Following the April 2, 2019 resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria entered into a transition period headed by an interim president. Algeria’s state enterprise-dominated economy has traditionally been a challenging market for U.S. businesses, though one that offers compelling opportunities. Multiple sectors offer opportunities for long-term growth for U.S. firms, with many having reported double-digit annual profits. Sectors primed for continued growth include agriculture, tourism, information and communications technology, manufacturing, energy (both fossil fuel and renewable), construction, and healthcare. A 2016 investment law offers lucrative, long-term tax exemptions, along with other incentives. Rising oil prices in the latter half of 2018 helped reduce the trade deficit and restore some revenue to the government budget, though government spending is still higher than revenue.
The energy sector, dominated by state hydrocarbons company Sonatrach and its subsidiaries, forms the backbone of the Algerian economy, as oil and gas production and revenue have traditionally accounted for more than 95 percent of export revenues, 60 percent of the state budget, and 30 percent of GDP. The Algerian government continues to pursue its goal of diversifying its economy, with an emphasis on attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost employment and offset imports via increased local production. Algeria has pursued a series of protectionist policies to encourage local industry growth. In December 2017, the government scrapped a short-lived policy requiring importers of certain goods to obtain import licenses (the license requirement was subsequently retained only for automobiles and cosmetics), replacing it with a temporary ban on 851 products announced January 1, 2018. The government replaced that ban on January 29, 2019 with a set of tariffs between 30-200 percent on over 1,000 goods. The import substitution policies have generated some regulatory uncertainty, supply shortages, and price increases.
Algeria’s political transition may affect economic policies, though most leaders recognize the importance of economic diversification and job creation. Economic operators currently deal with a range of challenges, including overcoming customs issues, an entrenched bureaucracy, difficulties in monetary transfers, and price competition from international rivals, particularly China, Turkey, and France. International firms that operate in Algeria sometimes complain that laws and regulations are constantly shifting and applied unevenly, raising the perception of commercial risk for foreign investors. Business contracts are likewise subject to changing interpretation and revision, which has proved challenging to U.S. and international firms. Other drawbacks include limited regional integration and the 51/49 rule that requires majority Algerian ownership of all new foreign partnerships. Arduous foreign currency exchange requirements and overly bureaucratic customs processes combine to impede the efficiency and reliability of the supply chain, adding further uncertainty to the market.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||105 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||157 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||110 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2018||$3 Billion||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2018||USD 3,940||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment
The Algerian economy is both challenging and potentially highly rewarding. While the Algerian government publicly welcomes FDI, a difficult business climate, an inconsistent regulatory environment, and contradictory government policies complicate foreign investment. There are business opportunities in nearly every sector, including energy, power, water, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation, recycling, agribusiness, and consumer goods.
Algerians’ urgency to diversify their economy away from reliance on hydrocarbons has increased amid low and fluctuating oil prices since mid-2014. The government has sought to reduce the country’s trade deficit through import substitution policies and import tariffs. Despite higher oil prices in 2018 that helped shrink the trade deficit, Algeria’s decreasing hydrocarbons exports has kept government rhetoric focused on the need to diversify Algeria’s economy. On January 29, 2019 the government implemented tariffs between 30-200 percent on over 1,000 goods it believes are destined for direct sale to consumers. Companies that set up local manufacturing operations can receive permission to import materials the government would not otherwise approve for import if the importer can show those materials will be used in local production. Certain regulations explicitly favor local firms at the expense of foreign competitors, most prominently in the pharmaceutical sector, where an outright import ban the government implemented in 2009 remains in place on more than 360 medicines and medical devices. The arbitrary nature of the government’s frequent changes to business regulations has added to the uncertainty in the market.
Algerian state enterprises have a “right of first refusal” on transfers of foreign holdings to foreign shareholders. Companies must notify the Council for State Participation (CPE) of these transfers.
There are two main agencies responsible for attracting foreign investment, the National Agency of Investment Development (ANDI) and the National Agency for the Valorization of Hydrocarbons (ALNAFT).
ANDI is the primary Algerian government agency tasked with recruiting and retaining foreign investment. ANDI runs branches in each of Algeria’s 48 governorates (“wilayas”) which are tasked with facilitating business registration, tax payments, and other administrative procedures for both domestic and foreign investors. In practice, U.S. companies report that the agency is under-staffed and ineffective. Its “one-stop shops” only operate out of physical offices, and there are no efforts to maintain dialogue with investors after they have initiated an investment. The agency’s effectiveness is undercut by its lack of decision-making authority, particularly for industrial projects, which is exercised by the Ministry of Industry and Mines, the Minister of Industry himself, and in many cases the Prime Minister.
