjust the seasoning, then pour into chilled soup bowls.
- Garnish with mint leaves.
Makes 6 servings.
5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS
Arabs are hospitable and encourage family and friends to share their food. Even an unexpected visitor will be greeted warmly and offered coffee (often flavored with cardamom), while the females of the household prepare the meal. Cooking continues to be considered a woman's duty, as it has in the past. Historically, recipes and cooking customs have been passed down through generations by word of mouth when women gather together to prepare meals.
All meals (normally three a day) are leisurely and sociable, although there are varying degrees of structure and etiquette (polite behavior). Seated at a low table (tbla or mida ), food is traditionally eaten with the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger of the right hand (the left hand is considered unclean). To use four or five fingers is considered to be a sign of over-eating and should be avoided. The dining atmosphere in a middle class family may be a bit more elegant. A servant or young family member might visit each individual at the table, offering a bowl of perfumed water to diners for washing their hands before the meal is eaten.
The country's capital, Algiers, and popular coastal towns tend to have a wide variety of restaurants, particularly French, Italian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Southern Algeria is less populated, and is farther from Algiers and the Mediterranean waters, where seafood and the hustle and bustle of trade are plentiful. Menus usually begin with either a soup or salad, followed by roast meat (usually lamb or beef) or fish as a main course, with fresh fruit commonly completing the meal. In the towns, souks (markets) or street stalls offer take-home products, such as spicy brochettes (kebabs) on French bread for those on the run. With the exception of an occasional fast food burger, school lunches are often such traditional foods as couscous, dried fruit, stews, and sweet fruit drinks.
6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION
Malnutrition has been one of the principal health problems in Algeria in recent years. About 5 percent of the population of Algeria is classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 13 percent are underweight, and nearly 18 percent are stunted (short for their age). Very little land in Algeria is cultivated (only 3 percent), too little for the country to be self-sufficient and feed its own people.
However, 91 percent of the population has access to adequate sanitation: nearly 100 percent of those in urban areas and 80 percent in rural areas. Free medical care, which was introduced by the Algerian government in 1974 under the Social Security system, helps pay for those who are ill.
7 FURTHER STUDY
Brennan, Georgeanne. The Mediterranean Herb Cookbook. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2000.
Mackley, Lesley. The Book of North African Cooking. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1998.
Walden, Hilaire. North African Cooking. Edison, New Jersey: Quintet Publishing Limited, 1995.
Webb, Lois Sinaiko. Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students. Phoenix, AZ: The Oryx Press, 1995.
ArabicNews.com. [Online] Available http://www.arabicnews.com/ (accessed March 6, 2001).
CookingLight.com. [Online] Available http://www.cooking-light.com/ (accessed March 8, 2001).
Samia , by Philippe Faucon. (Official selection at the 2000 Venice Film Festival) Samia is a teenage girl of Algerian descent living in Marseille (southern France) with her family. At home, Samia and her two sisters live in an Algerian culture. They speak the language, eat Algerian food, and observe the customs of their Muslim religion. But, as youngsters, they are torn; despite their parents' objections, they want to fit in with the rest of society. To be a young girl in this environment is even more difficult because her family's traditions have society believing that she has no independence. As she begins to spread her wings, the quick-witted and attractive Samia soon finds herself in conflict with her family. (In French and Arabic with English subtitles.)
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Gale Group,
|Official Country Name:||People's Democratic Republic of Algeria|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
|Language(s):||Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects|
|Area:||2,381,740 sq km|
|GDP:||53,306 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Television Stations:||46|
|Number of Television Sets:||3,100,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||97.7|
|Number of Radio Stations:||34|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||7,100,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||223.7|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||200,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||6.3|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||50,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||1.6|
Background & General Characteristics
The development of the Algerian press can be categorized into five periods: 1962-65, when the editors of newspapers were intellectuals of the FLN (National Front of Liberation) who enjoyed a certain autonomy; 1965 to 1988, a period when the intellectuals were replaced by civil servants who were docile instruments of the state bureaucracy; 1988 to 1992, when the press enjoyed greater freedom and several new papers appeared; 1992 to 2000, when journalists were restricted and threatened; and the period after 2000, when journalism had regained some of the freedom lost during the early 1990s.
Since the 1960s, when Algeria became independent from France, the press has been controlled by the ruling party, the FLN. Three years into the nation's independence, freedom of press became unknown to journalists and newspapers. Before the late 1980s, Algeria was home to three main government-run newspapers, El-Moudjahid (The Freedom Fighter) in French, Ech-Chaab (The People) in Arabic, and the weekly Algérie Actulalité in French. In the nineties, readership of these newspapers declined and Algérie Actualité was discontinued. Numerous privately owned newspapers have been created since.
In 1988, popular pressure brought about the explosion of the Algerian political system and the liberalization of the press. About two years later, new legislative elections were on the verge of placing the Islamists in power when the army, under the pretext of saving a young democracy, cancelled the elections and seized power. Over 100,000 Algerians were victims of the civil war that followed. Journalists and intellectuals were assassinated by armed Islamist groups and by the military in power.
According to the Algerian government, mass media should be under complete government control. Capitalist inclinations and individualism have been discouraged. Algeria has followed the populist socialist path. Capitalism is rejected, and instead, focus is placed on the public sector. Before the events of October 1988, it was impossible for journalists to investigate or publish material relating to government activities, unless the government furnished said information. Radio and television were government-run and censored, and the print media was published either by the government or the FLN (the party that ruled Algeria for 30 years.) The authorities also tightly controlled the circulation of foreign journals.
The military-backed regime that came to power in January 1992 curtailed the press and restricted freedom of expression and movement. In the 1990s, a number of newspapers were shut down, journalists were jailed and some disappeared, while others were openly assassinated. In some of the murder and disappearance cases, both the Islamists and the government have attracted suspicion.
In 1990, a ministerial decision guaranteed two years of salary to journalists in the public sector that created or worked for new independent or partisan newspapers. As a result, a virtual stampede of journalists and editors founded new publications. Like new political parties, new newspapers appeared. However, in 2000, it was reported that state controlled printers delayed the publication of certain newspapers for political reasons. Some newspapers accused the state of favoritism when it came to distributing government advertising.
One hundred journalists and other media workers have been murdered from May 1993 to August 1997. While Islamists were blamed for most of the killings, the Algerian government was believed to have played a role in some of the killings. The fate of many other journalists is unknown as of 2002.
In 1993, there were 117 publications: 21 dailies, 34 weeklies and 62 periodicals, 57 of which were printed in the Arabic language and 60 in the French language. In 1996, the number of publications went down to 81: 19 dailies, 44 weeklies and 10 magazines. The total number of journalists was 1,700. Most of the big political parties used to have their own newspapers; however, due to financial constraints, the majority were discontinued. Nevertheless, among the remaining newspapers, many tend to take positions with different political parties. Dailies and weeklies such as La Tribune, L'Autentique ElSabah (the morning), El Djadid (the new), El Houria (the freedom), Le Quotidian d'Oran were created after 1992.
Amongst the most read French newspapers are El Watan, Le MatinLe Soir d'AlgérieLe Quotidiend'Oran, LibertéLa TribunL'AuthentiqueHorizons and the newly created L'Epression. El Watan is known for being unbiased. Le Matin and Le Soir d'Algérie are anti-government. Le Quotidien d'Oran is known for the high quality of its journalists. As for the latest addition, L'Expression, its editorials tend to defend the government and justify its actions.
