Algeria (DZ)

Capital

Algiers

Population

45.2 million

Constitution

Multi-party republic headed by president

Head of state

President Abdelmajid Tebboune

National Day

July 5th

Algeria's Ambassador to the UK

H.E. Mr Abderrahmane Benguerrah

Embassy of Algeria, 1-3 Riding House Street, London, W1W 7DR

UK's Ambasador to Algeria

H.E. Mrs Sharon Wardle

British Embassy Algiers, Ambassade Britannique, 3 Chemin Capitaine Hocine Slimane (ex Chemin des Glycines), Algiers, Algeria

The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria is in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Bordered to the east by Tunisia and Libya, to the south by Niger, Mali and Mauritania and to the west by Western Sahara and Morocco, the overwhelming majority of its estimated 43 million population live on its 998km Mediterranean coastline in the north, where its capital, Algiers, is also situated. It is Africa’s largest country by size - since the 2011 breakup of Sudan - and the world’s tenth largest. The Sahara Desert makes up more than 80% of its land. 

Population

Ethnically, 99% of its population is Arab-Berber, with less than 1% thought to be European.

Its official languages are Arabic and Berber, although the use of French remains widespread in government, the media, and across the education system. It has a literacy rate of 81.4% and unemployment currently stands at around 11.4%. The median age of Algeria is 28.9 years, with life expectancy 77.5 years.

Government

Algeria is governed as a presidential republic. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected on 12 December 2019. Presidents are elected by popular vote and require an absolute majority, which can be secured through two rounds if necessary. They are elected for a five-year term, which can be renewed once. The Prime Minister of Algeria (currently Abdelaziz Djerad) is nominated by the President after consultation with the majority party in Parliament.  

Its legislature consists the upper house, the Council of the Nation, which has 144 seats; one-third of its members are appointed by the President, with the remaining two-thirds indirectly elected by a simple majority vote by an electoral college composed of local council members. Its members serve six-year terms, with one-half of the membership renewed every three years.  

Its lower house, the National People’s Assembly, has 462 seats, including 8 seats for Algerians living abroad. Its members are elected through a proportional representation vote to serve five-year terms in multi-seat constituencies.  

History  

Algeria has a complex and, at times, violent past. It was a former Roman colony in antiquity. The Umayyad dynasty brought Islam to Algeria from, it is believed, 670 AD. The dramatic conversion began within just 40 years of the death of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Conquest by France

For more than three centuries, large parts of modern-day Algeria were ruled by the Ottoman Empire as an autonomous province. This ended in 1830 with the French capture of Algiers, after which French forces waged a long campaign for the rest of the country. It is estimated that 825,000 Algerians were killed during this campaign, one-third of the population.   

Pro-independence demonstrations began in 1945, which ultimately led to the Algerian War of Independence between 1954 and 1962. Characterised by guerrilla warfare, hundreds of thousands of Algerians are believed to have died during the conflict.   

Independence was finally gained in 1962. Politics in the country started out as mostly socialist in ideology, but gradually slipped into authoritarianism. The period saw agriculture being collectivised and industrialisation promoted. In 1989 a new constitution removed the one-party state and moved the country closer to western capitalism.  

Civil war

Civil war began in 1991 when the government cancelled parliamentary election in which which the popular Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) looked certain to defeat the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN). Algeria's powerful military staged a coup and banned FIS. Islamist guerrillas rapidly emerged and the conflict that followed was long and extremely brutal, resulting in the deaths of perhaps up to 200,000 people. It was known as La sale guerre (dirty war).

The election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as president in 1999 marked an end to the war and brought relative political stability and national reconciliation to Algeria.  

Following sustained protests, President Bouteflika resigned from office on 2 April 2019. 

Religion 

Islam is the official religion, with 99% of Algerians identifying as Muslim, the majority of whom are Sunni.