ALNAFT is charged with attracting foreign investment to Algeria’s upstream oil and gas sector. In addition to organizing events marketing upstream opportunities in Algeria to potential investors, the agency maintains a paid-access digital database with extensive technical information about Algeria’s hydrocarbons resources.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Establishing a presence in Algeria can take any of three basic forms: 1) a liaison office with no local partner requirement and no authority to perform commercial operations, 2) a branch office to execute a specific contract, with no obligation to have a local partner, allowing the parent company to conduct commercial activity (considered a resident Algerian entity without full legal authority), or 3) a local company with 51 percent of share-capital held by a local company or shareholders. A business entity can be incorporated as a joint stock company (JSC), a limited liability company (LLC), a limited partnership (LP), a limited partnership with shares (LPS), or an undeclared partnership. Groups and consortia are also used by foreign companies when partnering with other foreign companies or with local firms.
Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. However, the 51/49 rule requires majority Algerian ownership (at least 51 percent) in all projects involving foreign investments. This requirement was first adopted in 2006 for the hydrocarbons sector and was expanded across all sectors in the 2009 investments law. The rule was removed from the 2016 Investment Law, but remains in force by virtue of its inclusion in the 2016 annual finance law, which requires foreign investment activities be subject to the incorporation of an Algerian company in which at least 51 percent of capital stock is held by resident national shareholder(s).
Algerian government officials have defended the 51/49 requirement as necessary to prevent capital flight, protect Algerian businesses, and provide foreign businesses with local expertise. The government has argued the rule is not an impediment to attracting foreign investment and is needed to diversify investment in Algeria’s economy, foster private sector growth, create employment for nationals, transfer technology and expertise, and develop local training initiatives. Additionally, officials contend, and some foreign investors agree, a range of tailored measures can mitigate the effect of the 51/49 rule and allow the minority foreign shareholder to exercise other means of control. Some foreign investors use multiple local partners in the same venture, effectively reducing ownership of each individual local partner to enable the foreign partner to own the largest share.
The 51/49 investment rule poses challenges for various types of investors. For example, the requirement hampers market access for foreign small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as they often do not have the human resources or financial capital to navigate complex legal and regulatory requirements. Large companies can find creative ways to work within the law, sometimes with the cooperation of local authorities who are more flexible with large investments that promise of significant job creation and technology and equipment transfers. SMEs usually do not receive this same consideration. There are also allegations that Algerian partners sometimes refuse to invest the required funds in the company’s business, require non-contract funds to win contracts, and send unqualified workers to job sites. Manufacturers are also concerned about intellectual property rights (IPR), as foreign companies do not want to surrender control of their designs and patents. Several U.S. companies have reported they have internal policies that preclude them from investing overseas without maintaining a majority share, out of concerns for both IPR and financial control of the local venture, which correspondingly prevent them from establishing businesses in Algeria.
The Algerian government does not officially screen FDI, though Algerian state enterprises have a “right of first refusal” on transfers of foreign holdings to foreign shareholders. Companies must notify the Council for State Participation (CPE) of these transfers. In addition, initial foreign investments are still subject to approvals from a host of ministries that cover the proposed project, most often the Ministries of Commerce, Health, Energy, and Industry and Mines. U.S. companies have reported that certain high-profile industrial proposals, such as for automotive assembly, are subject to informal approval by the Prime Minister. In 2017, the government instituted an Investments Review Council chaired by Prime Minister for the purpose of “following up” on investments; in practice, the establishment of the council means FDI proposals are subject to additional government scrutiny. According to the 2016 Investment Law, projects registered through the ANDI deemed to have special interest for the national economy or high employment generating potential may be eligible for extensive investment advantages. For any project over 5 billion dinars (approximately USD 44 million) to benefit from these advantages, it must be approved by the Prime Minister-chaired National Investments Council (CNI). The CNI meets regularly, though it is not clear how the agenda of projects considered at each meeting is determined.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Algeria has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). The last investment policy review by a third party was conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2003 and published in 2004.
Algeria’s online information portal dedicated to business creation and the business registration website are currently under maintenance. The websites provide information about several business registration steps applicable for registering certain kinds of businesses. Entrepreneurs report that additional information about requirements or regulation updates for business registration are available only in person at the various offices involved in the creation and registration process.
