The most recent manifestation of their widespread use could be assessed as resulting in amongst many things, the calm and easy dethroning of two of North Africa’s long-endured head of states. Their current and discrete assignments appear to be concerned with the complete disposal of the out-dated support systems. One thing is sure in that without these Social Media’s deep penetrations in the region, none of this youthful regeneration could be obtained or at least at such low price.
What is the most popular channel in Saudi Arabia and how many young people still use Facebook? Here are some key facts about one of the most youthful regions on the planet
This article is authored by Damian Radcliffe, the Carolyn S. Chambers professor of journalism at the University of Oregon and Payton Bruni, a journalism student at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, who is also minoring in Arabic Studies.
Since the Arab Spring, there has been increased interest in the role that media, and in particular social media, plays in the region. Our recent report, State of Social Media, Middle East: 2018 explored this topic in depth. Here we outline the implications our research has for journalists.
News consumption for Arab youth is social media-led
“Like their peers in the West, young Arabs today are digital natives,” said Sunil John, founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, which produces the annual Arab youth survey.
“Young Arabs are now getting their news first on social media, not television. This year, our survey reveals almost two thirds (63 per cent) of young Arabs say they look first to Facebook and Twitter for news. Three years ago, that was just a quarter.”
According to Arabian Business, content creators with more than 10,000 YouTube subscribers enjoy “free access to audio, visual and editing equipment, as well as training programmes, workshops and courses. Those with more than 1,000 subscribers will have access to workshops and events hosted at the space.”
In most countries, Facebook has yet to falter
The social network now has 164 million active monthly users in the Arab world. This is up from 56 million Facebook users just five years earlier.
Interestingly, in contrast to many other markets, 61 per cent of Arab youth say they use Facebook more frequently than a year ago, suggesting the network is still growing.
Egypt, the most populous nation in the region with a population of over 100 million, remains the biggest national market for Facebook in the region, with 24 million daily users and nearly 37 million monthly mobile users.
Saudi Arabia is a social media pioneer
“In 2018, YouTube upstaged long-time leader Facebook to become the most popular social media platform in Saudi Arabia,” reported Global Media Insight, a Dubai based digital interactive agency.
Data shared by the agency showed YouTube has 23.62 million active users, in the country, with Facebook coming in second with 21.95 million users.
Alongside this, although there are about 12 million daily users of Snapchat in the Gulf region (an area comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) a staggering 9 million of these are in Saudi Arabia (compared to 1 million in UAE).
A complicated relationship with platforms
Despite YouTube’s wide popularity in the MENA region, the company faced some pushback in the past year, after the network was accused of removing online evidence of Syrian chemical attacks.
Meanwhile, YouTube suspended accounts belonging to Syria’s public international news organisation (SANA,) the Ministry of Defence, and the Syrian Presidency “after a report claimed the channels were violating US sanctions and generating revenue from ads,” Al Jazeera reported.
More generally, social networks have a complicated relationship with the region, with service blocks, or the banning of certain features (such as video calling) being relatively common place, and both news organisations and individuals, can fall foul of greater levels of government oversight.
Derogatory posts have resulted in deportations of residents from UAE, while in 2018, the Egyptian government passed legislation categorising social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, thereby exposing them to monitoring by the authorities.
To find out more, download the full study State of Social Media, Middle East: 2018 from the University of Oregon Scholars’ Bank, or view it online via Scribd, SlideShare, ResearchGate and Academia.Edu.
For purposes of mainly Invigorating Female Entrepreneurship in Egypt’s ecosystem, a “SHE CAN – 2019” organized by Entreprenelle, kickstarted by Rania Ayman in 2015 as an organization eventing conferences as a mean to empower and motivate women so as help them believe in their ability to change their destiny.
You’re reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.
SHE CAN 2019, a conference dedicated to MENA women entrepreneurs, hosted its third annual edition at the Greek campus, Downtown Cairo, Egypt, with the theme ‘Successful Failures’. Launched by Entreprenelle, an Egypt-based social enterprise which aims to economically empower women through awareness, education and access to resources, the conference held a wide range of panel discussions, talks and workshops on innovative thinking, creativity, technology, raising capital and invigorating female entrepreneurship in the ecosystem.