The most respected Arabic newspapers are: El Khaber (The News) and El Youm (today.) Older newspapers, such as El Moudjahid and Ech Chaab, have lost grounds to more independent publications.
The media's effort to spread information to the different socio-economic classes has, for the most part, been unsuccessful. The educated and affluent elite that controls the content and dissemination of mass media to the whole of Algerian society often fails to reach classes outside of itself. Many rural Algerians are illiterate and too poor to own a television or buy newspapers. Those who do have access may not understand the Standard Arabic and French used in all forms of the media.
The present circulation the El-Moudjahid is about 40,000 for the entire country while El-Watan prints about 100,000 daily. The annual circulation of the Algerian newspapers is estimated at 364 million. Due to the high illiteracy rate in Algeria (41 percent in 1990), especially among the older generation, readership is confined to the elite.
Most of the Algerian urban population lives in the northern 10 percent part of the country. The southern part, the Sahara, is sparsely populated. Consequently, most publishing and other media activities are concentrated in the northern part of Algeria.
The government officially announced in 1998 that a budget of 400 million Algerian dinars (about $6.5 million) had been allocated to aid the press. By 2001, 500 million Algerian dinars had been committed to aid journalists who opted to leave the public sector in favor of the private sector. This aid came in the form of two years of guaranteed salary.
From the establishment of a private press in 1990 until Dec. 31, 1995, the state subsidized the publishing costs by paying the difference between the actual cost and what the newspapers were able to pay. The state has also made available three press centers to public and private newspapers.
The Information Act, Law No. 90-7 (dated April 3,1990) regarding information forbids newspapers to publish any stories or information about political violence and security from any source other than the government. Algerian legislation prohibits criticism of the regime system as it is considered a crime affecting the state's security.
In 1999, an attempt to pass a law to end government monopoly over advertisement failed. During the same year, the government ended its monopoly over the Internet and opened the market to private Internet Service Providers.
Algerian journalists have the right to keep their sources of information and news confidential, a right considered one of the most prominent aspects of freedom of expression. This protects the journalists' resources against retribution and guarantees the flow of information.
Algeria imposes through legislation a clear prior censorship on the content of media. The import of foreign periodicals through Algeria should be through a prior license issued by the concerned department after consultation with a higher council. The import by foreign corporations and diplomatic missions of periodical publications meant for free distribution is possible after obtaining a license from the concerned department.
Before the 1988 riots, it was impossible for journalists to investigate or publish material relating to high-level government corruption, unless the government provided said information. The print media was published either by the government or the FLN.
Nevertheless, during the last few years of the second millennium and the beginning of the third millennium, the Algerian press offered a wide range of news, events, comments and stories that were previously taboo such as AIDS, prostitution and corruption.
Additionally, two democratic and independent organizations, the Association of Algerian Journalists (AJA) and the National Union of Algerian Journalists (SNJA), were formed during the state of emergency that was in place after the 1988 riots. In the late nineties, the SNJA organized large demonstrations demanding the return of suspended newspapers.
The government controls the supply of newsprint and owns the printing presses and is therefore able to put economic pressure on the newspapers. The state also exercises authority over the distribution of advertising, giving preferential treatment to the newspapers whose content is in line with the views of the government. President Bouteflika has stated that the media should "ultimately be at the service of the state."
Harassment of the privately owned press, whether legal, economic or administrative, was common practice. In mid-October, 1998, the state-run printing presses decided to stop printing the two most read newspapers, the dailies El Watan and Le Matin after they were given a 48-hour ultimatum to pay their debts in full. This came despite the April agreement to pay any debts in installments until December 31, 1998. The suspension decision came after El Watan and Le Matin published a series of articles and letters directing accusations against the Minister of Justice and a close advisor of the President of the Republic. Subsequently, both officials were forced to resign. The public (and the journalists) saw the suspension of the newspapers as a punishment for exposing government officials. Four newspapers owned by a former advisor to the president were also in debt, but continued to print.
In solidarity with the two suspended newspapers, many other newspapers voluntarily stopped the printing of their publications. This incident gave more credibility to the privately-owned press; subsequently, Algerians realized the importance of independent newspapers.
During the period 1993-98, journalists and media workers were targeted by the various extremist Islamic terrorist groups. As a result, 60 journalists and 10 media workers were assassinated, while five journalists were reported missing. Both the extreme Islamic groups and the government were suspected to have participated in their disappearance.
For security reasons, about 600 journalists have been housed in hotels and other housing units in proximity of Algiers under the protection of security guards. The government assumes full responsibility of the incurred costs.
When the journalists are spared death, they are faced with imprisonment, fines or suspension of their newspapers if they do not comply with state law. As the state continues to exert leverage over private newspapers through its ownership of the country's main printing houses, it also possesses the power to summon journalists to court.
Attitude Toward Foreign Media
Foreign correspondents have restricted access to Algerian affairs. Foreign media have accused the Algerian government of implementing a restrictive policy toward the granting of entry visas to foreign journalists. However, government-released figures show that in 1998, 626 foreign journalists were allowed to enter the country. These foreign journalists, mostly European, have reported limited access to opposition figures and to local sources who are willing to discuss political violence and other sensitive issues.
The authorities tightly control the circulation of foreign journals. In the 1980s, the Paris-based weekly political magazine Jeune Afrique that dealt with African affairs (and had a large readership among the Algerian educated class) was banned. The French daily Le Monde and other French publications were tightly controlled and periodically seized for carrying articles the government found objectionable. However, there were always ways for Algerians to obtain such "popular" issues.
For the most part, Algerians prefer watching foreign TV channels such as the Arabic channels MBC, ART Al-Jazeera, and French channels such as TV5, TF1France 2 and FR3. In a 1988 survey for the Portuguese Manata Company, Algeria had 1.5 million satellite dishes, the highest proportion of dishes to population in the world.
Algeria has one news agency. The Algerian Press Service (APS) is located in Algiers and is run by the state. APS was founded in 1961. In 1994 it launched its first computerized editorial office and in 1998 its satellite broadcast. The agency is represented in twelve foreign capitals: Washington, Moscow, Paris, London, Brussels, Rome, Madrid, Cairo, Rabat, Tunis, Amman and Dakar.
Television and radio are public institutions run by the Algerian government. The Algerian television channel (ENTV) and the three main radio channels maintain regular news service and are the channels of the dissemination of official political discourse. The television presents news in three languages, Arabic, French and English.
The three national radio channels are: Channel 1 (Arabic), Channel 2 (Berber), and Channel 3 (French and some English.) Numerous regions of the country have their own radio stations.
Electronic News Media
Most newspapers are available on the Internet. In Algeria, journalists at the much-censored La Nation were able to post an edition of the weekly at the web site of Reporters sans Frontiéres, a French freedom of expression organization, after La Nation closed its doors in 1996.
When private dailies in Algeria went on strike in October 1998 to protest pressure from state-run printing presses, they published bulletins daily on the Web to mobilize support for their cause.
Algerians can visit numerous web sites mounted by Islamist groups that are banned and have no legal publications inside Algeria, including the Salvation Islamic Front (Front Islamique du Salut—FIS.)