In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, Algeria’s ranking for starting a business dropped from 145 to 157 ( ) despite seeing improvement in rankings for half of the ten indicator categories, including reforms which made getting electricity and trading across borders simpler. The World Bank report lists 12 procedures that cumulatively take an average of 17.5 days to complete to register a new business. New business owners seeking to establish their enterprises have sometimes reported the process takes longer, noting that the most updated version of regulations and required forms are only available in person at multiple offices, therefore requiring multiple visits.
Algeria does not currently have any restrictions on domestic investors from investing overseas, provided they can access foreign currency for such investments. The exchange of Algerian dinars outside of Algerian territory is illegal, as is the carrying abroad of more than 3,000 dinars in cash at a time (approximately USD 26; see section 7 for more details on currency exchange restrictions).
Algeria’s National Agency to Promote External Trade (ALGEX), housed in the Ministry of Commerce, is the lead agency responsible for supporting Algerian businesses outside the hydrocarbons sector that want to export abroad. ALGEX controls a special promotion fund to promote exports but the funds can only be accessed for very limited purposes. For example, funds might be provided to pay for construction of a booth at a trade fair, but travel costs associated with getting to the fair – which can be expensive for overseas shows – would not be covered. The Algerian Company of Insurance and Guarantees to Exporters (CAGEX), also housed under the Ministry of Commerce, provides insurance to exporters. In 2003, Algeria established a National Consultative Council for Promotion of Exports (CCNCPE) that is supposed to meet annually. Algerian exporters claim difficulties working with ALGEX including long delays in obtaining support funds, and the lack of ALGEX offices overseas despite a 2003 law for their creation. The Bank of Algeria’s 2002 Money and Credit law allows Algerians to request the conversion of dinars to foreign currency in order to finance their export activities, but exporters must repatriate an equivalent amount to any funds spent abroad, for example money spent on marketing or other business costs incurred.
4. Industrial Policies
Any incentive offered by the Algerian government is generally available to any company, though there are multiple tiers of “common, additional, and exceptional” incentives under the 2016 investments law ( ). “Common” incentives available to all investors include exemption from customs duties for all imported production inputs, exemption from value-added sales tax (VAT) for all imported goods and services that enter directly into the implementation of the investment project, a 90 percent reduction on tenancy fees during construction, and a 10-year exemption on real estate taxes. Investors also benefit from a three-year exemption on corporate and professional activity taxes and a 50 percent reduction for three years on tenancy fees after construction is completed. Additional incentives are available for investments made outside the coastal regions, namely the reduction of tenancy fees to a symbolic dinar (USD .01) per square meter of land for 10 years in the High Plateau region and 15 years in the south of Algeria, plus a 50 percent reduction thereafter. The law also charges the state to cover, in part or in full, the necessary infrastructure works for the realization of the investment. “Exceptional” incentives apply for investments “of special interest to the national economy,” including the extension of the common tax incentives to 10 years. The sectors of “special interest” have not yet been publicly specified. An investment must receive the approval of the National Investments Council in order to qualify for the exceptional incentives.
Regulations passed in a March 2017 executive decree exclude approximately 150 economic activities from eligibility for the incentives ( ). The list of excluded investments is concentrated on the services sector but also includes manufacturing for some products. All investments in sales, whether retail or wholesale, and imports business are ineligible.
The 2016 investments law also provided state guarantees for the transfer of incoming investment capital and outgoing profits. Pre-existing incentives established by other laws and regulations also include favorable loan rates well below inflation from public banks for qualified investments.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Algeria does not have any foreign trade zones or free ports.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The Algerian government does not officially mandate local employment, but companies usually must provide extensive justification to various levels of the government as to why an expatriate worker is needed. Some businesses have reported instances of the government pressuring foreign companies operating in Algeria, particularly in the hydrocarbons sector, to limit the number of expatriate middle and senior managers so that Algerians can be hired for these positions. Any person or legal entity employing a foreign citizen is required to notify the Ministry of Labor. Contacts at multinational companies have alleged this pressure is applied via visa applications for expatriate workers. U.S. companies in the hydrocarbons industry have reported that, when granted, expatriate work permits are usually valid for no longer than six months and are delivered up to three months late, requiring firms to apply perpetually for renewals.
In 2017, the Algerian government began instituting forced localization in the auto sector. Industry regulations issued in December 2017 require companies producing or assembling cars in the country to achieve a local integration rate of at least 15 percent within three years of operation. The threshold rises to between 40 and 60 percent after a company’s fifth year of operation. Since 2014, the government has required car dealers to invest in industrial or “semi-industrial” activities as a condition for doing business in Algeria. Dealers seeking to import new vehicles must obtain an import license from the Ministry of Commerce. Since January 2017, the Ministry has not issued any licenses. As the Algerian government further restricts imports, localization requirements are expected to broaden to other manufacturing industries over the next several years. For example, a tender launched in 2018 for 150 megawatts of photovoltaic solar energy power plants mandated that bidders be Algerian legal entities.
