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Algeria: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Algeria

Suits should always be worn in winter months, shirt sleeves during the summer. Prior appointments are necessary for larger business firms. Businesspeople generally speak Arabic or French and, as a great deal of bargaining is necessary, it is rarely convenient to carry out transactions through an interpreter. Patience is always important. Visitors are usually entertained in hotels or restaurants, where Algerian businessmen are seldom accompanied by their wives. Only rarely are visitors entertained at home. If visiting during Ramadan (and this should be avoided if possible), care should be taken to observe local custom in public places.

Office Hours

Generally Sat-Wed 0800-1200 and 1300-1600.

Economy

Petroleum and natural gas are the most important industries in Algeria and account for all but a small fraction of the country's exports. Most of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert and despite investments in the agricultural sector (the main crops being wheat, potatoes, grapes, cereals and citrus fruits), Algeria is far from self-sufficient in foodstuffs and is vulnerable to drought.

Most of the fertile land is located in the northern littoral region. The government has recently completed the process of breaking up state agricultural co-operatives and turning the land over to its occupants. Minerals, principally iron ore and phosphates, are the other major export.

Algeria's principal trading partners are France, the UK, Italy and Spain - it currently supplies around 10% of Europe’s natural gas imports to these countries. Plans for the construction of a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline linking coastal terminals to the Saharan gas fields and down into Nigeria, are yet to come to fruition.

From Europe, Algeria imports most of its industrial equipment and consumer goods. The IMF and other Western donors have provided loans and aid packages, conditional on liberalising economic reforms and the sale of state-owned industrial assets - the government has, by and large, been prepared to meet these.

As the security crisis has eased in the last few years, economic links between Algeria and the EU have grown. In April 2002, Algeria signed an Association Agreement with the EU, which aimed at boosting both-way trade. Domestic unrest within Algeria in 2011 forced the government to offer $23m in backdated salary increases and more spending on the public sector.

GDP

US$208 billion (2012).

Main exports

Petroleum, natural gas and minerals.

Main imports

Foodstuffs and consumer goods.

Main trading partners

France, Canada, Italy, Spain and USA.

Keeping in Touch in Algeria

Telephone

With the advent of mobile phones, the use of landlines (which were never highly used anyway) is in steep decline. Taxiphones (a sort of metered phone booth) are available to make calls from, but mobiles are used as the primary means of communication.

Mobile Phone

Mobile phone usage across the country has increased greatly, with the main mobile networks giving good coverage across the country. To take advantage of local rates, buy a cheap foreign SIM card for use in your existing phone.

Internet

There are internet cafés in all larger towns and hotels in the major cities are more likely to have in-room Wi-Fi available.

Media

Algeria's TV and radio stations are state-controlled, but there is a lively private press which is often critical of the authorities. Although there is no overt censorship, legislation sets out prison terms and fines for anyone insulting or defaming the president, MPs, judges and the army. Daily newspapers are printed in Arabic or French, and the main French-language dailies are El Watan, Liberté, Le Quotidien d'Oran and La Tribune. One of the leading Arabic-language dailies is El Khabar, whilst another daily, Horizons, has an English section.

In terms of TV channels, Enterprise Nationale de Télévision (ENTV) is state-run. The use of satellite dishes is widespread; some satellite TV stations, such as BRTV, a Berber station based in France, target viewers in Algeria, and European channels are widely watched. Algerian Radio, operated by state-run Radio-Télévision Algérienne, runs national Arabic, Berber and French networks, and several local stations.

Post

Mail posted in any of the main cities along the coast takes three to four days to reach Europe; posted elsewhere, it could take much longer. Parcels sent by surface mail may take up to two months to reach Algeria.

Post Office hours

Generally Sat-Wed 0800-1700 and Thurs 0800-1200. The main post office in Algiers (5 boulevard Mohamed Khémisti) is open 24 hours.

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