Perhaps the most defiant use of the Internet in a country without a freedom of the press is the use of the Web as a substitute for censored media. Newspapers censored in Algeria have placed banned stories online, where they circulate widely to the Algerian emigrants and foreigners.
Education & TRAINING
In addition to journalism schools, a number of training opportunities are available to practicing journalists. For instance, in 2001 the U.S. Agency for International Development funded a one-week training session in Algeria for 15 print journalists. This training focused on investigative reporting in the areas of human rights and rule of law, as part of a 15-month project implemented by the RIGHTS Consortium and headed by Freedom House.
Algerian press, despite the controversies and the bad publicity it received in the nineties, is considered one of the freest in the Arab World. Since 2000, no journalist has been jailed, killed or threatened, and no newspaper has been shut down. The restrictions placed on the press protect the sovereignty of the state; therefore any defamation or personal attack against government and military officials is punishable by imprisonment or fines. The government contends that journalists must choose to use the government presses and respect its laws, or get their own presses. An argument deemed fair to some and unfair to others. While the current political climate is improving, journalists in Algeria stand to meet higher standards of practice to complete with western sources of information as most publications lack objectivity. More importantly, it must find a way to sustain independent financial support so as not to rely on the over conditional government sources needed to disseminate information.
- 1998: National Union of Journalists is created. The state printers suspend the printing of several privately owned daily newspapers. The state requires journalists to obtain agreement of the authorities before publishing any information dealing with issues regarding security. Physical attacks on journalists that started in 1993 have receded.
- 1999: Early elections. Mr. Bouteflika is the uncontested new President of the Republic.
- 2001: New libel law that would penalize defamation against President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika or other senior government and military officials by imprisonment of up to one year and fines of 250,000 dinars (US $3,500).
Committee to Protect Journalists. Attacks on the Press. 1996. Available from http://www.cpj.org/
Chagnollaud, Jean-Paul, ed. Parole aux algériens: Violence et politique en Algérie. (Essays by Algerian journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens). Paris: Harmattan, 1998.
Faringer, Gunilla L. Press Freedom in Africa. New York: Praeger, 1991.
International Press Institute. Algeria: World Press Review. 2001. Available from http://www.freemedia.at/
Mahrez, Khaled and Lazhari Labter. 1998 Report on the Situation of the Media and the Freedom of the Press in Algeria, International Federation of Journalists Algiers. 1999. Available from http://ifj.org/
Rugh, William A. The Arab Press: News Media and Political Process in the Arab World. Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, 1987.
Smail, Said. Mémoires torturées: un journaliste et un écrivain algérien raconte. Paris: Harmattan, 1997
Stone, Martin. The Agony of Algeria. Columbia University Press: New York, NY, 1997.
Stora, Jenjamin. Algeria: 1830-2000. A Short History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
Waltz, Susan E. Human Rights And Reform. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Willis, Michael. Islamist Challenge Algeria. New York: New York University Press, 1996.
COPYRIGHT 2003 The Gale Group
Official name: Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria
Area: 2,381,740 square kilometers (919,590 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Tahat (3,003 meters/9,853 feet)
Lowest point on land: Chott Melrhir (40 meters/131 feet below sea level)
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) from east to west; 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: 7,341 kilometers (4,561 miles) total boundary length; Tunisia, 958 kilometers (595 miles); Libya, 982 kilometers (610 miles); Niger, 956 kilometers (594 miles); Mali, 1,376 kilometers (855 miles); Mauritania, 463 kilometers (288 miles); Morocco, 1,637 kilometers (1,017 miles)
Coastline: 998 kilometers (620 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Algeria is the largest of the three countries that form the Maghreb region of northwest Africa. (The Maghreb region is made up of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.) Algeria is the second-largest country in Africa; only Sudan is larger. Algeria is a little less than three-and-a-half times the size of Texas, and it is as large as the whole of Western Europe.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Algeria has no territories or dependencies.
Algeria's geographical diversity produces a range of climatic conditions. The northern part of the country has a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The plateau region has a semiarid (having light annual rainfall) climate, with greater contrasts between summer and winter. Temperatures vary the most in the Sahara Desert region, which has an arid climate with almost no annual rainfall. Summer temperatures average about 25°C (77°F) in the northern coastal region, 27°C (81°F) on the plateau, and 34°C (93°F) in the desert, where readings as high as 49°C (120°F) have been recorded. Average winter temperatures range from about 5°C (41°F) on the plateau to about 11°C (52°F) in the north; winter lows in the desert can plummet to as low as -10°C (14°F). The hot, dusty wind known as the sirocco often blows in the summer.
Just as its temperatures vary, Algeria's rainfall also differs by region. Fewer than 10 centimeters (4 inches) of rain fall annually in the Sahara Desert, but as many as 100 centimeters (40 inches) may fall in the easternmost section of the mountainous Tell region in the north. Precipitation is heaviest between September and December, tapering off in January. Very little rainfall occurs in the summer months. Drought occurs frequently in the Saharan region.
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
The southern 80 percent of Algeria's land is in the Sahara Desert and almost completely uninhabited. The northern half of the desert is less arid than the southern half, and most of the region's oases (any fertile tract in the midst of a wasteland) are found here. The southern zone of the Sahara is almost totally arid and consists mostly of barren rock. Its most prominent feature is the Ahaggar mountain range, which rises in the southeast.
To the north of the Sahara lies the Tell region, made up of consecutive belts of land extending west to east, roughly parallel to the Mediterranean border. The region consists of a narrow strip of coastal plains and the two Algerian sections of the Atlas Mountains (Tell Atlas and Saharan Atlas), as well as a plateau that separates them. In contrast to the Tell region, the prominent topographic features (mountains, plains, and basins) in the northeastern corner of Algeria do not parallel the coast.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
The Mediterranean Sea borders Algeria to the north. The Mediterranean Sea is an almost completely landlocked sea that lies between southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwest Asia. It links to the Atlantic Ocean in the west through the Strait of Gibraltar, and to the Red Sea in the southeast through the Suez Canal. It also connects to the Black Sea to the northeast through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus.
Sea Inlets and Straits
Algeria's Mediterranean coastline is relatively smooth, especially in the center. The shallow Gulf of Bejaïa is the only indentation of any size. There are several smaller bays at the eastern and western ends of the coast.
Coastal plains alternate with steep uplands along much of the coast, except for the easternmost section, where the coast is mostly mountainous.
6 INLAND LAKES
There are shallow salt lakes and salt marshes (soft, wet lands) in the high plateaus.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
Because its rainfall is scanty and irregular, Algeria has few permanent inland bodies of water and no navigable rivers (rivers that can be used for boating). Almost all of the Algerian rivers flow only seasonally (during rainy periods) or irregularly. The longest and best known of these is the Chelif, which wanders for 230 kilometers (143 miles) from its source in the Tell Atlas to the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the Tell streams diminish to trickles or go dry in summer. In the western part of the country, reservoirs have been developed for irrigation in the Chelif and Hamiz river basins (area drained by a river). The land in the southernmost Saharan region is largely arid but contains some date-palm oases.
