Today Algeria celebrates 59 years since its independence on the 5th of July, 1962.The Algerian war of independence began in the early hours of 1 November 1954 and ended officially on 3 July 1962, when France‘s President Charles de Gaulle formally renounced his nation’s sovereignty over Algeria and proclaimed its independence. This war which claimed over one million lives put an end to more than 130 years of French colonial rule over the North African country.
As we join Algeria in celebration and remembrance of a battle hard fought and an independence well-wrought, here’s 5 things we bet you didn’t know about Algeria.
Algeria is the Largest Country in Africa
Exceeding 2.38 million square kilometers (919,595 sq mi) as of 2020 and with a population density of 15.9 per sqkm, Algeria is the African country with the largest area. It is also the 10th largest country in the world. However, only 12% of its staggering landmass is inhabited. Over 80% of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert and almost completely uninhabited. 90% of its population lives along the Mediterranean Coast, just over 10% of the country’s land.
Algeria had banned foreign debt since 2005, when the government began emphasizing “economic nationalism” and “financial sovereignty.” This was after the country fell into heavy debt with the IMF during the 1990s.
To emphasize the depth of their resolve against accumulating foreign debt, when confronted with falling oil prices and the economic decline prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said that Algeria would prefer “to borrow from its own citizens, rather than the IMF or the World Bank to ease its financial crisis”.
However, the Algerian government is turning to foreign lenders for the first time in 15 years as oil and gas output declines and takes a toll on the economy. Algeria’s international reserves have shrunk by more than half since their peak from €162.4bn in 2014 to close to €57bn at the end of 2019.
The government said the foreign loans to be contracted beginning next year will finance basic infrastructure and structural economic projects, such as the $3 billion port project of Cherchell outside Algiers and a $6 billion phosphate development project in the mineral basin of Tebessa.
Algeria offers free healthcare to all its citizens
Free national health care was introduced by the government in 1974 and helps pay for those who are sick and injured. Nearly all of the people living in urban areas and 80 percent of the population in rural areas have access to adequate sanitation. Hospital treatment, medications, and outpatient care since 1974 has been free to all citizens of Algeria as the national medical insurance scheme covers 90% of the entire population.
Algeria is Africa’s Third Solar Champion
Algeria is emerging as Africa’s third ‘solar champion’ as it moves to join the 37 countries in the solar gigawatt club after South Africa and Egypt. Natural gas accounts for 98 percent of the energy mix in Algeria but the country aims to generate up to 22 gigawatts of green energy by 2030. Of this, 13.6 GW will be solar, according to government sources.
Algeria is certified malaria-free by the World Health Organization
On the 22nd of May 2019, Algeria was certified by the WHO as one of the 38 malaria-free countries in the world. Interestingly, Algeria was the country where the Malaria parasite was first discovered in humans about a century and a half ago. In the 1960s up to 80,000 cases were being reported each year. However, the country has shown tenacity in tackling the disease by making several concerted efforts towards eliminating malaria; one of which is the provision of free malaria diagnosis and treatment.
Happy Independence Day to the Republic of Algeria!