Gathering more than 5,000 participants and 50 partners, including UN Women, the Swedish Embassy, the National Council for Women, Nahdet Masr, Avon, Orange and Export Development Bank of Egypt, it also highlighted the endeavors of Entrepenelle alumni. It was also an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn from sessions featuring tips on pitching business ideas, mentorship, as well as startup competitions. Female-founded startups were also able to showcase their products and services in an exhibition area.
Speaking about the conference focusing on the necessity to experience failure on one’s entrepreneurial path, Dorothy Shea, Deputy Ambassador of the US Embassy in Cairo, commented, “As far as I’m concerenced, the sky is the limit. Women should be able to achieve whatever their dreams are. What I was struck by was this idea of “successful failures,” we need to not fear failure, it’s not a destination, it is a stepping stone to success. Sometimes there can be a fear of failure, but as part of this entrepreneurship ecosystem, they are really trying to move that inhibition away. We learn from our failures and then we take our plans to the next level. I was really inspired by this theme.”
Founded in 2015, Entreprenelle has more than 10 entrepreneurship programs conducted in nine governorates, including Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Minya, Assiut, Sohag and Aswan.
Halah Al Hamrani is a Saudi martial arts instructor and owner of the FLAG (Fight Like a Girl) Boxing gym in Jeddah. A pioneer in the emerging Saudi women’s fitness industry, Halah teaches women to challenge themselves and push their limits.
Women in Saudi Arabia have typically been discouraged from sports, but as the country starts to open itself up to the outside world and modernising forces are at work in Saudi society, all that is starting to change – Halah is at the forefront of that movement.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Halah to find out how she made it to where she is today, her thoughts on the social changes sweeping her country, and what inspires her to keep pushing boundaries.
“It all started with my love for martial arts, which began when I was twelve. I studied many different styles starting with karate and then going into Muy Thai and kickboxing when I went to the US to study in San Diego. But when I came back to Saudi Arabia, I realised that there was nothing available within sports for women – in fact, it wasn’t huge for men, either.
It was my mother who gave me the idea. She suggested I start teaching, since I was struggling to find a job in the field that I studied – Environmental Studies. I started teaching classes in my parents house, reaching people only through word of mouth – it was before the era of social media! Fast forward to around three years ago, and my Dad told me I needed to find my own space because I’d been using their house for too long, and that’s where FLAG Boxing came in!
I was adamant that I didn’t want to get onto social media, but my sister persuaded me to. When I started out on Instagram, I was recovering from a miscarriage and was in a really bad place. I decided to document my process of getting back into shape, and how I was using sports and training to make myself feel better. It was such a personal journey for me and I didn’t really think about the effect it would have on people.
But it really resonated with people and I started to get a lot of attention, and that’s when I started to realise the impact I could have – especially on Saudi women. I realised that it isn’t normal to see a Saudi woman practicing martial arts, and it’s certainly not normal for her to put it out there in the public domain so people can see. It’s great that my journey has inspired people, although that was never my intention to begin with. My passion for the sport is what fuels me, and I’m so happy to have that.
Things really took off when National Geographic came to interview me for their piece on ‘The Changing Face of Saudi Women’, although I was really naïve and had no idea it was going to be so big!”
Halah has since appeared in major media outlets around the world and, not only has she inspired Saudi women to take care of their bodies, but she has unintentionally become an icon of women’s empowerment in her country and around the world. What she has achieved is especially remarkable given that she lives in a country where the fitness industry is very new.
We asked her what it’s been like leading this new movement, and what opportunities and challenges the rapid growth of the health and fitness industry presents for Saudi women:
“The fitness industry in Saudi has grown ridiculously quickly over the last three years. For the eleven years prior that I was teaching, there was nothing. We weren’t even allowed to open facilities for women, so not much was happening and anything that did take place was in the private sphere. The government has become very supportive of the industry – they’re trying to promote it as much as possible and bring sports events to the country, for example, last year we had the Mohammed Ali Cup, the MMA, football… And women are allowed to participate now, not just men.
Of course, I worry that the momentum might be too much, that it’s all happening too fast and it might meet resistance. It would be very hard for us mentally to go from this position, where there’s so much excitement and optimism, if it suddenly came to a halt – but that’s always a possibility in this country.