South of the Saharan Atlas, the Algerian portion of the Sahara Desert extends southward 1,500 kilometers (931 miles) to the country's borders with Niger and Mali. Its average elevation is about 460 meters (1,500 feet). Immense areas of sand dunes, called ergs, occupy about one-fourth of the desert. The two major ergs are the Grand Erg Occidental (Great Western Erg) and the larger Grand Erg Oriental (Great Eastern Erg), where enormous dunes 2 to 5 meters (7 to 16 feet) high are spaced about 40 meters (130 feet) apart. Much of the remainder of the desert is covered by bare, rocky platforms called hamada that are elevated above the sand dunes. Almost the entire southeastern quarter of the desert is taken up by the Ahaggar Mountains. They are surrounded by sandstone plateaus cut by deep gorges and, to the west, a flat, pebble-covered expanse that stretches to the Mali frontier (border).
The Sahara is the world's largest desert. It spans the width of the African continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, extending over parts of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Chad, Niger, and Sudan. The Sahara covers a vast area of around 8,547,000 square kilometers (3,300,000 square miles).
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The major cities of Algiers, Oran, and Annaba are located on Algeria's narrow coastal plains. The port cities of Bejaia and Skikda also are situated along the coast. The country's most fertile agricultural areas are in these northern plains, including the gentle hills that extend 100 kilometers (62 miles) westward from Algiers.
DID YOU KNOW?
Chott Ech Chergui, lying southwest of Algiers near the border with Morocco, is the second largest chott (or shatt, salt-water lake) in North Africa. (Only Chott Djerid in Tunisia is larger.) The chott features marshy, stagnant water, while the region around Chott Ech Chergui is barren. In winter, migrating waterfowl nest around Chott Ech Chergui.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The Atlas Mountains cover much of Morocco and extend eastward into Tunisia. Within Algeria, they are known as the Tell Atlas and Saharan Atlas ranges. The Tell Atlas, farther to the north, extends from the Moroccan frontier in the west to Bejaia in the east. Its peaks, some of which rise to heights of over 1,830 meters (6,000 feet), include the Greater and Lesser Kabylie, as well as the Tlemcen and Madjera summits.
The Saharan Atlas Mountains separate the Maghreb desert region from the Sahara Desert to the south. They are higher and more continuous than the Tell Atlas Mountains, and they consist of three ranges: the Ksour near the Moroccan border, the Amour, and the Ouled Nail south of Algiers. Dominating the southeast area of the country are the Ahaggar Mountains, with irregular heights reaching above 2,000 meters (6,561 feet). Algeria's highest peak, Mount Tahat (3,003 meters/9,853 feet), rises from in this range.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
About 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Algiers, there are a few limestone caves as well as near Tlemcen in the northwest.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
The High Plateaus stretch for more than 600 kilometers (372 miles) eastward from the Moroccan border. They consist of a steppe-like (treeless) tableland lying between the Tell and Saharan Atlas ranges. Averaging between 1,100 and 1,300 meters (3,609 and 4,265 feet) in elevation in the west, the plateaus drop to 400 meters (1,312 feet) in the east. They are so dry that they are sometimes considered part of the Sahara.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
Most of the Tell streams diminish to trickles or go dry in summer, but in the west, reservoirs have been developed in the Chelif and Hamiz river basins for irrigation purposes.
14 FURTHER READING
Fromentin, Eughne. Between Sea and Sahara: An Algerian Journa l. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999.
McLaughlan, Anne, and Keith McLaughlin. Morocco & Tunisia Handbook, 1996; With Algeria, Libya, and Mauritania. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1995.
Ruedy, John. Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
ArabNet. http://www.arab.net/algeria/algeria_contents.html (accessed February, 3, 2003).
Miftah Shamali Web site. http://i-cias.com/m.s/algeria/ (accessed June 19, 2003).
COPYRIGHT 2003 The Gale Group, Inc.
2,381,700sq km (919,590sq mi) 31,193,000
Arab 83%, Berber 17%
Arabic, Berber (both official), French
Sunni Muslim 99%, Christianity
Algerian dinar = 100 centimes
ClimateAlgiers has a Mediterranean climate: summers are warm and dry, and winters are mild and moist. The highlands in the n tend to have colder winters and warmer summers. The annual rainfall is less than 200mm (8in). The Sahara is very hot by day but becomes cool at night. In the summer, the sirocco blows from the Sahara.
VegetationNorthern Algeria has areas of scrub and farmland, with forests on mountain slopes. The Sahara contains regions of erg (sand dunes), but most of the desert is gravel-strewn plain and bare rock. Date palms and crops flourish around every oasis.
History and PoliticsBy 2000 bc, Berbers had established village communities. In the 9th century bc, coastal Algeria (Numidia) formed part of Carthage's trading empire. By the end of the 2nd century bc, Rome had gained control of the coast and parts of the immediate interior. Numidia became an integral part of the Roman Empire. Saint Augustine, Saint of Hippo (now Annaba) was a casualty of the 5th-century invasion of the Vandals.
In the late 7th century, Arabs conquered Algeria and converted the local population to Islam. Arabic became the main language. In the early 10th century, the Fatimids rapidly built an Empire from their base in ne Algeria. In the late 15th century, as part of the reconquest of s Spain, the Spanish gained control of coastal Algeria. The Spanish were ousted by the Ottomans and Algeria's coast became a haven for pirates and slave traders. In 1830, France invaded Algeria and rapidly began the process of colonization. Abd al-Kadir led Algerian resistance until 1847. The European domination of the economy exacerbated discontent among the Muslim population.
During World War 2, Algiers served as Allied headquarters in North Africa. At the end of the war, nationalist demands intensified. In 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched a war of liberation that claimed more than 350,000 lives. By 1957, the 500,000-strong French military force had quashed the revolt, but not demands for independence. Despite opposition from the one million French colonists (colons) and a section of the French army (the oas), Charles De Gaulle persisted with an accord to grant Algeria independence. Following the endorsement of De Gaulle's policy in a 1962 French referendum, the OAS launched a short-lived terrorist campaign against Muslims. The colons rapidly left Algeria.
On July 3, 1962, Algeria gained independence. Ahmed Ben Bella became prime minister, then president of the newly reformed republic. In 1965, Defence Minister Colonel Houari Boumédienne overthrew Ahmed Ben Bella in a military coup. Boumédienne established a revolutionary council and stepped up the pace of reform. In 1971, he nationalized the French-owned oil and gas industries. In 1973, a national health service was established. Boumédienne died in 1978 and was succeeded by Colonel Chadli Benjedid. In 1980, an earthquake struck the nw coast, claiming nearly 5000 lives. Anti-government demonstrations and riots led to the legalization of opposition parties in 1989. In 1991, the first round of elections saw a decisive victory for the opposition Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), and Benjedid resigned as president. The second round of voting was cancelled and a military government assumed power. In 1992, the FIS was banned and Benjedid's successor, Muhammad Boudiaf, was assassinated. Muslim fundamentalists lauched a terrorist campaign. In 1995 elections, General Liamine Zeroual won a second term as president. In 1999 elections, Abdelaziz Bouteflika replaced Zeroual as president. A civil concord (1999) promised an end to a civil war that has so far claimed more than 100,000 lives. In 2001, the Berber language gained official recognition.
EconomyAlgeria is a developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$5500). Its chief resources are oil and natural gas, which were first discovered under the Sahara in 1956. Its natural gas reserves are the fifth-largest in the world; oil the 14th-largest. Gas and oil account for more than 90% of Algeria's exports. Manufactures include cement, iron and steel, textiles, and vehicles (Algeria is one of the few African states to have its own car plant). While most larger industries are owned by the government, much of light industry is under private control. Farming employs c.14% of the workforce. Barley, citrus fruits, dates, grapes, olives, potatoes, and wheat are the major crops. In 1999, unemployment stood at more than 30%. Many Algerians work abroad, especially in France.
