Algeria’s state enterprise-dominated economy is challenging for U.S. businesses, but multiple sectors offer opportunities for long-term growth. The government is prioritizing investment in agriculture, information and communications technology, mining, hydrocarbons (both upstream and downstream), renewable energy, and healthcare.
Following his December 2019 election, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has promised economic and political reforms, though progress has been slow due to COVID-19, his own extended absences for medical reasons, and a lack of popular support. Algeria adopted a new Constitution in December 2020 and after dissolving parliament in February 2021, President Tebboune announced legislative elections will take place in June 2021.
In 2020, the government eliminated the so-called “51/49” restriction that required majority Algerian ownership of all new businesses, though it retained the requirement for “strategic sectors,” identified as energy, mining, defense, transportation infrastructure, and pharmaceuticals manufacturing (with the exception of innovative products). In the 2021 Finance Law, the government reinstated the 51/49 ownership requirement – with retroactive application – for any company importing items into Algeria with an intent to resell. The government passed a new hydrocarbons law in 2019, improving fiscal terms and contract flexibility in order to attract new international investors. The new law encouraged major international oil companies to sign memorandums of understanding with the national hydrocarbons company, Sonatrach. The government did not meet its goal of issuing all 43 regulatory texts enacting the legislation by March 31, 2021; thus far only 10 have been released. The Algerian government took several steps, including establishing a standalone ministry dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry and issuing regulations to resolve several long-standing issues, to improve market access for U.S. pharmaceutical companies.
Algeria’s economy is driven by hydrocarbons production, which historically accounts for 95 percent of export revenues and approximately 60 percent of government income. Following the significant drop in oil prices in March 2020, the government cut budgeted expenditures by 50 percent and significantly reduced investment in the energy sector. Though the 2021 budget boosted state spending by 10 percent amidst a modest recovery in global hydrocarbon prices, Algeria continues to run a persistent budget deficit. Despite a significant reduction in revenues, the historically debt-averse government continued to resist seeking foreign financing, preferring to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost employment and replace imports with local production. Traditionally, Algeria has pursued protectionist policies to encourage the development of local industries. The import substitution policies it employs tend to generate regulatory uncertainty, supply shortages, increased prices, and limited selection for consumer goods. The government depreciated the Algerian dinar approximately 15% over the last year in an effort to conserve its foreign exchange reserves, resulting in significant food inflation.
The government has taken measures to minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including delaying tax payments for small businesses, extending credit and restructuring loan payments, and decreasing banks’ reserve requirements.
Economic operators deal with a range of challenges, including complicated customs procedures, cumbersome bureaucracy, difficulties in monetary transfers, and price competition from international rivals particularly China, France, and Turkey. International firms operate in Algeria complain that laws and regulations are constantly shifting and applied unevenly, raising commercial risk for foreign investors. An ongoing anti-corruption campaign has increased weariness regarding large-scale investment projects. Business contracts are subject to changing interpretation and revision of regulations, which has proved challenging to U.S. and international firms. Other drawbacks include limited regional integration, which hampers opportunities to rely on international supply chains.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||104 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||157 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||121 of 131||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||$2.7 billion||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||$4,010||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
5. Protection of Property Rights
Secured interests in property are generally recognized and enforceable, but court proceedings can be lengthy and results unpredictable. All property not clearly titled to private owners remains under government ownership. As a result, the government controls most real property in Algeria, and instances of unclear titling have resulted in conflicting claims of ownership, which has made purchasing and financing real estate difficult. Several business contacts have reported significant difficulty in obtaining land from the government to develop new industrial activities; the state prefers to lease land for 33-year terms, renewable twice, rather than sell outright. The procedures and criteria for awarding land contracts are opaque.
Property sales are subject to registration at the tax inspection and publication office at the Mortgage Register Center and are part of the public record of that agency. All property contracts must go through a notary.
According to the World Bank Doing Business report, Algeria ranks 165 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property.
Intellectual Property Rights
Patent and trademark protection in Algeria remains covered by a series of ordinances dating from 2003 and 2005, and representatives of U.S. companies operating in Algeria reported that these laws were satisfactory in terms of both the scope of what they cover and the penalties they mandate for violations. A 2015 government decree increased coordination between the National Office of Copyrights and Related Rights (ONDA), the National Institute for Industrial Property (INAPI), and law enforcement to pursue patent and trademark infringements. An Algerian court ruled in favor of a U.S. pharmaceutical company in late 2020 in the first case of alleged patent infringement by a local producer pursued in the courts by a U.S. company.
ONDA, under the Ministry of Culture, and INAPI, under the Ministry of Industry, are the two entities within the Algerian government that protect IPR. ONDA covers literary and artistic copyrights as well as digital software rights, while INAPI oversees the registration and protection of industrial trademarks and patents. Despite strengthened efforts at ONDA, INAPI, and the General Directorate for Customs (under the Ministry of Finance), which have seen local production of pirated or counterfeit goods nearly disappear since 2011, imported counterfeit goods are prevalent and easily obtained. Algerian law enforcement agencies annually confiscate hundreds of thousands of counterfeit items, including clothing, cosmetics, sports items, foodstuffs, automotive spare parts, and home appliances. Software firms estimate that more than 85 percent of the software used in Algeria, and a similar percentage of titles used by government institutions and state-owned companies, is not licensed.
Algeria moved from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List of USTR’s Special 301 Report ( https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/Special-301 ) in 2021.
Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Tel: +965 2259 1455 Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Algiers Stock Exchange has five stocks listed – each at no more than 35 percent equity. There is a small and medium enterprise exchange with one listed company. The exchange has 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 is regulated by an independent oversight commission that enforces compliance requirements on listed companies and traders.