Information technology providers are not required to turn over source codes or encryption keys, but all hardware and software imported to Algeria must be approved by the Agency for Regulation of Post and Electronic Communications (ARPCE), under the Ministry of Post, Information Technology and Communication. The ARPCE was created in May 2018, dissolving and taking over the function of the previous Agency for Regulation of Post and Telecommunications (APRT). In practice, the Algerian government requires public sector entities to store data on servers within the country.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Algiers Stock Exchange has five stocks listed—each at no more than 35 percent equity—with a total market capitalization representing less than 0.1 percent of Algeria’s GDP. Daily trading volume on the exchange averages around USD 2,000. Despite its small size, the market functions well and is adequately regulated by an independent oversight commission that enforces compliance requirements on listed companies and traders.
Officials aim to reach a capitalization of USD 7.8 billion in the next five years and enlist up to 50 new companies. However, attempts to list additional companies have been stymied by a lack both of public awareness and appetite for portfolio investment, as well as by private and public companies’ unpreparedness to satisfy due diligence requirements that would attract investors. Proposed privatizations of state-owned companies have also been opposed by the public. Algerian society generally prefers material investment vehicles for savings, namely cash. Public banks, which dominate the banking sector (see below), are required to purchase government securities when offered, meaning they have little leftover liquidity to make other investments. Foreign portfolio investment is prohibited—the purchase of any investment product in Algeria, whether a government or corporate bond or equity stock, is limited to Algerian residents only.
Money and Banking System
The banking sector is roughly 85 percent public and 15 percent private as measured by value of assets held, and is regulated by an independent central bank. Publicly available data from private institutions and U.S. Federal Reserve Economic Data show estimated total assets in the commercial banking sector in 2017 were roughly 13.9 trillion dinars (USD 116.7 billion) against 9.2 trillion dinars (USD 77.2 billion) in liabilities. The central bank had mandated a 12 percent minimum ratio for assets to liabilities until mid-2016, when in response to a drop in liquidity the bank lowered the threshold to8 percent. In August 2017, the ratio was further reduced to 4 percent in an effort to inject further liquidity into the banking system. The decrease in liquidity was a result of all public banks buying government bonds in the first public bond issuance in more than 10 years; buying at least 5 percent of the offered bonds is required for banks to participate as primary dealers in the government securities market. The bond issuance essentially returned funds to the state that it had parked in funds at local banks during years of excess hydrocarbons profits. In January 2018, the bank increased the retention ratio from 4 percent to 8 percent, followed by a further increase in February 2019 to a 12 percent ratio in response in anticipation of a rise in bank liquidity due to the government’s non-conventional financing policy, which allows the Treasury to borrow directly from the central bank to pay state debts.
Banks are considered financially healthy, although the IMF and Bank of Algeria have noted moderate growth in non-performing assets, currently estimated between 10-12 percent of total assets. The quality of service in public banks is generally considered low as generations of public banking executives and workers trained to operate in a statist economy lack familiarity with modern banking practices. Most transactions are still materialized (non-electronic). Many areas of the country suffer from a dearth of branches, leaving large amounts of the population without access to banking services. ATMs are not widespread, especially outside the major cities, and few accept foreign bank cards. Outside of major hotels with international clientele, hardly any retail establishments accept credit cards. Algerian banks do issue debit cards, but the system is distinct from any international payment system. In addition, approximately 4.6 trillion dinars (USD 40 billion), or one-third, of the money supply is estimated to circulate in the informal economy.
Foreigners can open foreign currency accounts without restriction, but proof of a work permit or residency is required to open an account in Algerian dinars. Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in the country, but they must be legally distinct entities from their overseas home offices. Of the handful of foreign banks with a presence in Algeria, all are engaged exclusively in commercial banking; none offers retail banking services.
In 2015, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Algeria from its Public Statement, and in 2016 it removed Algeria from the “gray list.” The FATF recognized Algeria’s significant progress and the improvement in its anti-money laundering/counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime. The FATF also indicated Algeria has substantially addressed its action plan since strategic deficiencies were identified in 2011.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are few statutory restrictions on foreign investors converting, transferring, or repatriating funds, according to banking executives. Monies cannot be expatriated to pay royalties or to pay for services provided by resident foreign companies. The difficultly with conversions and transfers results more from the procedures of the transfers rather than the statutory limitations: the process is heavily bureaucratic and requires almost 30 different steps from start to finish. The slightest misstep at any stage can slow down or completely halt the process. In theory, it should take roughly one month to complete, but in reality, it often takes three to six months. Also, the Algerian government has been known to delay the process as leverage in commercial and financial disputes with foreign companies.