© World Encyclopedia 2005, originally published by Oxford University Press 2005.
In Arabic, the country is known as Al-Jaza'ir, which is short for Al-Jumhuriyal Al-Jaza'iriyah ad-dimuqratiyah ash-sha'biyah.
Identification. The name Algeria is derived from the name of the country's oldest continuous settlement and modern capital, Algiers, a strategically located port city with access to both Europe and the Middle East. Most of the population of the country is in the north. While the majority of the population who are Arab (or mixed Arab and Berber) identify with the common Algerian culture, the Berber tribes, particularly in the more isolated southern mountainous and desert regions, retain more of the indigenous Berber culture and identity.
Location and Geography. Algeria is in northern Africa. It borders Tunisia and Libya to the east; Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to the south; Morocco and Western Sahara to the west; and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. It covers a total of 919,595 square miles (2,381,751 square kilometers), making it the second largest country in Africa (after Sudan), and the eleventh largest in the world. Almost nine-tenths of this area is composed of the six Saharan provinces in the south of the country; however, 90 percent of the population, and most of the cities, are located along the fertile coastal area known as the Tell, or hill. The climate is desert like, although the coast does receive rain in the winter. Only 3 percent of the land is arable, this along the Mediterranean. Inland from the coast is the High Plateau region, with an elevation of 1,300 to 4,300 feet (396 to 1,311 meters). This is mostly rocky and dry, dotted with vegetation on which cattle, sheep, and goats graze. Beyond the plateau are the Saharan Atlas Mountains, which form the boundary of the Algerian Sahara desert. Despite efforts by the government to contain the desert by planting rows of pine trees, it continues to expand northward. The vast expanse contains not only sand dunes and typical desert life such as snakes, lizards, and foxes, but also oases, which grow date and citrus trees. There are also striking sandstone rock formations, red sand, and even a mountain, Mount Tahat, the highest point in Algeria, that is sometimes snow-topped.
Demography. The estimated population as of 2000 is 31,193,917. Ethnically it is fairly homogeneous, about 80 percent Arab and 20 percent Berber. Less than 1 percent are European. The Berbers are divided into four main groups. The largest of these are the Kabyles, who live in the Kabylia Mountains east of Algiers. The Chaouias live in the Aurès Mountains, the M'zabites in the northern Sahara, and the Tuaregs in the desert.
Linguistic Affiliation. The original language of Algeria was Berber, which has varied dialects throughout the country. Arabic came to the country early in its history, along with Arab culture and the Muslim religion. When the French came, they attempted to get rid of native culture, and one of the ways they did this was to impose their language on the people. At independence, Arabic was declared the official language. Arabic and Berber are the languages most spoken in day-to-day life. French is being phased out, but it remains an important language in business and some scientific and technical fields, and it is taught as a second language in the schools.
Symbolism. The flag is green and white, with a red star and crescent. The star, crescent, and the color green are all symbolic of the Islamic religion.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. The Berbers were the original inhabitants of the region. The first invaders were the Phoenicians, whose empire covered the area that is today Lebanon. They began establishing ports along the Mediterranean in 1200 b . c . e . They built the cities of Constantine and Annaba in the east of present-day Algeria, but aside from teaching the Berbers how to raise crops, for the most part they kept their distance from them. The Romans began making inroads into North Africa, declaring a new kingdom called Numidia. Roman rule lasted six hundred years.
The Arabs swept across North Africa in the seventh century (during the lifetime of Muhammad, who died in 632), and again in the eleventh century. The Berbers put up resistance, particularly to the edict that both religious and political leaders could only be Arabian. The second Muslim conquest saw a great shift in Berber civilization, as the people were forced to convert in great numbers or to flee to the hills. However, as internal conflicts began to sway the Muslim stronghold in North Africa in the fifteenth century, Europeans capitalized on this, and by 1510 Spain had seized Algiers, Oran, and other important port cities.
The French took control in the nineteenth century. In retaliation for Algerian debts and insolence toward the European nation, they blockaded several Algerian ports, and when this did not succeed, they invaded Algiers on 5 July 1830. Four years later they declared Algeria a colony, beginning a 132-year reign. In 1840 Abd al-Qadir, an Algerian freedom fighter, led the Arabs in an insurgence against their colonizers, which ended in defeat in 1847. At about the same time, the French began immigrating in large numbers to Algeria, in an attempt by the French government to replace Algerian culture with their own. By 1881 there were 300,000 Europeans (half of them French) in an area of 2.5 million Arabs.
In 1871 Muslims staged the biggest revolt since that of Abd al-Qadir thirty-one years earlier. The French responded by tightening control and further restricting the rights of the Algerians.
Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the French continued to expand their influence and land holdings, and by 1914 they had extended their domain to include large tracts of land that were formerly wilderness or the property of Berber tribes. During World War I and again in World War II, Algerians were drafted to fight with the French. After World War II, Algerian leaders demanded Muslim equality in exchange for this service. Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French resistance against Germany during the war and the leader of France's provisional government after the war, agreed to grant French citizenship to certain select Muslims, an unsatisfactory response that resulted in rising tensions between Algerians and their colonizers. Anti-French sentiment had been building for some time—the first anticolonial group was formed in 1926, and another, the Algerian People's Party, in 1937—but it was not until 1945 that the independence movement really began to gain momentum. In 1947, de Gaulle refused to relinquish French hold on the colony. The Algerian war for independence broke out in 1954, when the National Liberation Army (ALN)—the military arm of the National Liberation Front (FLN)—staged guerrilla attacks on French military and communication posts and called on all Muslims to join their struggle.
Over the next four years the French sent almost half a million troops to Algeria. Their tactics of bombing villages and torturing prisoners gained worldwide attention and was condemned by the United Nations and U.S. president John F. Kennedy. In 1959 De Gaulle, who was now president of France, issued a promise of independence to the colony, but the next year proceeded to send troops to restore order. In 1961 leaders of the FLN met with the French government, and the following year, Algeria finally won its independence. Ahmed Ben Bella was declared premier. He was head of the government and of the FLN, the country's sole political party. The extent of his power began to make people uncomfortable, and in 1965 a bloodless coup took him out and put Houari Boumedienne, the former defense minister, in his place. Boumedienne continued but modified Ben Bella's socialist policies, concentrating his efforts on reducing unemployment and illiteracy, decentralizing the government, and taking control of the land back from the French colonizers. When he died in 1978 he was succeeded by Colonel Chadli Bendjedid. During the 1980s, Islamic fundamentalism became an increasingly strong movement, and several times led to riots. A new constitution, introduced in 1989, reduced the power of the FLN, and for the first time allowed other political parties. The first part of a general election was held in December 1991, but the process of democratization was cut short when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) came close to victory and forced Bendjedid to resign. The FIS never attained control of the government, however, as Bendjedid was replaced by a military takeover of anti-FIS forces. They established a transitional governing body called the Higher Council of States (HCS). Elections were again scheduled in 1992 but the outcome seemed set to favor the outlawed FIS party, and the elections were canceled. This has resulted in ongoing retaliations and counterattacks, in which both sides have ravaged villages and tens of thousands have been killed. In September 1999, Algerians by a large margin passed a referendum proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stop the seven-year-long conflict. However, legal injunctions have not yet manifested themselves to end to the violence.
