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Algerian industry evolves through regional development

Article - July 3, 2012
As the country’s capital, Algiers has long been a centre for industry, along with Oran, Algeria’s second largest city

Carpet mills, cement factories, chemical plants, automobile assembly plants, oil refineries, soap factories, textile plants and food-processing installations make up the bulk of Algiers’ industrial activity. Other significant activities include construction materials (such as bricks, tiles and rolled steel), farm machinery, electrical supplies, machine tools, phosphates, sulphuric acid, paper and cartons, matches and tobacco products.

During the French colonial period, many new industrial enterprises were established to capitalise on Algeria’s resources, but were then nationalised after independence. The Government of the 1960s and 70s then focused heavily on the highly lucrative petrochemical sector.

In line with diversification efforts, plans are underway to spread Algeria’s industrial wealth, through the building of 42 new industrial zones that will be dotted across Algeria’s geography. These are set to provide other wilayas with opportunities for growth, and will encourage investment in non-oil and gas sectors.

In addition, as more than 13 per cent of Algerians are employed in industry and another 10 per cent in construction and public works, the new industrial parks are expected to create many new jobs in these relevant sectors.

ANIREF boosts industry
ANIREF is the government agency entrusted with developing Algeria’s 42 new industrial parks

The Algerian Government’s intention to boost investment in industry is materialising in the creation of dozens of industrial zones. In May, the Algerian National Investment Council (CNI) and the National Agency for Property Intermediation and Regulation (ANIREF) announced their intention to establish 42 new multipurpose industrial parks throughout the country on a total of more than 10,000 hectares of land.

These new parks come in response to growing demand from investors for land for their projects, and several regulations and measures have also been taken to meet these needs, including the establishment of the National Agency for Land Concession, the National Agency for Tourism Development (ANDT) and the National Agency for New Towns. Furthermore, measures adopted in February by the Algerian Council of Ministers aimed at relaunching investment, will make long-term credit more readily available.

According to Hassiba Mokraoui, CEO of ANIREF, her agency has set the goal to “contribute to the emergence of a regulated and transparent economic land market in the service of investment.”

ANIREF has “pursued this goal by the observation of the economic land market, the census of the national availabilities and a reflection on the issue of matching supply and needs,” she says.

Nevertheless, the creation of the new industrial zones constitutes a new objective for the agency, which has already commenced work by conducting feasibility studies, designing the industrial parks and assessing their costs. ANIREF has also “led the exhilarating work of animation and synergizing all stakeholders – national institutions and local authorities,” says Mrs Mokraoui.

By spreading the industrial zones throughout Algeria, investments will also be better distributed, thus creating wider opportunities for greater socioeconomic growth. “This programme ensures a consistent meshing of the national industrial base and will help stimulate local development and initiate new investments able to provide the national economy with a greater capacity for production. It will allow all parts of the country to take advantage of their economic and social impact,” says Mrs Mokraoui, adding that “ANIREF intends to participate actively in providing a supply of quality land, adapted to the needs of investors.”

Potential investors can find information in English, French and Arabic on upcoming opportunities on ANIREF’s webpage (, the CEO calls a “real dashboard that allows us to do territorial marketing.”

ANIREF was established in 2007 with a mandate to manage land and real estate properties on behalf of the state and any other owner; promote and market properties entrusted for management; maintain a national available real estate database for public consultation; implement and update an economic land market price list; and acquire land to valuate, develop and subdivide for the benefit of industrial investors.

‘The White City’ is Algeria’s Economic Hub

With its magnificent white buildings rising up above the western Mediterranean coast, Algeria’s capital of Algiers is both the modern face and economic center of this North African country. Being the biggest city in Algeria with a population of almost 3 million people and 5 million in the surrounding metro area, Algiers is not only the most significant port for the country, but is also a major Mediterranean harbor for refueling.

Centrally located, this economic hub lies in northern Algeria almost equidistant between the other two most significant cities, Oran and Constantine, both about 270 miles away. This positioning allows for the main exports of the country, such as grain, wine and oil, to be easily shipped here through a network of developed highways and railroads. Gas and oil are Algeria’s top export, sold mainly to southern Europe such as Spain and France as well as to the United States. Algiers is also easily accessible for business trips or tourism through its international airport and a ferry available to and from Marseilles, France.