There has been some pushback, but not as much as you might imagine. I think the fact that 70% of the population is under the age of 30 works in our favour, because they really want to move forward. So as long as the government continues as it is and the King continues with the changes that he wants to see happening, I think we’re in a good place, inshallah.
One of the challenges is that people live quite a sedentary lifestyle here, and this is becoming worse thanks to social media and the internet. I see this first-hand as an instructor: it’s difficult to teach people who have never worked out in their lives and don’t have that muscle memory. This is particularly the case for Saudi women, as the only women who have ever practiced any kind of sport are those who went to private schools or spent time abroad. This is only a small percentage of the population, and even then, in most cases it hasn’t been sustained. So it’s hard for people, often they don’t move very easily and it takes a long time to train them.
It’s also a cultural thing: because everyone drives here the sedentary lifestyle has become the norm. But even that is starting to change now; people are out walking, here in Jeddah there is a running group, and you have women who are really trying to change those social norms.”
Not coincidentally, the rapid growth of the fitness industry has happened alongside major social changes taking place in Saudi society, as the government seeks to open the country to the outside world and create new opportunities for Saudi citizens – particularly women.
We asked Halah how she feels about the social changes taking place, and how she responds to the stereotypes of Saudi women that often prevail in the Western media.
“There are huge changes happening for women in Saudi at the moment. For example, lifting the driving ban has completely changed my life! It’s not only given us physical freedom but economic freedom as well, as it’s lifted a huge barrier for women to work. I actually still have my driver because I don’t want to fire him, but he doesn’t really do anything now so I joke with him that he should be training in the gym!
I think the biggest challenge facing Saudi women now is realising mentally what they can accomplish and having the confidence to do it. Opportunities are opening up, everything is there and available for women now, but the hardest thing is changing how they think, and getting them to make the move towards doing whatever they want to do.
There are still frustrating stereotypes of Saudi women in the media internationally, although I do understand where this comes from; Very few foreign journalists were allowed into the country before the current King took over, so they had no idea what Saudi women were really like. So I can understand why these stereotypes exist, but it bothers me when journalists come to the country with these stereotypes in mind and don’t actually want to learn the truth about how we really live. We are not oppressed; we may live within our means and within the expectations of our government, but we are still strong and empowered. Often journalists aren’t interested in hearing that because it’s not going to make a good story, so they end up repeating the same stereotypes and reinforcing what people in other countries think they know about us.
Social change takes time, and even the most liberal countries are still moving towards gender equality and fighting those battles. I think the most important thing – and something we don’t see enough of anywhere in the world – is that women continue to support and lift each other up every day. We all have our own struggles, and instead of competing we should support one another.”
Halah’s story of fearless boundary pushing and creating her own success is hugely inspiring for women, not only in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, but around the world. When we asked her about her own role models, her answer was surprising.
“The women I teach in the gym! Especially the ones who work really hard – I’ve done sports all my life so it comes naturally to me. But for these women it doesn’t, they haven’t developed the mentality that goes along with the practice. You have to know how to push yourself, when to push yourself – and it’s not something you develop right away, it happens over many years. And these women are trying to develop that without those years of practice.
When someone puts themselves in a situation where they’re working beyond what they’re comfortable with, that is a true inspiration to me. That’s why I love my job so much, because these women – the ones who really want to try and to work hard – they’re incredible. So I would say they are my number one inspiration, which is great because I get them on a daily basis!”
Having accomplished what many Saudis just a few years ago would have thought impossible, we asked Halah what advice she would give her younger self?
“It gets better. When I was young I had a hard time because I had ADD, so I suffered a lot in school and always thought of myself as a stupid kid because nobody really understood what it was at the time. So they would point at me like, ‘Oh, she’s the naughty kid, she doesn’t study…’ In fact, that’s actually why I gravitated toward sports, because I was able to excel in it. I needed it to feel good about myself because without it I constantly felt like a failure. So I would tell myself, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to be okay’. Because so much of the time I thought I wasn’t.”
And what’s next for Halah and FLAG Boxing…?
“One of my goals at the moment is to go to some of the more remote cities in Saudi to give boxing and self-defence classes to women and promote women’s empowerment. That’s one of the many things on my list.
