Early peoples of the region were known as Numidians, and soon after 1000 BC coastal settlements and conquests by Carthaginians and later Romans took place.
Algeria Map. Source CIA World Factbook
Alegria's major environmental issues include:
- soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices;
- desertification; dumping of raw sewage,
- petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters;
- Mediterranean Sea, in particular, becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff;
- inadequate supplies of potable water.
Algeria's mountainous areas are subject to severe earthquakes; mudslides and floods in the rainy season.
After more than a century of rule by France, Algerians fought through much of the 1950s to achieve independence in 1962. Algeria's primary political party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), was established in 1954 as part of the struggle for independence and has largely dominated politics since.
The Government of Algeria in 1988 instituted a multi-party system in response to public unrest, but the surprising first round success of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in the December 1991 balloting spurred the Algerian army to intervene and postpone the second round of elections to prevent what the secular elite feared would be an extremist-led government from assuming power. The army began a crackdown on the FIS that spurred FIS supporters to begin attacking government targets, and fighting escalated into an insurgency, which saw intense violence between 1992-98 resulting in over 100,000 deaths - many attributed to indiscriminate massacres of villagers by extremists.
The government gained the upper hand by the late-1990s, and FIS's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army, disbanded in January 2000. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, with the backing of the military, won the presidency in 1999 in an election widely viewed as fraudulent. He was reelected to a second term in 2004 and overwhelmingly won a third term in 2009 after the government amended the constitution in 2008 to remove presidential term limits.
Longstanding problems continue to face Bouteflika,including large-scale unemployment, a shortage of housing, unreliable electrical and water supplies, government inefficiencies and corruption, and the continuing activities of extremist militants.
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 2006 merged with al-Qa'ida to form al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, which has launched an ongoing series of kidnappings and bombings targeting the Algerian Government and Western interests. The government in 2011 introduced some political reforms in response to the Arab Spring, including lifting the 19-year-old state of emergency restrictions and ending the state's monopoly on broadcast media. Political protest activity in the country remained low in 2011, but small, sometimes violent socioeconomic demonstrations by disparate groups continued to be a common occurrence.
Algeria, the second-largest state in Africa, has a Mediterranean coastline of about 998 kilometers (620 mi.). The Tellian and Saharan Atlas mountain ranges cross the country from east to west, dividing it into three zones. Between the northern zone, Tellian Atlas, and the Mediterranean is a narrow, fertile coastal plain--the Tel (hill)--with a moderate climate year round and rainfall adequate for agriculture. A high plateau region, averaging 914 meters (3,000 ft.) above sea level, with limited rainfall, great rocky plains, and desert, lies between the two mountain ranges. It is generally barren except for scattered clumps of trees and intermittent bush and pastureland. The third and largest zone, south of the Saharan Atlas mountain range, is mostly desert. About 80% of the country is desert, steppes, wasteland, and mountains. Algeria's weather varies considerably from season to season and from one geographical location to another. In the north, the summers are usually hot with little rainfall. Winter rains begin in the north in October. Frost and snow are rare, except on the highest slopes of the Tellian Atlas Mountains. Dust and sandstorms occur most frequently between February and May.
Soil erosion--from overgrazing, other poor farming practices, and desertification--and the dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents are leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters. The Mediterranean Sea, in particular, is becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff. There are inadequate supplies of potable water.
Geographic Coordinates: 28 00 N, 3 00 E
Area: 2,381,740 km2 (2,381,740 km2 land and 0 km2 water)
arable land: 3.17%
permanent crops: 0.28%
other: 96.55% (2005)
Coastline: 998 km
Maritime Claims: Territorial sea: 12 nautical miles and an exclusive fishing zone: from 32 to 52 nautical miles from shore.
Natural Hazards: mountainous areas subject to severe earthquakes; mudslides and floods in rainy season
Terrain: Mostly high plateau and desert topography; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain. The lowest point is Chott Melrhir (-40 metres). The highest point is Tahat (3003 metres).
Climate: Arid to semiarid; mild, wet winters with hot, dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; the sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer.
Topography of Algeria. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Ecoregions of Algeria. Source: World Wildlife Fund.
- Mediterranean woodlands and forests
- Mediterranean conifer and mixed forests
- Mediterranean dry woodlands and steppe
- Saharan halophytics
- North Saharan steppe and woodlands
- Sahara desert
- West Saharan montane xeric woodlands
- South Saharan steppe and woodlands
See also: Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, Algeria
People and Society
Ninety-one percent of the Algerian population lives along the Mediterranean coast on 12% of the country's total land mass. Forty-five percent of the population is urban, and urbanization continues, despite government efforts to discourage migration to the cities. About 1.5 million nomads and semi-settled Bedouin still live in the Saharan area.
