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Algeria

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.

Business Facilitation

Algeria’s online information portal dedicated to business creation www.jecreemonentreprise.dz   and the business registration website www.cnrc.org.dz   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 (http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/algeria  ) 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.

Outward Investment

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.

Morocco

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

Morocco actively encourages foreign investment through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, structural reforms, infrastructure improvements, and incentives for investors.  Law 18-95 of October 1995, constituting the Investment Charter, which can be found online at http://www.usa-morocco.org/Charte.htm  , is the principal Moroccan text governing investment and applies to both domestic and foreign investment (direct and portfolio).  Morocco’s 2014 Industrial Acceleration Plan, a new approach to industrial development based on establishing “ecosystems” that integrate value chains and supplier relationships between large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs;), has guided Ministry of Industry policy for the last five years.  The plan runs through 2020. Morocco’s Investment and Export Development Agency (AMDIE) is the primary agency responsible for the development and promotion of investments and exports. The Agency’s website aggregates relevant information for interested investors and includes investment maps, procedures for creating a business, production costs, applicable laws and regulations, and general business climate information, among other investment services.  Further information about Morocco’s investment laws and procedures is available on AMDIE’s website at http://www.amdie.gov.ma/en/  .  For further information on agricultural investments, visit the Agricultural Development Agency (ADA) website (http://www.ada.gov.ma/)   or the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture (ANDA) website (https://www.anda.gov.ma/  ).

Moroccan legislation governing FDI applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities, with the exception of certain protected sectors.

When Morocco acceded to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in November 2009, Morocco guaranteed national treatment of foreign investors (i.e., according equal treatment for both foreign and national investors in like circumstances).  The only exception to this national treatment of foreign investors is in those sectors closed to foreign investment (noted below), which Morocco delineated upon accession to the Declaration. Per a Moroccan notice published in 2014, the lead agency on adherence to the Declaration is AMDIE.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises, barring some sector restrictions.  While the U.S. Mission is not aware of any economy-wide limits on foreign ownership, Morocco places a 49 percent cap on foreign investment in air and maritime transport companies and maritime fisheries.  Morocco prohibits foreigners from owning agricultural land, though they can lease it for up to 99 years. The Moroccan government holds a monopoly on phosphate extraction through the 95 percent state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP).  The Moroccan state also has a discretionary right to limit all foreign majority stakes in the capital of large national banks, but does not appear to have ever exercised that right. In the oil and gas sector, the National Agency for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) retains a compulsory share of 25 percent of any exploration license or development permit.  The Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) may use regulatory discretion in issuing authorizations for the establishment of domestic and foreign-owned banks. As set forth in the 1995 Investment Charter, there is no requirement for prior approval of FDI, and formalities related to investing in Morocco do not pose a meaningful barrier to investment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of instances in which the Moroccan government turned away foreign investors for national security, economic, or other national policy reasons.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any U.S. investors disadvantaged or singled out by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms, relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) 2016 Trade Policy Review (TPR) of Morocco found that the trade reforms implemented since the last TPR in 2009 have contributed to the economy’s continued growth by stimulating competition in domestic markets, encouraging innovation, creating new jobs, and contributing to growth diversification. The WTO 2016 TPR can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp429_e.htm   .  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any other investment policy reviews in the past three years.

Business Facilitation

In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report (http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/morocco   ), Morocco ranks 60 out of 190 economies worldwide in terms of ease of doing business, rising nine places since the 2018 report.  Since 2012, Morocco has implemented a number of reforms facilitating business registration, such as eliminating the need to file a declaration of business incorporation with the Ministry of Labor, reducing company registration fees, and eliminating minimum capital requirements for limited liability companies.  Morocco maintains a business registration website that is accessible through the various Regional Investment Centers (CRI – Centre Regional d’Investissement at https://rabat.eregulations.org/procedure/4/7?l=fr).  The business registration process is generally streamlined and clear.

Foreign companies may utilize the online business registration mechanism.  Foreign companies, with the exception of French companies, are required to provide an apostilled Arabic translated copy of its articles of association and an extract of the registry of commerce in its country of origin.  Moreover, foreign companies must report the incorporation of the subsidiary a posteriori to the Foreign Exchange Board (Office National de Change) to facilitate repatriation of funds abroad such as profits and dividends. According to the World Bank, the process of registering a business in Morocco takes an average of nine days (significantly less time than the Middle East and North Africa regional average of 21 days).  Including all official fees and fees for legal and professional services, registration costs 3.7 percent of Morocco’s annual per capita income (significantly less than the region’s average of 22.6 percent). Moreover, Morocco does not require that the business owner deposit any paid-in minimum capital.

On December 11, 2018, the lower house of parliament adopted draft law 88-17 on the electronic creation of businesses.  The final implementation decrees are expected to be ready by mid-2019.  The new system will allow the creation of businesses online via an electronic platform managed by the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC). Once launched, all procedures related to the creation, registration, and publication of company data will be required to be carried out via this platform.  The creator of the company will be exempt from filing physical documents. A separate decree will determine the list of documents required during the electronic business creation process. A new national commission will monitor the implementation of the new procedures.

The business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy.  Notably, according to the World Bank, the length of time and cost to register a new business is equal for men and women in Morocco.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of any special assistance provided to women and underrepresented minorities through the business registration mechanisms.  In cooperation with the Moroccan government, civil society, and the private sector, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at improving gender quality in the workplace and access to the workplace for foreign migrants, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa.

Outward Investment

In 2017, Morocco’s FDI in Africa was USD 2.57 billion, representing a 12 percent increase over 2016.  The African Development Bank ranks Morocco as the second biggest African investor in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa, with up to 85 percent of Moroccan FDI going to the region.  The U.S. Mission is not aware of a standalone outward investment promotion agency, though AMDIE’s mission includes supporting Moroccan exporters and investors seeking to invest outside of Morocco. Nor is the U.S. Mission aware of any restrictions for domestic investors attempting to invest abroad.   However, under the Moroccan investment code, repatriation of funds is limited to convertible Moroccan Dirham accounts. Capital controls limit the ability of residents to convert dirham balances into foreign currency or to move funds offshore.

Investment Climate Statements
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