Within the city, much of the workshops and manufacturing plants are done in the Bab El Oued district, whose name means “the River’s Gate”. The city is divided into boroughs, such as the Casbah, with 17th century mosques, and the area along the coast where modern developments such as a theatre and the governor’s palace have been built. Being the capital, most of the country’s government and administration activity takes place here.

Algiers, founded in the year 944, is architecturally eclectic, with styles from the French, who ruled in the country from 1815 to 1962, and a heavy Muslim influence. In French the city is called Alger la Blanche or Algiers the White with one of the most notable examples of this architecture being the African Notre Dame, an impressive basilica, reached by cable car from downtown. 

Western Algeria’s scenic seat of industry

The city of lions, Oran is the commercial, industrial and educational hub of western Algeria. This second largest city in Algeria has a population of some 800,000 and is home to a major port, an international airport and three universities, in addition to an 18th century mosque and an ancient casbah.

Algeria’s national ferry company, Algerie Ferries, has direct routes linking Oran with Marseilles and Sete in France, and Alicante and Almeria in Spain.

Before independence, Oran had one of the highest proportions of Europeans of any city in North Africa, but the war drove them back to France, leaving the city half-empty, and the formerly thriving businesses and industries understaffed.

Newer activities, namely in oil and gas, have revived Oran’s fortunes, and with Sonatrach’s Arzew Refinery located just 20 miles away, the city of Oran has developed into a major trading centre serving the entire wilaya of the same name. In 2009 Algeria’s largest oil and gas company built a new congress centre in Oran to play host to the 16th International Conference & Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas in April 2010. This event, one of the largest exhibitions for the natural gas industry worldwide, left a lasting legacy of infrastructure, such as new hotels and the 20,000-square metre congress centre, complete with a 3,000-seat auditorium, two session halls of 500 seats each, 20 meeting rooms, a 2,000-seat banquet room and a five-star hotel with 300 rooms.

Visitors to Oran will enjoy Qasr el-Bey, a late 17th century castle renowned for its architectural beauty, and the surrounding the Derb neighbourhood, as well as the old Spanish Santa Cruz church, the early 20th century Sacre Coeur cathedral, the Great Mosque, the Demaeght Museum complete with prehistoric archaeological findings from throughout the western Maghreb, and the beautiful squares and coastal promenades.

The Historic Algerian Port Town

Sometimes called the Jujubes city for the prevalence of this small red fruit, Annaba, located in the northeastern corner of Algeria, not only holds a wealth of natural resources, but also significant archeological sites and important national industries.

The fourth-largest city in the African nation after Algiers, Oran and Constantine, Annaba is relatively small with 250,000 inhabitants, yet it has still managed to become an industrial and commercial center as well as one of the country’s leading ports.

Although the city was founded in the 7th century near the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Hippo, there is significant evidence that Annaba is built on an early hominid occupation, with vital archeological sites dating back to 100,000 years ago, containing prehistoric tools.

After being an important center for early Christianity, Annaba was taken over by the Muslim forces in the region and later converted into an important port town. This ideal placement on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea with easy access to Italy, Spain and France, has allowed Annaba to continue to thrive as a significant area for trade until the present.

In fact, Annaba is the main port through which minerals, such as iron, zinc and steel, are exported from the country. Steel, the major industry in the city, accounting for 7,000 jobs, is processed at the steelworks company El Hadjar, the largest of its kind in Africa and only 5 miles from the city, created through Soviet and French funding. Chemical manufacturing, food canning and railroad construction also compose a significant amount of the region’s industry.

Aside from manufacturing, the city offers vibrant nightlife and white, sandy beaches for tourists mainly coming from Italy and France. For sightseeing, the white and majestic Cathedral of St. Augustine towers above the city on the southern horizon.

The Algerian City ‘Bridges’ the Country Together Agriculturally 

Because the picturesque Algerian city of Constantine is built over a ravine, it has an intrinsic need for bridges, which dotting the city, have made people refer to it as the “City of Bridges”. This unique inland city, along the banks of the Rhumel River and 50 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, is the third largest in the country after Algiers and Oran, and is considered the capital of the eastern region of Algeria, well connected agriculturally. 