Nearly all Algerians are Muslim, of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. Official data on the number of non-Muslim residents is not available; however, practitioners report it to be less than 5,000. Most of the non-Muslim community is comprised of Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical faiths; the Jewish community is virtually non-existent. There are about 1,100 American citizens in the country, the majority of whom live and work in the oil/gas fields in the south.
|Algiers. Source: Mediawiki Commons|
|The Issaouane Erg (sand sea) is located in eastern Algeria. Ergs are vast areas of moving sand with little to no vegetation cover. The most common landforms in the image are star dunes and barchan (or crescent) dunes. Star dunes are formed when sand is transported from variable wind directions, whereas barchan dunes form in a single dominant wind regime. Occasional precipitation fills basins formed by the dunes; as the water evaporates, salt deposits are left behind which appear as bluish-white areas. Image courtesy of NASA.|
|The oasis ksar (Berber village) of Beni Abbes. The site was first inhabited in the 12th century by a tribe from Mauritania. The town today has an old part made up of semi-attached houses, granaries, mosques, baths, ovens, and shops, and a new part with a research center composed of a museum, zoo, and botanical garden. The old part has been largely uninhabited for decades, but enough remains to give a good representation of traditional desert architecture.|
|Astronaut Photo of Algiers, Algeria taken from the International Space Station (ISS) during Expedition 23 on May 17, 2009. Source: NASA|
|Oran. Source: Wikimedia Commons.|
Population: 35,406,303 (July 2012 est.)
Ethnic Groups: Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1%
Note: although almost all Algerians are Berber in origin (not Arab), only a minority identify themselves as Berber, about 15% of the total population; these people live mostly in the mountainous region of Kabylie east of Algiers; the Berbers are also Muslim but identify with their Berber rather than Arab cultural heritage; Berbers have long agitated, sometimes violently, for autonomy; the government is unlikely to grant autonomy but has offered to begin sponsoring teaching Berber language in schools
0-14 years: 24.2% (male 4,319,295/female 4,144,863)
15-64 years: 70.6% (male 12,455,378/female 12,242,604)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 845,116/female 987,681) (2011 est.)
Population Growth Rate: 1.165% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 16.64 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 4.72 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: -0.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 74.73 years
male: 72.99 years
female: 76.57 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 1.74 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects
Literacy: 69.9% (male: 79.6% - female: 60.1% [2002 est.])
Education: Algeria's educational system has grown dramatically since the country gained its independence. Education is free and compulsory to age 16. Despite government allocation of substantial educational resources, population pressures and a serious shortage of teachers have severely strained the system. Modest numbers of Algerian students study abroad, primarily in Europe and Canada. In 2000, the government launched a major review of the country's educational system and in 2004 efforts to reform the educational system began.
Urbanization: 66% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 2.3% (2010-15 est.) Housing and medicine continue to be pressing problems in Algeria. Failing infrastructure and the continued influx of people from rural to urban areas have overtaxed both systems. According to the United Nations Development Program, Algeria has one of the world's highest per housing unit occupancy rates, and government officials have publicly stated that the country has a shortfall of housing units.
Since the 5th century B.C., the native peoples of northern Africa (first identified by the Greeks as "Berbers") were pushed back from the coast by successive waves of Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish, and, finally, French invaders. The greatest cultural impact came from the Arab invasions of the 8th and 11th centuries A.D., which brought Islam and the Arabic language. The effects of the most recent (French) occupation--French language and European-inspired socialism--are still pervasive.
North African boundaries have shifted during various stages of the conquests. Algeria's modern borders were created by the French, whose colonization began in 1830. To benefit French colonists, most of whom were farmers and businessmen, northern Algeria was eventually organized into overseas departments of France, with representatives in the French National Assembly. France controlled the entire country, but the traditional Muslim population in the rural areas remained separated from the modern economic infrastructure of the European community.
Algerians began their uprising on November 1, 1954 to gain rights denied them under French rule. The revolution, launched by a small group of nationalists who called themselves the National Liberation Front (FLN), was a guerrilla war in which both sides targeted civilians and used other brutal tactics. Eventually, protracted negotiations led to a cease-fire signed by France and the FLN on March 18, 1962, at Evian, France. The Evian Accords also provided for continuing economic, financial, technical, and cultural relations, along with interim administrative arrangements until a referendum on self-determination could be held. Over 1 million French citizens living in Algeria at the time, called the pieds-noirs (black feet), left Algeria for France.