National Identity. The national identity of Algeria is based on a combination of Berber and Arab cultures. The strong influence of Islam in all aspects of Algerian life creates a sense of identity that extends beyond national boundaries to include other Arab nations. Opposition to the French colonizers also has been a uniting force in defining a sense of identity in Algeria.
Ethnic Relations. There is some distrust between the Arabs and the Berbers, which dates back centuries to the conquest of the area by Arab settlers. Although most Berbers have adopted the Islamic religion, they remain culturally distinct, and even when they are forced to migrate to the cities in search of work, they prefer to live in clans and not integrate themselves into the dominant Arab society. The Kabyles are the most resistant to government incursion. The Chaouias are traditionally the most isolated of all the Berber groups; the only outsiders their villages received were occasional Kabyle traders. This isolation was broken during the war for independence, when the French sent many of the Chaouias to concentration camps.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
The population of Algeria is split evenly between urban and rural settings. The center of old cities is the casbah (Arabic for fortress), a market of serpentine alleyways and intricate arches where a variety of traditional crafts are sold, from carpets to baskets to pottery. Outside of this relatively unchanged remnant of the old way of life, Algerian cities are a mix of Western influence and Arabic tradition.
The largest city is the capital, Algiers, in the north, on the Mediterranean coast. It is the oldest city in the country, dating back almost three thousand years, to Phoenician times. It served as the colonial capital under both the Turkish and the French. In the casbah, the old Islamic part of the city, many of the buildings are dilapidated, but the narrow streets are lively, with children playing, merchants selling, and people walking and shopping. The casbah is surrounded by newer, European-style buildings. The city contains a mix of modern high-rises and traditional Turkish and Islamic architecture. The port at Algiers is the largest in the country and is an industrial center.
Oran, to the west of Algiers, is the second-biggest city. It was built by the Arabs in 903, but was dominated by the Spanish for two centuries, and later by the French. It thus shows more European influence than any other city in Algeria, housing a large number of cathedrals and French colonial architecture.
Other urban centers include Constantine and Annaba. All of Algeria's cities have been hard hit by overpopulation, and its attendant problems of housing shortages and unemployment.
While most of Algeria's desert is uninhabited, it does have some villages, many of them surrounded by stone walls. Reflecting the same values of privacy and insulation, traditional homes also are walled in. The rooms form a circle around a patio or enclosed courtyard. Most architecture, from modern high-rises to tarpaper shacks, uses this same model. Traditional building materials are whitewashed stone or brick, and in older houses, the ceilings and upper parts of the walls are decorated with tiled mosaics.
Nomads of the desert and the high plateau live in tents woven from goat's hair, wool, and grass. In the Kabylia Mountains, villagers build their one-room homes of clay and grass or piled stones, and divide the room into two parts, one for the animals and one for the family.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The national dish of Algeria is couscous, steamed semolina wheat served with lamb or chicken, cooked vegetables, and gravy. This is so basic to the Algerian diet that its name in Arabic, ta'am, translates as "food." Common flavorings include onions, turnips, raisins, chickpeas, and red peppers, as well as salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Alternatively, couscous can be served sweet, flavored with honey, cinnamon, or almonds. Lamb also is popular, and often is prepared over an open fire and served with bread. This dish is called mechoui. Other common foods are chorba, a spicy soup; dolma, a mixture of tomatoes and peppers, and bourek, a specialty of Algiers consisting of mincemeat with onions and fried eggs, rolled and fried in batter. The traditional Berber meal among the poorer people is a cake made of mixed grains and a drink mixed together from crushed goat cheese, dates, and water.
Strong black coffee and sweetened mint tea are popular, as well as apricot or other sweetened fruit juices. Laban also is drunk, a mixture of yogurt and water with mint leaves for flavoring. Algeria grows grapes and produces its own wine, but alcohol is not widely consumed, as it is forbidden by the Islamic religion.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Religious holidays are often celebrated with special foods. For the birthday of Muhammad, a holiday called Mulud, dried fruits are a common treat. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from food and drink during the daylight hours. Each evening, the fast is broken with a family meal. Eid al-Fitr, the final breaking of the Ramadan fast, involves consuming large quantities of foods, sweets, and pastries in particular.
Basic Economy. Algeria's economy is based primarily on oil and natural gas. The nation has the world's fifth-largest reserves of natural gas and is the second-largest exporter. It also has the fourteenth-largest reserves of oil.
At independence, the economy was primarily based on agriculture, although since then other industries have eclipsed the importance of farming. Currently 22 percent of the population are farmers, but their production accounts for only 6 percent of the country's economy. The agricultural industry is plagued by droughts, encroaching desert, poor irrigation, and lack of machinery as well as by government policies that favor industry over farming. Most food produced is for local consumption; the most common crops include wheat, barley, corn, and rice, as well as fruits and vegetables. However, Algeria is able to produce only 25 percent of its food needs.
Thirty percent of the labor force is employed by the government; 16 percent in construction and public works; 13 percent in industry; and 5 percent in transportation and communications. The country has a serious problem with unemployment, with a rate of 30 percent. This has lead a number of men to migrate to the cities in search of work. There also are a significant number of Algerians who have immigrated to France to find jobs. Many of them return home in the summer to see their families.
Land Tenure and Property. When the country was under French rule, the colonizers owned the best farmland, while the Algerians were forced to work the less fertile areas. In the southern plateau and desert regions in particular, many people are nomadic tent-dwellers, who lead their animals from one pasture to another and lay no claim to any land. At independence, the government set up cooperative farms and made some attempt to redistribute land under a socialist model. Under Ben Bella's March Decrees of 1963, which allowed the takeover of property abandoned by French colonists, the government itself became the owner of the best farmland, as well as factories, mines, banks, and the transportation system. However, economic inequality has remained a pressing problem and has lead to riots and violent outbreaks.
Commercial Activities. The center of commercial life in Algeria is the souk, large, open-air markets where farmers and craftspeople sell their products. One can buy locally produced meat, fruits, vegetables, and grains—oats, barley, grapes, olives, citrus fruit—as well as woven rugs, jewelry, baskets, metalwork, and other crafts. Souks are held regularly in regional centers, as well as in the old districts of major cities. Traditionally things were bought and sold by the barter method, and while this still exists, most trading today is done with cash.
Major Industries. The largest industry in Algeria is the production and processing of oil and gas. Services (trade, transport, and communications) also are important. Other industries include agriculture, construction, mining, and manufacturing.
Trade. Algeria's main exports are oil and gas, followed by dates, tobacco, leather goods, vegetables, and phosphates. The primary trading partners are Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, and[fj] the United States. Imports include raw materials, food, beverages, and consumer products. However, the government imposes strict regulations on imports in an effort to make the country more self-sufficient.
Division of Labor. Most of Algeria's workers are unskilled. However, many of the jobs in the country's industries require specific training, and this fact contributes to the high unemployment rate. The government has made an effort to change this by starting specialized training programs. Although they have the freedom to pursue whatever career path they choose, many Algerians are constrained by financial hardship and the unpromising job market.
