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By Dalibor Rohac and Nouh El-Harmouzi

Campaigners for Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 76-year old Algerian president who is seeking re-election for a fourth consecutive term, promise “broad democracy” if their candidate wins. After decades of oppression and authoritarianism, Algerians have little reason to believe them. Continue reading »

Young Arabs are increasingly turning their backs on cushy public sector jobs in favour of working for private companies and starting their own businesses, a survey in 16 countries has found.

There has also been an erosion in optimism that the “Arab spring” uprisings in recent years against authoritarian governments across the region will translate into better lives for ordinary people, the survey found. Continue reading »

By Edward Robinson, Culmer Raphael

Events in Algeria could be about to complicate the European Union’s response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

As part of a second possible package of sanctions, the European Commission is drawing up options for “reducing energy dependence on Russia”, to be debated by EU heads of government at the June summit. The obvious options include substituting some Russian gas imports with supplies from Europe’s second and third largest gas suppliers: Norway and Algeria. The CEO of ENI crystallised it last week when he said that he expected a ‘gigantic’ effort to diversify gas imports in the absence of any agreement with Russia over Crimea. Continue reading »

Algeria, with its population of 37m, its energy wealth and growing demand for modern infrastructure and consumer products, could have been a spectacular venue for foreign investment and a great economic player in the southern Mediterranean, writes Borzou Daragahi.

But because of its past and its location, Algeria is one of the toughest places to do business. Its tangled postcolonial history has enthroned a secretive leadership atop a Byzantine bureaucracy resistant to change. Continue reading »

The choice of target in the recent bloody hostage standoff in Algeria was not by chance. By attacking the gas sector, jihadist terrorists went for maximum impact. Energy accounts for 98 per cent of Algeria’s exports and 70 per cent of tax revenue, with the In Amenas plant accounting for 12 per cent of the country’s gas output.

It is unlikely to prompt any large-scale pull-out by foreign companies, but the events cap a longer term deterioration in the operating environment of Africa’s biggest natural gas producer, where new investment has all but dried up, with steadily decreasing numbers of successful oil round awards. Continue reading »

By Philippe de Pontet and Riccardo Fabiani of Eurasia Group

The investor and geopolitical impacts of the French-led intervention against Islamist militants in Mali will reverberate far beyond the country’s porous borders. Indeed they already have, as the grisly kidnapping of dozens of expatriates in BP’s southern Algerian gas field has shown.

Mali will continue to be the epicenter of combat, casualties, and French preoccupation, but the real risks to multinationals and foreign citizens will play out elsewhere in a vast region that spans North Africa, West Africa and the largely ungoverned Sahel which lies at crossroads of the two. Continue reading »

The conflict in Mali has intensified following the onset of a major French military intervention and promises by Islamists to retaliate against western targets across the region. What might be the economic spillover effects of the conflict?

Mali may not play an integral role in the world economy, but many of its neighboring countries do as suppliers of key petrochemicals and minerals – so the potential for disruption from the conflict is more significant than it might at first seem. Continue reading »

By Naguib Sawiris

Most governments in North Africa acknowledge the role of foreign direct investment in relieving poverty and encouraging economic growth – and in helping countries to respond to the challenges raised by the recent political upheavals in the region.

This is why the behaviour of the Algerian government, in threatening to rip up legal commercial agreements and investment treaties and in targeting one of the country’s largest foreign investors with a campaign of harassment and interference, is so damaging. Its actions could have a devastating impact on the business climate in Algeria and cast a shadow over the investment prospects for the whole region. Continue reading »

Algeria’s powerful armed forces, which already run Africa’s biggest defence budget, have requested a 14 per cent spending increase for next year, as the country prepares for security threats on its southern border.

The Algerian defence ministry, still mostly run by the ageing generals who fought for the country’s liberation from France 50 years ago, has requested a $10.3bn budget for 2012, according to the South African news outlet, DefenceWeb. So what’s on the shopping list – and from whom? Continue reading »

“Don’t forget, revolutions are expensive”, says Dimitris Tsitsiragos. He should know: his responsibilities as a vice president at the International Finance Corporation include north Africa and the Middle East, not least the countries hit by the Arab Spring.

The IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm, has, in the last five years, boosted its annual commitments to the region by nearly 50 per cent to over $2bn. But, Tsitsiragos says it’s not enough: without more private sector involvement, the region cannot generate the investments required to produce faster economic growth and more jobsContinue reading »

The north African nation of Algeria has hired an American company, Itron, to upgrade the metering system for its electricity power network.

US firms play a relatively major role in Algeria’s economy, but mostly in developing the oil and gas industry, rather than utilities. Continue reading »

Algeria is Africa’s third biggest economy – yet the Bourse D’Alger is among the smallest stock exchanges in the world, with only a handful of listed companies.

Now, for the first time, the country plans to allow foreign investors to buy stocks on the exchange, though only in partnership with domestic investors. Will they bite? Continue reading »

By Tom Gara and Josh Noble

Erecting magnificent mosques has long been a favoured way for leaders in the Islamic world to establish or enhance their political legitimacy. That tradition continued this week as Algerian authorities signed a deal with a Chinese state contractor to erect one of the biggest and most expensive mosques ever built, the billion-euro Grand Mosque of Algiers.

China State Construction Engineering (CSCE) picked up the contract in a signing ceremony in the Algerian capital. Algeria’s religious affairs minister, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, said president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, wanted to “leave his mark” by building the vast new house of worship. Continue reading »

By Stephen Snyder of Ergo

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Algiers on Saturday and gave Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a free pass on two major issues of contention between the two countries: his government’s upcoming rigged elections and his support for Bashar al-Assad in the worsening crisis in Syria.

In the midst of a regional tour to promote democracy-building and rally international support for intervention in Syria, Clinton’s sudden silence on these issues in Algeria spoke volumes. At the root of this silence is Algeria’s position as a cornerstone in the global oil and gas market. Continue reading »