The referendum was held in Algeria on July 1, 1962, and France declared Algeria independent on July 3. In September 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella was formally elected president. On September 8, 1963, a Constitution was adopted by referendum. On June 19, 1965, President Ben Bella was replaced in a non-violent coup by the Council of the Revolution headed by Minister of Defense Col. Houari Boumediene. Ben Bella was first imprisoned and then exiled. Boumediene, as President of the Council of the Revolution, led the country as Head of State until he was formally elected on December 10, 1976. Boumediene is credited with building "modern Algeria." He died on December 27, 1978.
Following nomination by an FLN Party Congress, Col. Chadli Bendjedid was elected president in 1979 and re-elected in 1984 and 1988. A new constitution was adopted in 1989 that allowed the formation of political parties other than the FLN. It also removed the armed forces, which had run the government since the days of Boumediene, from a designated role in the operation of the government. Among the scores of parties that sprang up under the new constitution, the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was the most successful, winning more than 50% of all votes cast in municipal elections in June 1990 as well as in the first stage of national legislative elections held in December 1991.
Faced with the real possibility of a sweeping FIS victory, the National People's Assembly was dissolved by presidential decree on January 4, 1992. On January 11, under pressure from the military leadership, President Chadli Bendjedid resigned. On January 14, a five-member High Council of State was appointed by the High Council of Security to act as a collegiate presidency and immediately canceled the second round of elections. This action, coupled with political uncertainty and economic turmoil, led to a violent reaction by Islamists. On January 16, Mohamed Boudiaf, a hero of the Liberation War, returned after 28 years of exile to serve as Algeria's fourth president. Facing sporadic outbreaks of violence and terrorism, the security forces took control of the FIS offices in early February, and the High Council of State declared a state of emergency. In March, following a court decision, the FIS Party was formally dissolved, and a series of arrests and trials of FIS members occurred resulting in more than 50,000 members being jailed. Algeria became caught in a cycle of violence, which became increasingly random and indiscriminate. On June 29, 1992, President Boudiaf was assassinated in Annaba in front of TV cameras by Army Lt. Lembarek Boumarafi, who allegedly confessed to carrying out the killing on behalf of the Islamists.
Despite efforts to restore the political process, violence and terrorism dominated the Algerian landscape during the 1990s. In 1994, Liamine Zeroual, former Minister of Defense, was appointed Head of State by the High Council of State for a 3-year term. During this period, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) launched terrorist campaigns against government figures and institutions to protest the banning of the Islamist parties. A breakaway GIA group--the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC)--also undertook terrorist activity in the country. Government officials estimate that more than 150,000 Algerians died during this period.
Zeroual called for presidential elections in 1995, though some parties objected to holding elections that excluded the FIS. Zeroual was elected president with 75% of the vote. By 1997, in an attempt to bring political stability to the nation, the National Democratic Rally (RND) party was formed by a progressive group of FLN members. In September 1998, President Liamine Zeroual announced that he would step down in February 1999, 21 months before the end of his term, and that presidential elections would be held.
Algerians went to the polls in April 1999, following a campaign in which seven candidates qualified for election. On the eve of the election, all candidates except Abdelaziz Bouteflika pulled out amid charges of widespread electoral fraud. Bouteflika, the candidate who appeared to enjoy the backing of the military, as well as the FLN and the RND party regulars, won with an official vote count of 70% of all votes cast. He was inaugurated on April 27, 1999 for a 5-year term.
President Bouteflika's agenda focused initially on restoring security and stability to the country. Following his inauguration, he proposed an official amnesty for those who fought against the government during the 1990s with the exception of those who had engaged in "blood crimes," such as rape or murder. This "Civil Concord" policy was widely approved in a nationwide referendum in September 2000. Government officials estimate that 80% of those fighting the regime during the 1990s have accepted the civil concord offer and have attempted to reintegrate into Algerian society. Bouteflika also launched national commissions to study education and judicial reform, as well as restructuring of the state bureaucracy.
In 2001, Berber activists in the Kabylie region of the country, reacting to the death of a youth in gendarme custody, unleashed a resistance campaign against what they saw as government repression. Strikes and demonstrations in the Kabylie region were commonplace as a result, and some spread to the capital. Chief among Berber demands was recognition of Tamazight (a general term for Berber languages) as an official language, official recognition and financial compensation for the deaths of Kabyles killed in demonstrations, an economic development plan for the area and greater control over their own regional affairs. In October 2001, the Tamazight language was recognized as a national language, but the issue remains contentious as Tamazight has not been elevated to an official language.