When I started teaching my goal was to spread the sport, to get women active and moving, and that turned into a goal to get girls into competitions. We need to be working with the younger generation to help them build up their skills. It’s a long process and it won’t happen overnight. We can bring in new competitions – and we are – but developing incredible athletes will take years. It’s a generational thing and we have to start with the youngest.
We have just started a programme for kids, but we need more people and more coaches. It’s a challenge; on the one hand, we’re going through a stage as a country where we’re trying to get more Saudis into the workforce, but that can be difficult when you’re recruiting coaches, because you need people who have trained their whole lives, and because it’s such a new thing in our country we just don’t have that. So for now, we need to recruit coaches from abroad.
I’m also working with a friend in Bahrain to put together a self-defence programme for women, which I’m really excited about. For a lot of women in this country, the main reason for their interest in boxing is self-defence, for whatever reason. This is something I’ve wanted to do for fifteen years and I’ve finally found the right person to work with. We’re hoping to launch it within the year, inshallah.
So I’m excited and I’m happy to get up in the morning. I know I have a lot of things I want to accomplish, and that’s my driving force!”
We can’t wait to see what’s next for Halah as she continues to push for women’s empowerment and inspire women worldwide to test their limits and see what they’re capable of. To keep up with her inspiring work, follow @flagboxing on Instagram.
If Halah’s story inspired you, you might also enjoy:
A proclamation in support
of women to carry or metaphorically shoulder the weight of half of all life’s
endeavours and Mao Zedong was its author.
It is nowadays used in arguments aimed at trying to lower gender
inequality and potentially turn oppression into opportunity for women
worldwide. The infamous political glass ceiling has yet to get rid of and prove
that women are a resource that ought to be deployed. Women empowerment and
leadership have made strides in the workplace, but a lot remains to be done,
especially in MENA countries.
The story below from An Englishwoman in Algeria is a good point in case, for today, March 8, International Women’s Day, in Algeria, where as it happens, there will coincidently be massive street demonstrations against the reconduction of an aging and ailing male president to yet another and fifth term in office.
Amidst the chaotic swirl of colour and noise that
was our wedding, I had found a quiet corner where I could chat to two of T’s
young cousins. They were like teenagers anywhere, giggly and bespectacled,
showing off their best party frocks, and for me, they brought a reassuring air
of normality to proceedings.
I felt a tap on my shoulder — one that demanded my immediate attention. I
turned around to meet a pair of shrewd black eyes belonging to a small woman
who was scrutinising me, hands on hips, head thrown back and feet
planted wide apart. My mother-in-law, fluttering anxiously next to the unknown
woman, eyes darting from me to her, was wringing her hands and smiling
Both of them seemed advanced in years to my
twenty-two-year-old eyes, but they were probably only in early middle age, my
mother-in-law in her late forties and her aunt, her father’s sister, for so her
companion turned out to be, perhaps ten years older. But there the similarities
mother-in-law had skin like crumpled white silk, moist blue eyes and the
comfortably rounded contours of someone who had been cosseted practically all
her life. By contrast, her aunt, Fatouma, or NaF’touma, as she was known,
seemed much older, her frame spare and rawboned, her weatherbeaten skin
withered like that of an overripe apple. Her nose was a hawk’s
beak, her small eyes sharp as she scanned the room.
dress hung off her shoulders — no womanly curves for her — and her headscarf was devoid of the customary decorative
fringe and embroidered edging. It was rusty black, embellished only with a few
forlorn woollen tassels, from under which poked wispy strands of greying hair,
all that was left of what had once been a shimmering black curtain, cloaking
her shoulders and curling down her back.
past had been full of the worst memories any life can offer — those of
war and loss. At the outbreak of the independence struggle, she had taken
up her shotgun and fought like a man with the other moudjahidine.
Not for her the role usually carved out for women in the maquis — that of a nurse or a cook.