Classes and Castes. The majority of Algerians are poor. Those who are better off are almost always Arabs, and tend to be urban and well educated. The upper classes generally look down not just upon the Berbers, but also upon rural, seminomadic Arabs who speak a different dialect. However, most Algerians are racially a mix of Arab and Berber, and variations in skin tone and hair color are not reflected in social standing.
Symbols of Social Stratification. In the cities, most men, and some younger women, now wear European-style clothing. The traditional garb is a white woolen cloak, called a gandoura, worn over a long cotton shirt. A cape called a burnous is sometimes draped over the shoulders; it is made of linen for the summer and wool for the winter. Sometimes the burnous is plain, or sometimes it is adorned with fancy embroidery, indicating the wealth of the wearer. The traditional head covering is a red fez wrapped with a white cloth.
Women's clothing is similar, although more complete in its coverage. The haik drapes them from head to foot, and is worn over loose pants, which are gathered at the ankle. Tuareg men can be distinguished by the length of indigo cloth they wear wrapped around the head in a turban, extending over their robes, and covering them completely with the exception of their eyes.
Government. Algeria is officially a multiparty republic. It has been controlled since independence by the FLN. In 1988 a new constitution legalized other parties, although certain militant Islamic groups, such as the FIS, have been outlawed. There is one legislative house, the National People's Assembly, composed of 295 elected deputies who serve five-year terms and are allowed to run for consecutive terms. They prepare and vote on all the country's laws, excluding issues of national defense. There is universal suffrage. The president is elected to an indefinitely renewable five-year term. He appoints a prime minister, who appoints a cabinet.
The country is divided into forty-eight provinces, or wilayat, each of which elects its own assembly. The governor, or wali, is appointed by the national government, and serves as the primary liaison between local and federal government. The wilayat are further divided into administrative districts or diaraat, which are themselves broken up into communes.
Leadership and Political Officials. There is a strongly felt divide in Algeria society between the political elite and the majority of the population, who feel largely disenfranchised and powerless. Because the people feel that they are not represented in the government, many resort to violent action as their only form of political expression.
Social Problems and Control. There is a large degree of social unrest, which is exacerbated by both political repression and unemployment. The political repression gives way not infrequently to various forms of terrorism, including kidnaping and the murder of civilians. The high unemployment rate has contributed to an increase in crime, particularly in the cities.
There are forty-eight provincial courts, one for each wilayat, plus an additional two hundred tribunals spread throughout the country. The tribunal is the first level in the justice system. Above this is the provincial court. The highest level for appeals is the supreme court. Also there are three courts that deal with economic crimes against the state. Their verdicts are final and cannot be appealed. The Court of State Security, composed of magistrates and army officers, tries cases involving state security.
Military Activity. The president is commander in chief of Algeria's armed forces, which total 121,700, including an army of 105,000, a navy of 6,700, and an air force of 10,000. There also are 150,000 reservists. Military expenditures are $1.3 billion (U.S.), 2.7 percent of the total budget.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
The government provides free health care for children under sixteen and adults over sixty. It also offers pensions to the elderly and disabled, and gives allowances for families with children. The welfare system is financed by contributions from employers and employees as well as the state.
Algeria also receives aid from various countries that send specialists to help with the development of education, industry, health care, and the military.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Algeria is a member of the Arab League, whose goal is to strengthen ties among Arab nations, to coordinate their policies, and to protect their common interests. Algeria also is part of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which coordinates policies among its member states.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Women work almost exclusively in the home, taking care of all domestic chores. Anything that involves leaving the house is taken care of by men, including shopping. Only 7 percent of women work outside the home, most of these in traditionally female professions such as secretarial work, teaching, or nursing. (However, this 7 percent does not include women who work in agriculture, and in farming communities; it is common for women as well as men to work in the fields.) Women are allowed to run for public office, but such attempts are still extremely rare.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. As in Arabic culture in general, women in Algeria are considered weaker than men, and in need of protection. Men are entrusted with most important decisions. Women live in a very confined circle of house and family; their only contact aside from male family members is with other women. Men, on the other hand, have a much broader sphere, which includes the mosque, the streets, marketplaces, and coffee shops. Independence did not bring much change in this realm. Although the new government adopted socialist principles, gender equality faced great opposition from conservative Islamic groups.
The Berbers have their own concepts and practices regarding gender, which vary widely among the different groups. The role of Kabyle women is most similar to the Arabic tradition; they are unable to inherit property or to remarry without the consent of the husband who divorced them. The Chaouia women, while still socially restricted, are thought to have special magical powers, which gives them a slightly higher status. The M'zabites advocate social equality and literacy for men and women within their villages but do not allow the women to leave these confines. The Tuaregs are an anomaly among Muslim cultures in that the society is dominated more by women than by men. Whereas it is traditional in Islam for women to wear veils, among the Tuaregs it is the men who are veiled. Women control the economy and property, and education is provided equally to boys and girls.
Marriage, Family and Kinship
Marriage. Marriages in Algeria are traditionally arranged either by parents of the couple or by a professional matchmaker. Despite its prevalence in Algeria, the influx of Western culture has had little influence in this realm, as the majority of marriages still are arranged. It is considered not just the union of two individuals, but also of two families. Wedding celebrations last for days, including music, special sweets, and ritual baths for the bride. The groom covers the costs of the festivities.
By a law passed in 1984, women gained the right to child custody and to their own dowries. However, the law also considers women permanent minors, needing the consent of their husbands or fathers for most activities, including working outside the home. The decision to divorce rests solely with the husband. It is still legally permissible, although rare, for men to have up to four wives, a code that is laid out in the Qurán (Koran).
Domestic Unit. Traditionally the domestic unit included whole extended families. The husband, his wives, and their children continued to live with the husband's parents. Grandparents also were part of the household, as were widowed or divorced daughters and aunts and their children. This has changed somewhat since independence, with increasing urbanization and the trend toward smaller families. However, it is still common for Algerian women to have between seven and nine children.
Inheritance. Inheritance passes from father to the eldest son. If there are no children, land and belongings are distributed among other relatives.
Kin Groups. In areas of the country with a stronger Arab influence, affiliations are based mostly on blood relations. Loyalty to family is more powerful than any other relationship or responsibility. Traditionally, kin groups have lived in close proximity. Today these ties are somewhat weaker than in the past, due to the influence of urbanization and modernization, but even in the cities, life still centers around the family.
In the Berber tradition, loyalty breaks down along the lines of village groupings, or sofs. These groups are political, and part of a democratic process governing life in the village.
Infant Care. As in many cultures, infant care is an exclusively female domain. Most women almost never leave the home and thus are never far from their infant children.
Child Rearing and Education. Children are highly valued in Arabic society and are considered a wealth and a blessing to their parents. However, child rearing standards differ significantly for male and female children: Girls are taught to be obedient to all males, while boys learn that the primary function of girls and women is to attend to the males' needs and desires. Girls typically have more duties and chores than boys, who are free to play and spend more time out of doors. Traditionally, only boys were educated, although this has begun to change in recent times.
In 1977, only 42 percent of the population was literate. This increased to 57 percent in 1990, with a male literacy rate of 70 percent and a female rate of 45 percent. The government has concentrated its efforts more on youth than on adult literacy.