The April 8, 2004, presidential election was the first election since independence in which several candidates competed. Besides incumbent President Bouteflika, five other candidates, including one woman, competed in the election. Opposition candidates complained of some discrepancies in the voting list; irregularities on polling day, particularly in Kabylie; and of unfair media coverage during the campaign as Bouteflika, by virtue of his office, appeared on state-owned television daily. Bouteflika was re-elected in the first round of the election with 84.99% of the vote. Just over 58% of those Algerians eligible to vote participated in the election.
In November 2008, the parliament adopted a set of constitutional amendments that included a removal of presidential term limits. The parliament approved the proposed amendments by a wide margin with minimal debate. President Bouteflika won a third term in the April 9, 2009, elections with, officially, 90.2% of the vote. Opposition members again complained of unfair media coverage and irregularities during voting, and some parties boycotted the vote.
Addressing the underlying issues that brought about the political turmoil of the 1990s remains the government's major task. The Algerian Government in recent years has espoused free-market competition and participatory democracy, stating that it will continue to open the political process and encourage the creation of political institutions.
In January 2011, riots sparked by increases in staple food prices spread across 24 of Algeria’s 48 provinces. A fledgling political opposition coalition failed to garner widespread public support, and the government prevented the group from staging weekly marches in Algiers. In February the government lifted the state of emergency that had been in effect since 1992. Beginning in March and extending through mid-April 2011, dozens of sectoral groups staged protests and sit-ins in public spaces and in front of government ministries in Algiers, demanding higher wages, improved benefits, and better working conditions. Most of the protests remained peaceful and ended after the government agreed to meet most demands. In April, President Bouteflika gave a speech promising sweeping political reforms. By January 2012, the government had enacted new laws on elections, political parties, female participation in politics, associations, and the media.
Elections for the National Assembly will be held in spring 2012. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2014.
Under the 1976 Constitution (as modified 1979 and amended in 1988, 1989, 1996, and 2008), Algeria is a multi-party state. The Ministry of the Interior must approve all political parties. According to the Constitution, no political association may be formed "based on differences in religion, language, race, gender or region." Algeria has universal suffrage at the age of 18.
The head of state and of government is the president of the republic. The president, elected to a 5-year term, is the head of the Council of Ministers and of the High Security Council. He appoints the prime minister as well as one-third of the upper house of parliament (the Council of the Nation).
The Algerian parliament is bicameral, consisting of a lower chamber, the National People's Assembly (APN), with 389 members and the upper chamber, the Council of the Nation, with 144 members. The APN is elected every 5 years. Legislative elections for the APN were held in May 2007. Two-thirds of the Council of the Nation is elected by regional and municipal authorities; the rest are appointed by the president. The Council of the Nation serves a 6-year term with one-half of the seats up for election or reappointment every 3 years. Either the president or one of the parliamentary chambers may initiate legislation. Legislation must be brought before both chambers before it becomes law, but this cannot happen without the support of the presidency. If the APN vetoes legislation, it must technically be dissolved. Sessions of the APN are televised.
Government Type: Republic
Capital: Algiers 2.74 million
Other Major Cities: Oran 770,000 (2009)
Administrative Divisions: Algeria is divided into 48 wilayat (states or provinces) headed by walis (governors) who report to the Minister of Interior. Each wilaya is further divided into communes. The wilayat and communes are each governed by an elected assembly.
Provinces of Algeria. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Independence Date: 5 July 1962 (from France)
Legal System: Socialist, based on French and Islamic law; judicial review of legislative acts in ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials, including several Supreme Court justices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
International Environmental Agreements
Algeria is party to agreements on Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands.
Total Renewable Water Resources: 14.3 cu km (1997)
Freshwater Withdrawal: Total: 6.07 cu km/yr (22% domestic, 13% industrial, 65% agricultural). Per capita: 185 cu m/yr (2000)
Agricultural products: Wheat, barley, oats, grapes, olives, citrus, fruits; sheep, cattle
Irrigated Land: 5,690 sq km (2003)
Population growth and associated problems--unemployment and underemployment, inability of social services to keep pace with rapid urban migration, inadequate industrial management and productivity, and a decaying infrastructure--continue to affect Algerian society. The government began an economic reform program in 1994, focusing on macroeconomic stability and structural reform, which has met with some success in certain sectors. At the start of his third term in office, President Bouteflika announced that his 5-year plan (2009-2014) would include an increase from $120 billion to $150 billion in spending to improve national infrastructure, create three million jobs, and build one million new homes.