Expatriated funds can be converted to any world currency. The IMF classifies the exchange rate regime as an “other managed arrangement,” with the central bank pegging the value of the Algerian dinar to a “basket” composed of 64 percent of the value of the U.S. dollar and 36 percent of the value of the euro. The currency’s value is not controlled by any market mechanism and is set solely by the central bank. As the Central Bank has full control of the official exchange rate of the Dinar, any change in its value could be considered currency manipulation. When dollar-denominated hydrocarbons profits fell starting in mid-2014, the central bank allowed a slow depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over 24 months, culminating in about a 30 percent fall in its value before stabilizing around 110 dinars to USD 1 in late 2016. However, the dinar lost only about 10 percent of its value against the euro in the same time frame. The government announced in mid-2018 its intention to maintain the exchange rate between 118-119 dinars to USD 1 through 2020. The parallel market rate saw the dinar devalue by more than 3 percent against the dollar between January and April 2019.
There have been no recent changes to remittance policies. Algerian exchange control law remains strict and complex. There are no specific time limitations, although the bureaucracy involved in remittances can often slow the process to as long as six months. Personal transfers of foreign currency into the country must be justified and declared as not for business purpose. There is no legal parallel market by which investors can remit; however, there is a substantial black market currency exchange system in Algeria. Exchange rates for the dollar and euro are about 50 percent stronger on the black market than the official rates. With the more favorable informal rates, local sources report that most remittances occur via foreign currency hand-carried into the country. Under central bank regulations revised in September 2016, travelers to Algeria are permitted to enter the country with up to 1,000 euros or equivalent without declaring the funds to customs. However, any non-resident can only exchange dinars back to a foreign currency with proof of initial conversion from the foreign currency. The same regulations prohibit the transfer of more than 3,000 dinars (USD 26) outside Algeria.
Private citizens may convert up to 15,000 dinars (USD 127) per year for travel abroad. To do the conversion, they must demonstrate proof of their intention to travel abroad through plane tickets or other official documents.
In April 2019, the Finance Ministry announced the creation of a vigilance committee to monitor and control financial transactions to foreign countries. It divided operations into three categories relating to 1) imports 2) investments abroad 3) transfer abroad of profits.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Algeria’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is the “Fonds de Regulation des Recettes (FRR).” The Finance Ministry’s website shows the fund decreased from 4408.2 billion dinars (USD 37.36 billion) in 2014 to 784.5 billion dinars (USD 6.65 billion) in 2016. Algerian media reported the FRR was spent down to zero as of February 2017. Algeria is not known to have participated in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWFs.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
More than half of the formal Algerian economy is comprised of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), led by the national oil and gas company Sonatrach, although SOEs are present in all sectors of the economy. SOEs are so prevalent that a comprehensive public list does not exist; rather all SOEs are amalgamated into a single line of the state budget. SOEs are listed in the official business registry. To be defined as an SOE, a company must be at least 51 percent owned by the state.
Algerian SOEs are generally heavily bureaucratic and may be subject to political influence. There are competing lines of authority at the mid-levels, and contacts report mid- and upper-level managers are reluctant to make decisions because internal accusations of favoritism or corruption are often used to settle political scores. Senior management teams at SOEs report to their relevant ministries; CEOs of the larger companies such as Sonatrach, electric and gas utility Sonelgaz, and airline Air Algerie report directly to ministers. Boards of directors are appointed by the state, and the allocation of these seats is considered political. SOEs are not known to adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance.
Legally, public and private companies compete under the same terms with respect to market share, products and services, and incentives. In reality, private enterprises assert that public companies sometimes receive more favorable treatment. Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, but they tend to work more with private banks and they are far less bureaucratic than are their public counterparts. Public companies generally refrain from doing business with private banks. In 2008, a government directive ordered public companies to work only with public banks. The directive was later officially rescinded, but the effect has held as a self-imposed practice by public companies. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors, but business contacts report that the government favors SOEs over private sector companies in terms of access to land.
