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About Algeria
    2008-03-22 16:43:17     arab.net

map of Algeria [Photo:www.infoplease.com]

Introduction

Algeria is the largest of the three countries (including Morocco and Tunisia) which form the region of western North Africa known traditionally as Al Maghrib ("the West"). It is also the second largest country in Africa and the tenth largest country in the world in terms of land area, equal in size to Western Europe.

The name Algeria derives from the Arabic Jaza'ir which is the plural for the word meaning "island" or "peninsula". The name Jaza'ir comes from the ancient regional descriptive, Barr al Jaza'ir (Lands of the Islands), indicating the three countries of the Magreb region.

The total area of Algeria is 2,381,741sq km, sharing its western border with Morocco, its southern border with Niger, Mali and Mauritania and its eastern border with Libya and Tunisia. Its 1,200km of northern coastline runs along the Mediterranean Sea.

Climate

The northern Tell region has a temperate Mediterranean climate. A hot, dry sirocco wind blowing north from the Sahara during the summer season, brings blinding sand and dust storms to the coastal region.

The climate in the Tell Atlas region is also temperate but cooler due to the altitudes, with increased rainfall.

The climate of the High Plateau is arid with irregular and low precipitation, measuring 200-400mm (8-16in) per year. The Sahara Desert is arid with extremely low annual precipitation, measuring less than 130mm (5in) per year.

Languages

Arabic is the primary language of around 82% of the populace. Most of the rest of population speak various Berber dialects with Arabic as a second language.

French colonialism left French as the second language of many educated Algerians; English is rarely spoken. The Tuareg tribes in the south of the country speak two Berber dialects.

Economy

Prior to independence in 1962 Algeria's economy had been dominated by agriculture for a millennium and was known as 'the breadbasket of the Roman empire'. However, with rising oil revenues throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the government embarked on a major programme of industrialization which has transformed the economy, making Algeria one of the wealthiest nations in Africa. Fuelled by oil revenues, Algeria's economy grew dramatically throughout this period.

Declining oil prices during the 1980s drastically reduced economic growth of the now oil-dependent country. Annual per capita income fell from $2,360 in 1988 to $1,541 in 1992. As a socialist country, Algeria's entire oil industry is controlled by the state.

Although agriculture no longer dominates the economy it remains an important sector. During the first half of the 1990s the national budget registered expenditures of $14.6 billion as against revenues of $14.4 billion annually.

Accounting for roughly 52% of budget revenues, the hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy (25% of gross domestic product [GDP] and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter. Regarding oil reserves, Algeria ranks fourteenth in the world.

Algiers' efforts to reform its centrally planned economy stalled by the political turmoil erupted in the early nineties. Some progress on economic reform and oil and gas sector expansion contributed to a recovery in growth since 1995. Still, the economy remains heavily dependent on volatile oil and gas revenues. The government continued its efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector, but unemployment and improving living standards have not successfully dealt with.

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