Algeria's economy remains dominated by the state, a legacy of the country's socialist post-independence development model. Gradual liberalization since the mid-1990s has opened up more of the economy, but in recent years Algeria has imposed new restrictions on foreign involvement in its economy and largely halted the privatization of state-owned industries.
Hydrocarbons have long been the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, 30% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the eighth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the fourth-largest gas exporter. It ranks 16th in oil reserves.
Thanks to strong hydrocarbon revenues, Algeria has a cushion of $150 billion in foreign currency reserves and a large hydrocarbon stabilization fund.
In addition, Algeria's external debt is extremely low at about 1% of GDP. Algeria has struggled to develop industries outside of hydrocarbons in part because of high costs and an inert state bureaucracy.
Faced with declining oil revenues and high-debt interest payments at the beginning of the 1990s, Algeria implemented a stringent macroeconomic stabilization program and rescheduled its $7.9 billion Paris Club debt in the mid-1990s. The macroeconomic program was successful at narrowing the budget deficit and at reducing inflation from near-30% averages in the mid-1990s to almost single digits in 2000. The government reported an inflation rate of 5.7% in 2009 and an economic growth rate of 3.9%. Increases in the production and prices of oil and gas over the preceding decade led to foreign exchange reserves exceeding an estimated $150 billion in 2010. The spike in oil prices at various times in recent years, along with the government's tight fiscal policy and positive trade surpluses based on oil exports, brought foreign exchange reserves to nearly $180 billion (est.) as of January 2012.
The Algerian Government has had little success at reducing high unemployment--officially estimated at 10% in February 2011, though international estimates put the figure much higher--or at improving living standards. Policies needed to modernize the economy and increase growth are banking and judicial reform, improving the investment environment, partial or complete privatization of state enterprises, and reducing government bureaucracy. The government has privatized or closed some state-owned enterprises in certain sectors of the economy and allowed joint venture investment in others.
The government seeks to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector but announced several economic policies in 2008 and 2009 that would strengthen Algerian Government control over foreign investment projects. Algeria adopted a “complementary finance law” on July 22, 2009, which imposed new restrictions on foreign investment, import companies, and domestic consumer credit. The law requires a minimum of 51% Algerian partnership in new foreign investments, a 30% Algerian partnership in all foreign import companies, and payment of all imports by letters of credit opened by banks.
In 2001, Algeria concluded an Association Agreement with the European Union, which was ratified in 2005 by both Algeria and the EU and took effect in September of that same year. The government continues to express interest in working toward accession to the World Trade Organization.
In 2010, Algeria began a five-year, $286 billion development program to update the country's infrastructure and provide jobs. The costly program will boost Algeria's economy in 2011 but worsen the country's budget deficit.
Long-term economic challenges include diversification from hydrocarbons, relaxing state control of the economy, and providing adequate jobs for younger Algerians.
GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $264.1 billion (2011 est.)
GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): $183.4 billion (2011 est.)
GDP- per capita (PPP): $7,200 (2011 est.)
GDP- composition by sector:
services: 30.2% (2011 est.)
Population Below Poverty Line: 23% (2006 est.)
Industries: Petroleum, natural gas, light industries, mining, electrical, petrochemical, food processing
Exports: Petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products 97%
Imports: capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Currency: Algerian dinar (DZD)
Ports and Terminals: Algiers, Annaba, Arzew, Bejaia, Djendjene, Jijel, Mostaganem, Oran, Skikda
The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the Algerian economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, nearly 30% of GDP, and over 97% of export earnings. Algeria is the fourth-largest crude oil producer in Africa. In 2009 Algeria produced 2.13 million barrels per day of oil liquids, of which 1.33 million barrels per day was crude oil. Algeria has the tenth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the sixth-largest gas producer (2008). The country produced 3.05 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2008; 69% was exported. Its key oil and gas customers are Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. U.S. companies have played a major role in developing Algeria's oil and gas sector; of the $5.3 billion (on a historical-cost basis, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis) of U.S. investment in Algeria the vast bulk is in the hydrocarbon sector.
40.11 billion kWh
30.5 billion kWh
323 million kWh
49 million kWh
2.078 million bbl/day
1.694 million bbl/day
12.2 billion bbl
(1 January 2011 est.)
85.14 billion cu m
29.86 billion cu m
55.28 billion cu m
0 cu m
4.502 trillion cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
- Charles-Robert Ageron. 1991. Modern Algeria. A History from 1830 to the Present. Translated from French and edited by Michael Brett. London: Hurst. ISBN 978-0-86543-266-6.