SOEs are subject to budget constraints. Audits of public companies are conducted by the Court of Auditors, a financially autonomous institution. A Constitutional revision of Article 192 in March 2016 enshrined the independence of the Court. The constitution explicitly charges it with “ex post inspection of the finances of the state, collectivities, public services, and commercial capital of the state,” as well as preparing and submitting an annual report to the President, heads of both chambers of Parliament, and Prime Minister. The previous constitution of 1996 had not included the state’s commercial capital in the Court’s mandate, nor had it required its annual report be shared with anyone but the President. Now, the Court makes its audits public on its website, for free.
The Court conducts audits simultaneously but independently from the Ministry of Finance’s year-end reports. The Court makes its reports available online once they are finalized and delivered to the Parliament, whereas the Ministry withholds publishing year-end reports until after the Parliament and President have approved them. The Court’s audit reports cover the entire implemented national budget by fiscal year and examine each annual planning budget that is passed by Parliament.
The General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF), the public auditing body under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, can conduct “no-notice” audits of public companies. The results of these audits are sent directly to the Minister of Finance, and the offices of the President and Prime Minister. They are not made available publicly. The Court of Auditors and IFG previously had joint responsibility for auditing certain accounts, but they are in the process of eliminating this redundancy.
There has been very limited privatization of certain projects previously managed by SOEs in the water sector and likely other sectors. However, the privatization of SOEs remains a highly sensitive issue and has been halted.
The current anti-corruption law dates to 2006. A new bill that would have amended the 2006 law passed the lower chamber of Algeria’s bicameral legislative body in February 2019, but is pending approval by the senate. If approved, the law would create a financial penal division within the court of Algiers, with a national territorial jurisdiction and whose mission is to research, investigate, prosecute individuals who commit financial offenses of great complexity, and any other offenses related to bribery, tax evasion and avoidance, unlawful financing of associations as well as currency and banking offenses. It would also provide protection of whistle-blowers reporting acts detrimental to their employment or working conditions.
In 2013, the Algerian government created the Central Office for the Suppression of Corruption (OCRC) to investigate and prosecute any form of bribery in Algeria. The current number of cases currently being investigated by the OCRC is not available. In 2010, the government created the National Organization for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption (ONPLC) as stipulated in the 2006 anti-corruption law. The Chairman and members of this commission are appointed by a presidential decree. The commission studies financial holdings of public officials and carries out studies. Since 2013, the Financial Intelligence Unit has been strengthened by new regulations that have given the unit more authority to address illegal monetary transactions and terrorism funding. In 2016, the government updated its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance legislation to bolster the authority of the financial intelligence unit to monitor suspicious financial transactions and refer violations of the law to prosecutorial magistrates. Algeria signed the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2003.
The Algerian government does not have a policy that requires private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. The use of internal controls against bribery of government officials varies by company, with some upholding those standards and others rumored to offer bribes. Algeria is not a participant in regional or international anti-corruption initiatives. While Algeria does not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption, there are whistleblower protections for Algerian citizens who report corruption.
International and Algerian economic operators have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI, indicating that foreign companies with strict compliance standards cannot compete against those companies who can offer special incentives to those making decisions about contract awards. Economic operators have also indicated that complex bureaucratic procedures are sometimes manipulated by political actors to ensure economic benefits accrue to favored individuals in a non-transparent way.
Corruption issues recently garnered significant headlines in Algeria. On April 1, press reported the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Algiers court had opened investigations into corruption and the illegal transfer of capital abroad. Shortly after, Algeria’s Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah accused unnamed parties of stealing from the Algerian people, and announced the Ministry of Justice’s intention to reopen old corruption cases, including a case regarding corruption in the state hydrocarbons company Sonatrach, though he did not specify which cases.
Resources to Report Corruption
Official government agencies
National Organization for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption (ONPLC)
Tarek Kour, President
14 Rue Souidani Boudjemaa, El Mouradia, Algiers
Telephone: +213 21 23 94 76
Algerian Association Against Corruption (AACC)
Telephone: +213 07 71 43 97 08
10. Political and Security Environment
Beginning on February 22, nationwide peaceful demonstrations against longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteteflika began, with the largest gatherings occurring on Fridays. The exact number of demonstrators is estimated to be in the millions, though participation varies across city and week. During weekdays, various professional trade groups and student groups have peacefully demonstrated with hundreds to thousands of marchers converging on symbolic points, mainly in Algeria’s large coastal cities. The demonstrations lead to the April 2 resignation of President Bouteflika.
Prior to February, demonstrations that occurred in Algeria tended to concern housing and other social programs, and were generally limited to tens or a few hundred participants. While the majority of those small protests were generally peaceful, there were occasional outbreaks of violence that resulted in injuries, sometimes resulting from efforts of security forces to disperse the protests.