She was not a city-dweller, like those other young
girls who had planted bombs in the bustling cafés and ice-cream parlours on the
elegant rue d’Isly, but a highland Berber with the blood of
generations of warriors running through her veins. Her battlefield had
been the inhospitable mountains of Kabylie. She had greeted T, when he had
ventured back up to the village after the cease-fire, with the words,”Why
aren’t you dead…” — leaving the rest of the sentence — “….like all the others?”
realised that it was important to my mother-in-law that her son’s choice of a
bride meet with her aunt’s approval. I seem to have passed the test with
flying colours, as every time I saw her at family weddings during
the ensuing years, she would envelop me in a bear hug, thump me on the back and
bellow greetings in my ear. She had an irrepressible joie de
vivre and lived every day as a gift, something extra she had never
expected, but had been given. I think that is why she lived to such a ripe old
age. She was a woman of steel, refusing to be beaten down by the years.
have been many such women of steel in Algeria. Berber women had a
reputation for being in the vanguard of any battle alongside their men, and
later, when I was to learn more about Algerian history, I became familiar
with the stories about the legendary Berber queen, Dihya, called the Kahina, (the Seer), the fabled Tin Hinan,
Tuareg Queen of the Campfires, as well as countless heroines who had taken up
armed combat to resist the French, like the nineteenth-century Lalla Fadhma
had become the war leader of the Berber tribes in the latter part of the
seventh century, ferociously opposing the encroaching Arab armies, who had
already captured the major Byzantine city of Carthage. Searching for another
enemy to defeat, they had been told that the most powerful monarch in North
Africa was “the Queen of the Berbers” and accordingly marched into what is now
Algeria. The armies fought the Battle of the Camels in the present-day
province of Oum el-Bouaghi, and the Arab armies were soundly defeated, only to return four or five years later.
Parallels can be drawn with Boudicca, as Dihya then
embarked on a desperate scorched earth campaign. She was finally defeated at
Tabarka, near the Tunisian border. According to legend, she died fighting the
invaders, sword in hand — a warrior’s death. Other accounts say she committed
suicide by swallowing poison rather than be taken by the enemy.
there are no contemporary likenesses of the Kahina, she is often represented in idealised portraits and
statues. For Berbers, these serve as confirmation that they, as a people, are
strong and will not be conquered or diminished by others, and shows their support for the progressive ideals Dihya represents.
less is known about Tin Hinan, the mythical Tuareg Queen of
the Campfires. The Berber Tuareg are a matriarchal society, and she was
supposed to have been a fourth-century Tuareg queen. Many historians
believed that she had not really existed, but her monumental tomb was
discovered in the early twentieth century near an oasis over a thousand
kilometres south of Algiers.
tomb, of which the walls were decorated with inscriptions in tifinagh,
was found to contain the skeleton of a tall woman, belonging to a Mediterranean
race, lying on a wooden litter with her head facing east. She was wearing
heavy gold and silver jewellery, some of it adorned with pearls. The funerary
artefacts found buried with her all date from the third and fourth centuries.
have already written about Fadhma N’Soumer,
who led the Kabyle armed resistance against the French, who were
seeking to bring Kabylie under their control in the nineteenth century. She was
finally defeated at the Battle of Icherriden, a few kilometres from my
husband’s village, in 1857. Once captured by French forces, she was imprisoned
until her death six years later. She is known as the Kabyle Joan of Arc.
course, strong Algerian women are not confined to the Berbers, not do they all
belong to ancient history. The bravery of the young women who fought during the
independence struggle, including Zohra Drif, Djamila Boupacha,
Djamila Bouhired, Hassiba Ben Bouali and others, like NaF’touma, cannot be
praised enough, even though many of them have been forgotten since.
there had been a strangely ambivalent attitude towards women. Externally, the FLN pursued policies that
highlighted women’s participation in the war. El Moudjahid, the
FLN newspaper, sought to propagate the idea of the female
warrior, venerating her as a martyr if she were killed, and
extolling her as a linchpin of the independence struggle.
Internally, however, a statement made by an FLN
commander best illustrates attitudes towards women. He said, and I
quote: “In an independent Algeria, Muslim women’s freedom will stop at the
door of their home. Women will never be equal to men.” The involvement of
women in the war effort, especially those who were literate and from an
urban environment, sometimes made their often-illiterate male counterparts
After the war, although their help and support had
been vital, women, regardless of their involvement and contributions to
the conflict, were forced back into their pre-war subservience by
Algeria’s prevailing social, religious, and cultural climate. It was as if
they were being told, “Mission accomplished. Thank you for your help. Now get
back to your kitchens.”
have come to the conclusion that if some Algerian men are like this, it’s
because Algerian women are strong, resourceful and brave and men find them
too assertive, seeking to curtail their development by any means, even by the
infamous 1984 Family Code, which reduced women to the statute of minors, to be under the authority of their fathers, brothers, husbands and
sons for their whole lives. For me, this male attitude is a betrayal
of those heroic Algerian women who have fought for their own freedom and that
of their country throughout the centuries.