The city is roughly divided into two parts, split northeast to southwest along the rue Didouche Mourad, a major vein of Constantine, with the western region being the Casbah, or historic center, with evidence of Roman and Islamic influences along tree-shaded and organized French streets, where the commercial center of the city lies.

In contrast, on the southeastern side, it is markedly Muslim architecture, where the traditional trades are separated by crafts on their own individual and chaotic streets.

Aside from trade within the southern sector, this nearly half-a-million-person city has a thriving industrial side, with factories that make both tractors and diesel engines. Leather goods, wool fabrics and linens account for the rest of the industry in Constantine. These goods are primarily sent to the Algerian and Tunisian markets.

Whereas, agriculturally this city is advantageously located where many railways come together from the surrounding agricultural regions making it the center of the grain trade, the intellectual focal point is at the University of Constantine, founded in 1969.
Another claim to fame for this North African city is that the discovery of the cause of malaria occurred in a military hospital here in 1880 by Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, later winning him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1907.

Heights and amusements draw increasing tourism to this cool Algerian town

Almost 4000 ft above sea level, the northeastern Algerian town of Sétif is known for its cold temperatures and abundant snowfall, compared to the rest of the desert-dominant country.

Located 190 miles east of the capital city of Algiers, Sétif not only has thriving agriculture and tourism but also a successful metal and woodworking industry.

In the rural areas surrounding the town, grain and livestock are the dominant products. Local factories further process the grain to make some of the country’s staple foods such as semolina, couscous and noodles.

Inside Sétif itself, the 7th largest city in Algeria with almost 300,000 inhabitants, the atmosphere and architecture is unmistakably French, complete with a fountain and a theatre. Although less is known about the history of Sétif before French rule of the country in 1815 than that of other Algerian cities, it is clear that it was founded by the Romans in the first century and after fell under Islamic rule in the year 700.

French colonists later arranged the city as a place for veterans, but in 1945, on the last formal day of World War II, Sétif unfortunately became known for the massacre of uprising citizens killing between 2,00 and 40,000 people, this event becoming perhaps what it is best-known for today. 

But despite this infamous event, this capital city of the Sétif province is starting to see an increase in its tourism industry. And although located high in the mountains, Sétif is still well connected with the rest of the country, having a railroad and being along the national highway, which makes the growing tourism more feasible.

In fact, visitors to the city have especially been on the rise since the construction of a large amusement park in the center of the city. Here tourists can enjoy a zoo, a manmade lake as well as numerous fountains.

Algeria’s Olive and Wine Capital

Just 50 miles from the border of Morocco and about 40 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, the northwestern Algerian city of Tlemcen is most famous for its olives and wines, the base of this inland region’s economy.

Only the 17th largest city in the African country with a population of 140,000, Tlemcen is well connected to the economic hub and capital Algiers through well-built roads and developed railways. It is also easily accessed from Zenata international airport.

The downtown is primarily French architecturally, with an iconic gondola cable car passing above the fountain of Tlemcen. The city, whose name comes from Berber meaning “the dry spring”, was originally founded as a Roman military outpost in the 4th century, and held a large Christian population after the Arab conquest in 708, but later passed through numerous Muslim rulers. However, this Muslim influence mixes harmoniously with the French architecture from the occupation between 1815 and 1962.

In 2011, Tlemcen was elected the Capital of Islamic culture in part because it is the home of the Great Mosque at Tlemcen built in 1136, the most impressive of the remaining examples of architecture from the Almoravid dynasty from 11th century Morocco.

Aside from architecture, Tlemcen boasts impressive natural resources such as the waterfall-and-cliff-laden Tlemcen National Park. The cool climate of the Tlemcen Mountains at just over 2600 feet has made it a popular refuge for tourism within the country.

Next to the mountain, the region is amid olive groves and vineyards, which have developed into a significant trade for Tlemcen through the Rashgun port. Other local products include carpets, leather goods and textiles, many of which contain a cultural fusion of Islamic, Berber, Andalusian and French influences.