Algeria Country Facts

Algeria, a country located in North Africa; it is limited to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, to the east by Tunisia and Libya, to the south by Niger, Mali and Mauritania, and to the west by Morocco. Its surface is 2,381,741 square kilometers. The capital is Algiers.

Territory and Resources

According to, Algeria has four main physiographic regions. In the north, Tell, a narrow and discontinuous coastal plain, extends to the Atlas Mountains and contains most of the arable land. The main river is the Chelif (725 km); there is no watercourse south of Tell. In the altiplano, several estuaries accumulate water during periods of rain and, when they dry, they form saline plains, called chotts. To the south is the Saharan Atlas. The fourth region is the Algerian Sahara, which covers more than 90% of the country’s total area. To the south are the Ahaggar mountains.

The climate from Tell is typically Mediterranean and towards the south it is progressively drier. The desert region faces extreme daily temperatures, with about 130 mm of annual rainfall. Over the centuries, northern regions have been deforested and turned into pasture. There are remnants of woods in some areas at the highest point of Tell and in the Saharan Atlas. The vast majority of the plateaus are barren, although there are areas of steppe vegetation. In general, the Sahara flora is very poor.

Population and Government

The population is made up of Berbers and Arabs. It has a population (1993) of 27,256,252 inhabitants with a density of 11 inhabitants / km2. Algiers, the capital, main port and largest city, has a population (1987) of 1,687,241 inhabitants. Other important cities are Oran and Constantine. Arabic is the official language, spoken by more than 80% of the population; the rest mainly speak the Berber dialect. Islam is the official religion. According to the 1989 Constitution, Algeria is a socialist republic. The National Liberation Front has dominated Algerian politics since independence.

Economy of Algeria

Algeria’s greatest natural wealth lies in its large mineral deposits (oil, natural gas, phosphates and iron ore). Other important minerals are coal, carbon, lead and zinc. The gross national product (1991) is 52,200 million dollars, which corresponds to a per capita income of 2,020 dollars. The currency unit is the Algerian dinar.


The Berbers were the first inhabitants. Around 1100 BC, the Phoenicians founded a North African state in Carthage. During the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome, the first Algerian kingdom of Numidia was created, subdued by Rome in 106 BC under whose rule it prospered. With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD, vandals invaded the region in the 5th century and in the 6th century were expelled by Justinian I. In the 7th century, the Arabs invaded North Africa, bringing a new religion, Islam.

Algeria was transformed into a Umayyad caliphate province. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Almoravids and the Almohads subjected North Africa and southern Spain to a single central authority. After the defeat of the Almohads in 1269, commercial competition between Mediterranean ports arose. Algiers became the first center for piracy activities and became an autonomous province. The effectiveness of the fleet of Algerian pirates made it a power that dominated the Mediterranean. At the end of the 18th century, the joint action of the North American, Anglo-Dutch fleets and the French army culminated in the destruction of Algiers’ defenses in 1830. France annexed Algeria in 1834, but had to face resistance from the Berber tribes , which only surrendered in 1847. Algeria became an overseas department in France, controlled by the European minority, the colons, who formed a privileged elite. With large capital inflows, a modern economy has developed.

Algerian nationalism emerged after World War I among groups of Muslims. Colon resistance to reform led to the formation of an anti-French militant party. Nationalists were in favor of armed revolt. In the early 1950s, many went into hiding or went into exile. In 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) was formed, which launched an offensive to achieve Algeria’s independence. The continuous increase of guerrillas and the deliberate use of terrorism provoked the emergence of an action against terrorism, with attacks on Muslim peoples and brutal killings of the civilian population. In 1958, the colonies and officers of the French army came together to overthrow the French government; General Charles de Gaulle called for a referendum, in which the Algerians would rule on independence.

In 1962, Algeria voted overwhelmingly for independence and the colonies began a massive evacuation. Algeria was declared a socialist state, with the Front as the only legal political organization. The economy started to be controlled by the State. Then an open war broke out between the different factions of the FLN. Ahmed Ben Bella was elected the first president of independent Algeria in 1962. The first constitution was approved in 1963 and would provide a presidential form of government. In 1965, Bumedián delivered a bloodless coup and assumed supreme power. In addition to rapid economic development, Bumedián brought a viable political system to the country.

The 1976 Constitution defined Algeria as a socialist state under the leadership of the FLN. When Colonel Chadli Benyedid died in 1978, he was elected successor. Benyedid continued his predecessor’s policy, although less restrictive. In 1989, a new constitution was approved, which allowed free access to other political groups. In the 1990 elections, the fundamentalists of the Islamic Salvation Front won an overwhelming victory over the FLN. In 1992, after the first elections and in the face of fears that Islamic fundamentalists would take control of Parliament, a group of military and civilian officials forced Benyedid to resign. They declared a state of emergency, closed Parliament and created a new Superior State Committee, chaired by Budiaf, causing a violent conflict between the government, the security forces and Islamic extremists. Budiaf was assassinated in 1992 and replaced by a Supreme Council. In 1994, the Council appointed Liamín Zerual president of Algeria. Zerual refuses to negotiate with Islamic groups until the terrorist attacks cease.

Algeria Country Facts