Government reactions to public unrest typically include tighter security control on movement between and within cities to prevent further clashes and promises of either greater public expenditures on local infrastructure or increased local hiring for state-owned companies. During the first several months of 2015, there was a series of protests in several cities in the south of the country against the government’s program to drill test wells for shale gas. These protests were largely peaceful but sometimes resulted in clashes, injury, and rarely, property damage. Announcements in 2017 that authorities would recommence shale gas exploration have not to date generated protests.
The Algerian government requires all foreign employees of foreign companies or organizations based in Algeria to contact the Foreigners Office of the Ministry of the Interior before traveling in the country’s interior so that the Government can evaluate need for police coordination. The Algerian government also requires U.S. Embassy employees to request permission and police accompaniment to visit the Casbah in Algiers and to coordinate travel with the government any outside of the Algiers wilaya (province); for this reason U.S. consular services may be limited outside of the Algiers wilaya.
The government’s efforts to reduce terrorism have focused on active security services and social reconciliation and reintegration. Isolated terrorist incidents still occasionally occur. There have been two major attacks on oil and gas installations in the last 10 years. In March 2016, terrorists launched a homemade rocket attack on a gas facility in central Algeria that caused limited damage but no casualties. In January 2013, there was a major attack at a remote oil and gas facility near the town of In Amenas in southeast Algeria (approximately 1,500 kilometers from Algiers) in which nearly 40 people – mostly western energy sector workers, including three Americans – were killed. Other terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS include an August 2017 suicide attack in Tiaret that killed two police officers and a February 2017 attack that injured two police officers in Constantine. Each of these attacks prompted swift counter-terrorism responses by Algerian security services to uproot the militants responsible for the attacks.
Terrorist attacks usually target Algerian government interests and security forces outside of major cities and mainly in mountainous and remote areas, although attacks in 2017 and 2018 injured and killed police and security forces in the cities of Constantine and Tiaret, and the regions of Sidi Bel Abbas and Annaba.
U.S. citizens living or traveling in Algeria are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) via the State Department’s travel registration website, https://step.state.gov/step, to receive security messages and make it easier to be located in an emergency.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
There is a shortage of skilled labor in Algeria in all sectors. Business contacts report difficulty in finding sufficiently skilled plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other construction/vocational related areas. Oil companies report they have difficulty retaining trained Algerian engineers and field workers because these workers often leave Algeria for higher wages in the Gulf. Some white-collar employers also report a lack of skilled project managers, supply chain engineers, and even of sufficient numbers of office workers with requisite computer and soft skills.
Official unemployment figures are measured by the number of persons seeking work through the National Employment Agency (ANEM), and overall unemployment in 2018 held steady from the previous year, at 11.7 percent. However, unemployment is significantly higher among certain demographics, including young people (ages 16-24) at 29.1 percent, up 5.2 percentage points from 2017, and college-educated workers, 27.9 percent. Notably, roughly 70 percent of the population is under 30. Additionally, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that more than one-third of all labor in Algeria is employed in the informal economy. To help train Algerians, including those who did not complete high school, the Ministry of Vocational Training sponsors programs that, according to government figures, offer training to at least 300,000 Algerians annually in various professional programs.
Companies must submit extensive justification to hire foreign employees, and report pressure to hire more locals (even if jobs could be replaced through mechanization) under implied threat of not approving the visa applications for expatriate staff. There are no special economic zones or foreign trade zones in Algeria.
The constitution provides workers with the right to join and form unions of their choice provided they are citizens. The country has ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining but failed to enact legislation needed to implement these conventions fully. The General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) is the largest union in Algeria and represents a broad spectrum of employees in the public sectors. The UGTA, an affiliate of the International Trade Union Conference, is an official member of the Algerian “tripartite,” a council of labor, government, and business officials that meets annually to collaborate on economic and labor policy. The Algerian government chooses to liaise almost exclusively with the UGTA, however unions in the education, health, and administration sectors do meet and negotiate with government counterparts, especially under threat of strike. Collective bargaining is permitted under a law passed in 1990 and modified in 1997, but is not mandatory.
Algerian law provides mechanisms for monitoring labor abuses and health and safety standards, and international labor rights are recognized within domestic law, but are only effectively regulated in the formal economy. The government has shown an increasing interest in understanding and monitoring the informal economy, and in 2018 partnered with the ILO on workshops and is cooperating with the World Bank on several projects aimed at better quantifying the informal sector.