Economy  

Algeria’s currency is the dinar (DZD). Its economy is largely reliant on petroleum and other hydrocarbons. Together, they account for roughly 30% of Algeria’s GDP and represent nearly 95% of its export earnings. It has the tenth largest reserves of natural gas in the world, including the third largest reserves of shale gas, and is the sixth largest gas exporter.  

Given its socialist post-independence development model, much of Algeria’s economy remains dominated by the state. For example, Sonatrach, the Algerian national oil company, plays a key role in the country’s oil and natural gas sectors, with all foreign operators obliged to work in partnership with it.  

Since 2015, Algeria has increased protectionist measures to both limit its import bill and to encourage the domestic development of non-oil and gas industries. Indeed, in January 2018 the Government imposed an indefinite suspension on the importation of around 850 products (subject to periodic review).  

Algeria and Morocco don't get on

For nearly 50 years, Morocco has had very poor relations with Morocco and the border between the two countries has been closed since 1994. In Augustb 2021, Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Morocco.

Relations began to sour almost immediately after Algeria finally won its independence from its former French colonial masters. In October 1963, Morocco attempted to annex parts of two Algerian provinces. The short border conflict that followed was called "the Sand War", and saw the involvement of several foreign powers including Cuba, which backed Algiers. The conflict was resolved in Algeria's favour, recognising pre-conflict frontiers. But suspicion has simmered severe since.

The issue of Western Sahara is at the core of the bitterness between the two countries.  Algeria was furious at Morocco's annexation of the territory in 1975 following its evacuation by Spain. In fact, Algerian president Houari Boumediene ordered the expulsion of 350,000 Moroccans in the wake of Morocco's so-called "Green March" of November 1975. Rabat had encouraged hundreds of thousands of Moroccans to advance across the border into Western Sahara to help expedite the Spanish withdrawal. Morocco later gained control over most of the territory. (*See Western Sahara page.)

Algeria has no territorial claims on Western Sahara itself, but was averse to any of its neighbours annexing such a large territory and it has supported the Polisario Front of the native Sahrawi people in their fight to found an independent nation. 

 

Key dates

671 AD
Umayyad Dynasty begins Islamic conquest of what is now modern day Algeria. Ruled by a number of Berber dynasties until the Ottomans
Late 1400s
Spanish capture key Algerian cities including Algiers and Oran
1516
OTTOMANS: Conquest begins by Ottoman Empire of most of what is modern day Algeria
1830
France invades Algeria, ending 300 years of Ottoman rule
1954
Start of Algerian War of Independence
1962
Algeria declares independence from France
Oct' - Nov' 1963
SAND WAR: Border conflict with Morocco, called the Sand War. Morroco laid claim to art of Algeria's Tindouf and Bechar provinces. Cuba intercedes for Algeria. War resolved in Algeria's favour
Dec' 1975
MOROCCAN EXPULSION: Algeria expels 350,000 Moroccans following so-called "Green March" in which Rabat encouraged thousands of Moroccans to enter Western Sahara to expedite Spanish withdrawal
1976
Algeria clashes with Morocco following Morocco's invasion of Western Sahara
1989
New constitution moves Algeria from one party state
1994
Morocco closes border with Algeria. Remains closed until today
1991 - 2002
Islamist insurgency against government killing approx. 100,000 people
1999
New president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, introduces national reconciliation policies
2019
Mr Bouteflika steps down following street protests
Dec' 2000
ABRAHAM ACCORDS: Algeria opposes Morocco's decision to sign normalisation agreement with Israel, called the Abraham Accords. US recognition of Morocco's claim to Western Sahara follows day after signing
July 2021
PEGASUS HACK CLAIMS: Amnesty International claims that Morocco had targeted more than 6,000 Algerian phones, including g those of politicians and high ranking military officers, with controversial Pegasus spyware
Aug' 2021
KABYLIE CLAIMS: Algeria accuses Morocco of supporting the Berberist self determination movement in Kabylie
Aug' 2021
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BREAK-OFF: Algeria announces break-of of diplomatic relations with Morocco
Sept' 2021
Algeria announces closure of airspace to Moroccan civilian and military aircraft