Government officials have expressed their desire to reach a capitalization of USD 7.8 billion and enlist up to 50 new companies. 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 reserve requirement until mid-2016, when in response to a drop in liquidity the bank lowered the threshold to eight 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 five 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 deposited at local banks during years of high 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 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. In response to liquidity concerns caused by the oil price decline and COVID-19 crisis, the bank progressively decreased the reserve requirement from 12 percent to 3 percent between March and September 2020.
The IMF and Bank of Algeria have noted moderate growth in non-performing assets since 2015, currently estimated between 12 and 13 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 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 bankcards. 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. The Minister of Commerce announced a plan to require businesses to use electronic payments for all commercial and service transactions, though a government deadline for all stores to deploy electronic payment terminals was delayed for the third time to the end of 2021. In addition, approximately 6.1 trillion dinars (USD 46 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.
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 mostly from the procedures of the transfers rather than the statutory limitations: the process is bureaucratic and requires almost 30 different steps from start to finish. Missteps at any stage can slow down or completely halt the process. Transfers should take roughly one month to complete, but often take 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 (DZD) 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 controls 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 the U.S. dollar in late 2016. The 2020 Finance Law forecast a 10 percent depreciation of the dinar against the dollar over three years. However, the government allowed the dinar to depreciate eleven percent against the dollar in 2020 and has forecasted an 18 percent depreciation through 2023 in the 2021 Finance Law. Despite devaluation in the official rate, imbalances in foreign exchange supply and demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and travel restrictions beginning in March 2020 led to a steep decline in the value of the euro and dollar on the foreign exchange black market.
The 2021 Finance Law includes provisions to curb import activity, requiring importers of most products to make payment 30 days after the date of shipment of goods, with exceptions for strategic products, food items, or other items of “emergency character.” As importers are required to request import approvals well in advance of the shipment of the goods, the new measure exposes importers to significant exchange rate uncertainty.
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 through which investors can remit; however, there is a substantial black market for foreign currency, where the dollar and euro trade at a significant premium above official rates, although economic disruptions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 led to interruptions in the functioning of the black market. 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 10,000 dinars (USD 75) outside Algeria.
Private citizens may convert up to 15,000 dinars (USD 118) per year for travel abroad, and 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, and 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. The data has not been updated since 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.
10. Political and Security Environment
Following nearly two months of massive protests, known as the hirak, former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned on April 2, 2019, after 20 years in power. His resignation launched an eight-month transition, resulting in the election of Abdelmadjid Tebboune as president in December 2019. Voter turnout was approximately 40 percent and the new administration continues to focus on restoring government authority and legitimacy. Following historically low turnout of 24 percent in the November 2020 constitutional referendum and President Tebboune’s lengthy medical absences in late 2020 and early 2021, hirak protests resumed in February 2021. Demonstrations have taken place in Algeria’s major wilayas (states) and have focused largely on political reform, as protestors continue to call for an overhaul of the Algerian government. President Tebboune dissolved parliament in February and Algeria will hold new parliamentary elections in June.
Prior to the hirak, which began in 2019, demonstrations in Algeria tended to concern housing and other social programs and were generally smaller than a few hundred participants. While most protests were peaceful, there were occasional outbreaks of violence that resulted in injuries, sometimes resulting from efforts of security forces to disperse the protests. Hirak protests remain relatively peaceful, though security forces occasionally use heavy-handed tactics to suppress protesters. Smaller protests due to socioeconomic conditions still occur sporadically throughout the country, but mostly in the largely marginalized areas of the south.
Government reactions to public unrest typically include tighter security control on movement between and within cities to prevent further clashes, significant security presence in anticipated protest zones, and promises of either greater public expenditures on local infrastructure or increased local hiring for state-owned companies. During the first few months of 2015, there were a series of protests in several cities in southern Algeria 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. Government pronouncements in 2017 that shale gas exploration would recommence did not generate protests.
On April 27, 2020, an Algerian court sentenced an expatriate manager and an Algerian employee of a large hotel to six months in prison on charges of “undermining the integrity of the national territory” for allegedly sharing publicly available security information with corporate headquarters outside of Algeria.
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 security conditions. The Algerian government also requires U.S. Embassy employees to request permission and a police escort to visit the Casbah in Algiers and to coordinate travel with the government on any trip outside of the Algiers wilaya (state). In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Algerian government imposed ongoing lockdowns or curfews throughout the country, cancelled events and gatherings, suspended public transportation and domestic and international flights, and required 50 percent of all non-essential employees to stay at home. Though restrictions on domestic travel have been lifted, restrictions on international travel persisted into 2021. These restrictions may impact where and when certain U.S. consular services can be provided.
In February 2020, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber who attacked a military barrack in southern Algeria, killing a soldier. This was met with a swift response by Algerian security services against the militants responsible for the attacks, and the Algerian army continues to carry out counterterrorism operations throughout the country.
According to official Defense Ministry announcements, Algerian security forces “neutralized” 37 terrorists (21 killed, 9 arrested, and 7 surrendered) and arrested an additional 108 “supporters” of terrorism in 2020. Army detachments also destroyed 251 terrorist hideouts and seized a large quantity of ammunition and explosives during the year
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
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||N/A||N/A||2020||$144.9 billion||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2019||$2,749||BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data|
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||N/A||N/A||2019||18.9%||UNCTAD data available athttps://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report|
* Source for Host Country Data: No Host Country data available.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||20,743||100%||Total Outward||2,511||100%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
The latest data available for Algeria is from 2019.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available. 14. Contact for More Information