Sector-specific strikes occur often in Algeria, though general strikes are less common. The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercise this right, subject to conditions. Striking requires a secret ballot of the whole workforce, and the decision to strike must be approved by majority vote of workers at a general meeting. The government may restrict strikes on a number of grounds, including economic crisis, obstruction of public services, or the possibility of subversive actions. Furthermore, all public demonstrations, including protests and strikes, must receive prior government authorization. By law, workers may strike only after 14 days of mandatory conciliation or mediation. The government occasionally offers to mediate disputes. The law states that decisions reached in mediation are binding on both parties. If mediation does not lead to an agreement, workers may strike legally after they vote by secret ballot to do so. The law requires that a minimum level of essential public services must be maintained, and the government has broad legal authority to requisition public employees. The list of essential services includes services such as banking, radio, and television. Penalties for unlawful work stoppages range from eight days to two months imprisonment.
In 2018, there were strikes in the beginning of the year, largely in the public health and public education sectors. Medical residents went on strike demanding higher pay, better working conditions, and male residents sought an exemption from mandatory military service requirements. After weeks of strikes, the Ministry of Health made some concessions in terms of additional benefits for doctors, and the residents resumed work. Teachers went on strike for higher pay and complained of perceived inequalities in the pay scale. After weeks of strikes and a closed-door meeting, the Ministry of Education and unions came to an agreement. While the full details of the agreement were not disclosed, teachers noted in broad terms the Ministry expressed a willingness to meet their demands and resumed work.
Stringent labor-market regulations likely inhibit an increase in full-time, open-ended work. Regulations do not allow for flexibility in hiring and firing in times of economic downturn, for example, employers are generally required to pay severance when laying off or firing workers. Unemployment insurance eligibility requirements may discourage job seekers from collecting benefits probably due them, and the level of support claimants receive is minimal. Employers must have contributed up to 80 percent of the final year salary into the unemployment insurance scheme in order for them to qualify for unemployment benefits.
The law contains occupational health and safety standards, however enforcement of those standards may be uneven. There were no known reports of workers dismissed for removing themselves from hazardous working conditions. If workers face such conditions, they are able to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor, who would then send out labor inspectors to investigate the claim. While this legal mechanism exists, the high demand for employment in the country gave an advantage to employers seeking to exploit employees.
Because Algerian law does not provide for temporary legal status for migrants, labor standards do not protect economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere working in the country without legal immigration status, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation. The law does not adequately cover migrant workers employed primarily in construction and occasionally as domestic workers – however migrant children are protected by law from working.
The Ministry of Labor enforces labor standards, including compliance with the minimum wage regulation and safety standards. Companies that employ migrant workers or violate child labor laws are subject to fines and potentially even prosecution.
The law prohibits participation by minors in dangerous, unhealthy, or harmful work or in work considered inappropriate because of social and religious considerations – as do Algerian norms and practices. The minimum legal age for employment is 16, but younger children may work as apprentices with permission from their parents or legal guardian. The law prohibits workers under age 19 from working at night. While there is currently no list of hazardous occupations prohibited to minors, the government told us a list was being drafted and would be issued by presidential decree. Although specific data was unavailable, children reportedly worked mostly in the informal sector, largely in sales, often in family businesses, and also begging on the streets, or in agricultural work. There were isolated reports that children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. There is no single office charged with this task, but all labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing laws regarding child labor. In 2018, the Ministry of Labor focused one month specifically on investigating child labor violations, and in some cases prosecuted individuals for employing minors or breaking other child-related labor laws. While the government claims to monitor both the formal and informal sectors, contacts note that in reality, their efforts largely land in the formal economy.
The National Authority of the Protection and Promotion of Children (ONPPE) is an inter-agency organization, created in 2016, which coordinates the protection and promotions of children’s rights. As a part of its efforts, in 2018 ONPPE held educational sessions for officials from relevant ministries, civil society organizations, and journalists on issues related to children, including child labor and human trafficking.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
An Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreement between the U.S and Algeria was signed in June 1990. In 2005, the Algerian Energy Company entered a deal with Ionics Inc. of Watertown, Massachusetts, in which Ionics agreed to build a water desalination plant and the state water authority took a minority stake in the plant and agreed to purchase the bulk of the clean water produced. OPIC provided a USD 200 million loan to Ionics, a desalination equipment manufacturer that was later acquired by General Electric. In 2017, GE sold its stake in the Algiers water desalination plant, OPIC’s first and only project in Algeria to date.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
* National Agency for Investment Development.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
No information for Algeria is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) website. Neither World Bank nor Algerian sources break down FDI to and from Algeria by individual countries.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
No information for Algeria is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) website. Neither World Bank nor Algerian sources break down FDI to and from Algeria by individual countries.