Before independence, the Algerian education system was based on the French model. The majority of Algerian children did not attend school. In the years since 1971, the government made education free and mandatory for children between ages six and fifteen, and has made an effort to use the education system to define the nation. Its program stresses the study of the Arabic language as well as technical skills. Ninety percent of children in the cities and 67 percent of rural children now attend primary school. Half of all eligible secondary-age children are enrolled. Girls now comprise 38 percent of students in the secondary schools, a significant increase from preindependence days, when virtually no females attended schools. Despite its lofty goals, however, the system has had difficulty accommodating the increasing population of students, while the number of qualified teachers has diminished. In 1985 a total of 71 percent of secondary teachers were foreign.
Higher Education. During French rule, the sole university in the country, in Algiers, was open only to French students. Today there are more than thirty institutes of higher learning, with universities in a number of cities, including Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Annaba, and Tlemcen. This also includes state-funded institutes for technical, agricultural, vocational, and teacher training. A number of Algerians study abroad as well, and the government pays to send them to the United States, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
Greetings are lengthy and involved, including inquiries into health and family. Social interactions are much more common among members of the same gender than between men and women. Public displays of affection—touching, hand-holding— between men and women are rare, but not between members of the same sex.
Algerians are known for their hospitality and generosity. Visiting is a mainstay of social life, mostly within the circle of extended family. The host serves tea or coffee and sweets.
Religious Beliefs. Ninety-nine percent of Algeria is Sunni Muslim. There also is a tiny Jewish community, whose presence goes back centuries. Christianity has existed in Algeria since the Roman era, but despite efforts (particularly by the French colonizers) to convert, the number of Algerian Christians is very small. Islam forms the basis not only of religious life in Algeria but also is a unifying force (both within the country and with other Arab nations), creating for all believers a common ground that is both cultural and spiritual. There is a range of observance among Algerian Muslims; rural people tend to hold more strictly to the traditional practices.
There also are remnants of the indigenous Berber religion, which has been almost entirely subsumed by Islam. Despite opposition by both the French colonizers and the Algerian government (who viewed this religion as a threat to the unity of the country), there are still some organizations, called brotherhoods, that hold on to their magical practices and ceremonies.
The term Islam means submission to God. It shares certain prophets, traditions, and beliefs with Judaism and Christianity, the main difference being the Muslim belief that Muhammad is the final prophet and the embodiment of God, or Allah. The foundation of Islamic belief is called the Five Pillars. The first, the Shahada, is profession of faith. The second is prayer, or Salat. Muslims pray five times a day; it is not necessary to go to the mosque, but the call to prayer echoes out over each city or town from the minarets of the holy buildings. Friday is the Muslim Sabbath, and the most important prayer of the week is the noon prayer on this day. The third Pillar, Zakat, is the principle of almsgiving. The fourth is fasting, which is observed during the month of Ramadan each year, when Muslims abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours. The fifth Pillar is the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia, which every Muslim must make at some time in his or her life.
Religious Practitioners. There are no priests or clergy in Islam. There are, however, men called mufti, who interpret the Qurán (the Muslim holy book) for legal purposes, as well as khatib, who read the Qurán in the mosques, and imam, who lead prayers in the mosques. There are also muezzins, who give the call to prayer. The Qurán, rather than any religious leader, is considered the ultimate authority, and holds the answer to any question or dilemma one might have.
In the indigenous Berber religion, the holy men, called marabouts, were thought to be endowed by God with special powers.
Rituals and Holy Places. The most important observation in the Islamic calendar is Ramadan. This month of fasting is followed by the joyous feast of Eid al Fitr, during which families visit and exchange gifts. Eid al-Adha commemorates the end of Muhammad's Hajj.
The mosque is the Muslim house of worship. Outside the door there are washing facilities, as cleanliness is a necessary prerequisite to prayer, demonstrating humility before God. One also must remove one's shoes before entering the mosque. According to Islamic tradition, women are not allowed inside. The interior has no altar; it is simply an open carpeted space. Because Muslims are supposed to pray facing Mecca, there is a small niche carved into the wall pointing out in which direction the city lies.
Death and the Afterlife. Death is marked by visiting the family of the deceased. Family members dress in black. Death also is mourned in a larger, more communal way as part of the Islamic New Year's celebration, called Ashura. Muslims mark the passing of the old year by going to cemeteries to commemorate the dead.
Medicine and Health Care
Medical care is free and nationalized. The government concentrates its efforts on preventive medicine and vaccinations, building local clinics and health centers rather than large centralized hospitals. After completing their training, all medical workers are obligated to put in several years at a state medical facility. The biggest health problems are tuberculosis, venereal diseases, malaria, trachoma, typhoid fever, and dysentery.
Virtually all health care facilities and providers are concentrated in the more populous north; most people in rural areas have no access to modern medical care. Overpopulation and housing shortages in the cities have created their own health problems, due to poor sanitation and lack of safe drinking water.
New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Commemoration Day (anniversary of the overthrow of Ahmed Ben Bella), 19 June; Independence Day, 5 July; Anniversary of the outbreak of the revolution, 1 November.
The Arts and the Humanities
Support for the Arts. During the French regime, Algerian culture was largely suppressed in an attempt by the colonizers to supplant it with their own. However, since independence, the government has made an effort to strengthen the native Berber, Arabic, and Islamic culture by giving money to open handicraft centers and by encouraging the traditional arts of rug-making, pottery, embroidery, and jewelry-making. The National Institute of Music revives music, dance, and folklore from the ancient Arabic and Moorish traditions. There is a national film company as well, which produces most Algerian movies.
Literature. Algeria counts among its literary stars both French writers who lived and wrote in Algeria (e.g., Albert Camus and Emmanuel Robles) as well as native Algerians, some of whom have chosen to write in the colonial language (such as playwright Kateb Yacine), and some of whom write in Arabic or Berber dialects. One advantage of writing in French is that it allows books to be published in France, and then distributed in both France and Algeria. The choice to write in Arabic or Berber, however, is often an act of national pride, and creates a different audience for the work. Many Algerian writers draw on both the influence of European literature and the ancient Arabic tradition of storytelling.
Graphic Arts. Traditional crafts include knotted and woven carpets made from wool or goat hair; basket-weaving; pottery, silver jewelry; intricate embroidery; and brassware. Algerian films have recently won accolades, both within the country and abroad. Many of them are dramas and documentaries that deal with issues of colonialism, revolution, and social issues. The director Mahmed Lakhdar Hamina won the Cannes Film Festival award in 1982 for his film Desert Wind.
Performance Arts. Algerian music and dance follow in the Arabic tradition. These forms of expression were suppressed during the French regime, but are today experiencing a revival. Arabic music is tied to the storytelling tradition and often recounts tales of love, honor, and family. Technically, it is repetitive and subtle. It uses quarter notes and makes small jumps on the scale. Traditional instruments are the oud, a stringed instrument similar to the lute; small drums held in the lap; and the rhita, or reed flute.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
There is the University of Science and Technology at Oran, as well as the Houari Boumedienne University of Science and Technology. There are the Ministry of Energy and Petrochemicals and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing, both of which sponsor educational institutes.
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Algeria■ ALGERIANS … 27
Algerians are sometimes referred to as Berbers, descendents of North African peoples related by language and the Islamic faith. In fact, Algerians do not call themselves "Berbers," preferring instead to refer to themselves according to their tribe or the region where they live. There are about one million Europeans and 140,000 Jews living in Algeria.
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This entry consists of the following articles:
Algeria: Political Parties in
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© Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes 2007, originally
published by Oxford University Press 2007.