Neil On Africa: Algeria able to dish up many surprises
CAPE TOWN – Algeria is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, Tunisia and Western Sahara.
It is the 10th-largest country in the world and the largest in the Arab world and Africa, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Only 12 percent of its land is inhabited with over 90 percent of the country covered by the Sahara Desert.
Algiers is the country's capital city and an important economic, commercial and financial centre. The name Algiers is a truncated form of the city's older name, Jazaʾir Banī Mazghanna “Islands of the Mazghanna tribe”.
The former French colony, which gained its independence in 1962, is well known for its cherries and dates, which are among the best in the world. A variety of bird species are an attraction for bird watchers.
The country has an estimated population of 42.2 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $180 billion (R2.68 trillion) (World Bank 2018).
Petroleum and natural gas make up 98 percent of the country’s exports. The country's crude oil reserves were the 16th largest in the world with 12 200 million barrels of oil reserves, at the start of 2017.
Algeria's economy is highly dependent on hydrocarbons, global oil and gas prices. GDP growth reached 1.5 percent in 2018, compared to 1.4 percent in the previous year, and was sustained at 1.5 percent the first quarter of 2019. Growth in the hydrocarbon sector was slow, with economic activity contracting by 6.5 percent in 2018.
During the 1990s – 2000s, Algeria fought a brutal civil war against an Islamist insurgency and the memories of those dark years have often kept demonstrators at bay. The protesters have rejected the vote, the first since former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced out by the military amid nationwide demonstrations in April, citing fears that the election is a mechanism for the elite to retain power.
Algeria’s religion composition is made up of Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99 percent, Christian and Jewish 1 percent. Women in Algeria, unlike those in other Islamic nations, make up 60 percent of the student population. They also have considerable prominence in society as 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges are women. Algerian women make a larger contribution to household income than men.
On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of coke is 69.57 Algerian Dinar (DZD) (R8.59) and the price of a litre of petrol is 41.97 DZD (R5.18). The country has an average inflation rate of 2.5 percent.
Algeria is one of a handful of countries that have achieved a 20 percent poverty reduction in the past two decades. The Algerian government took significant steps to improve the wellbeing of its people by implementing social policies in line with the UN's sustainable development goals.
The country's oil boom has enabled the authorities to clear Algeria’s external debt, invest in infrastructure projects and improve the country's human development indicators.
Algeria has significantly improved its human capital development: its position on the World Bank Human Capital Index (HCI) that measures five key indicators in health and education is 93rd out of 157 countries.
Between 2012 and 2017, its HCI value remained more or less constant at 0.52, however, in 2017 it was lower than the average for its region and income group.
The resignation of Bouteflika has also left the country uncertain and the youths hoping for regime and system change.
Neil de Beer is the current president of the IFA and advises numerous African states on economic development. www.ifa.africa or [email protected]