Country File – Algeria

The second largest country in Africa, with an area of about 2.4 million square kilometers, Algeria’s history is fraught with war, poverty and polarization – the tale of many African nations.

It was colonized by the French in 1830 and the nationalist movement surprisingly took around 100 years to properly take flight. In the 1920s, nationalist publications and sentiments were voiced, leading to the creation of the Front de Libération National.

Finally, by the end of World War Two, France decided to do something about these sentiments in Africa and controlled it. This led to a huge civil war in 1954, which ended in 1962. Over 1 million Algerian civilians were killed, and 1.5 million French colonials were removed.

Algeria gained its independence in 1962, at which point the FLN took control of the country. They led the country unchallenged, until 1991, taking it from strength to strength – the Algerian economy was booming with exports of oil and gas. Soon, the nation became an example and symbol of strength to Africa.

Eventually however, the oil reserves ran out, leading to an economic down turn in the 1980s. The knock-on effect this had sociologically was devastating.

What began as a moment of civil unrest and then Algeria’s first real general election turned into a bloodbath.

A new party won the elections in 1991 – the Front Islamique du Salut, or FIS. But few were comfortable with the thought of an Islamist government in place, so the military leadership removed them and took charge of the country.

Days after the election, civil war broke out. Over 90,000 lives were lost, the population of Algeria was severely polarized between Islamists and so-called moderates.

The conflict between the Groupe Islamique Armée and the army/police carried on for many years, with the GIA attacking civilians seemingly at random. Reports of disappearances, particularly of dissenters and liberal reporters, were common.

Many academics believe the government intentionally ignored external pressures and was hesitant to involve any outside countries, a move which hasn’t resolved the conflict at all. Today, Algeria is still a highly polarized country.


Current Weather

arid to semiarid; mild, wet winters with hot, dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer


mostly high plateau and desert; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Natural resources:

petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, zinc

Land use:

arable land: 3.17%

permanent crops: 0.28%

other: 96.55% (2005)

Irrigated land:

5,690 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

mountainous areas subject to severe earthquakes; mudslides and floods in rainy season

Environment – current issues:

soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices; desertification; dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters; Mediterranean Sea, in particular, becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff; inadequate supplies of potable water

Environment – international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements



34,586,184 (est.)

country comparison to the world: 35

Age structure:

0-14 years: 25.4% (male 4,436,591/female 4,259,729)

15-64 years: 69.5% (male 11,976,965/female 11,777,618)

65 years and over: 5.1% (male 798,576/female 928,709) (est.)

Median age:

total: 27.1 years

male: 26.8 years

female: 27.3 years (est.)

Population growth rate:

1.177% (est.)

country comparison to the world: 106

Birth rate:

16.71 births/1,000 population (est.)

country comparison to the world: 121

Death rate:

4.66 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 197

Net migration rate:

-0.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (est.)

country comparison to the world: 132


urban population: 65% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 2.5% annual rate of change (2005 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 26.75 deaths/1,000 live births

country comparison to the world: 81

male: 29.8 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 23.53 deaths/1,000 live births (est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 74.26 years

country comparison to the world: 99

male: 72.57 years

female: 76.04 years (est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.76 children born/woman (est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rates

0.1%; note – no country specific models provided (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 112

HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS:

21,000 (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 76

HIV/AIDS – deaths:

fewer than 1,000 (2007 est.)

country comparison to the world: 73


noun: Algerian(s)

adjective: Algerian

Ethnic groups:

Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1%

note: almost all Algerians are Berber in origin, not Arab; the minority who identify themselves as Berber live mostly in the mountainous region of Kabylie east of Algiers; the Berbers are also Muslim but identify with their Berber rather than Arab cultural heritage; Berbers have long agitated, sometimes violently, for autonomy; the government is unlikely to grant autonomy but has offered to begin sponsoring teaching Berber language in schools


Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%


Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 69.9%

male: 79.6%

female: 60.1% (2002 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 13 years (2005)

Education expenditures:

4.3% of GDP (2008)

country comparison to the world: 98

(Source: CIA World Factbook)


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