In this long plea where he begins by paying homage to the
Algerian youth, Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul analyses the handicaps, both
political and economic, which overwhelm Algeria despite its immense potential.
Then projecting himself into the perspective, he evokes the scenarios of the
future and pleads with a lot of arguments and a great conviction, for “an
indispensable global reform” (…) by flattening the differences through
dialogue and consultation.
So, here is this contribution from PR Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Economist, International Expert as posted on AFRICAPRESSE. PARIS on March 5, 2019, in French.
The strong mobilization of 22
February and 1st March implies a good analysis of the aspirations of civil
society. Certainly not the rentier living in the salons, but the one that we
saw on the street, the youth who does not want to be recovered.
The lesson given to the leader of the
Workers’ Party, which was booed, should serve as lessons. At a time when the
world is experiencing political, social and economic upheavals, where Algeria
is being challenged by some 70% of its population claiming genuine democratic
reforms – a condition of harmonious and sustainable development in the face of
the relentless globalization – we must pay a great homage to our youth who have
not experienced the drama of the years 1990-1999, and yet want a change.
Let us salute its political maturity
and peaceful marches without violence, where political parties in all
tendencies have played no role in mobilizing. Let us also salute our security
forces who have managed in a modern way these events which must be meditated
profoundly by the parties of power and their satellites – weakly
representative, not to say non-representative – as well as by any of the
opposition, which was off-track.
A partisan system disconnected from
According to some sources, the number
of political parties is approaching sixty, often with unnatural alliances,
whereas in democratic countries these alliances are made by ideological
affinity and a clear programme.
Also, except for ten of them, the
others show a formal and ostentatious presence in the elections… Furnishing
the emptiness, powerless almost always to act on the course of things and to
articulate clearly the concerns and aspirations of the real society.
Because of the internal crises that
periodically shake them, the discredit that strikes the majority of them, the
defiance of them and the partisan activism, the current political formations
today have a low capacity to carry out a work of mobilization and efficient
management, to contribute significantly to the political socialising, and thus
to make an effective contribution to the work of national recovery.
As proof, the last parliamentary
elections, both 2012 and 2017: considering the null and official data of the
Ministry of the Interior, the 3/4 of the Algerian population are not
represented by the elected officials.
The discredit which strikes political
groups, both from the power and from the opposition, must give way to credible,
non-artificially created formations, subject therefore to the possibility of an
objective assessment of the status and role which must be theirs in a society
that aspires to join the ranks of democratic societies. These formations will
have to be more capable of mobilizing society than in the years to come,
reforms – long deferred to guarantee a fictitious, transient social peace –
will be very painful.
An atomized civil society with an
Civil society in Algeria is
shattered. Contrary to the accepted and illusory ideas of past years, in a
context of social disintegration and “satellite TV” youth, most
official religious brotherhoods have less and less impact.
On the other hand, the confusion that
currently prevails in the national association movement makes it difficult to
devise a strategy to take into account and mobilize it. Its diversity, the
politico-ideological currents that pass through it and its complex relationship
to society and the State add to this confusion and make imperative an urgent
reflection for its restructuring, its current state reflecting the major
fractures have occurred in the national political system. Thus, it will soon be
divided into four fundamentally different civil societies: three at the level
of the real sphere and one dominant in the informal sphere.
The most important segment of this
civil society, the privileged and often unique interlocutor of the public authorities,
is constituted by appendages of power, located on the periphery of the parties
in power and whose officials are sometimes deputies, senators, living in large
part of the transfer of the rentier annuity. In fact, those who pride
themselves on mobilizing millions of voters live in air-conditioned lounges,
disconnected from society.
The second segment is that of a civil
society frankly rooted in the Islamist movement, with there also appendages of
legal Islamic parties.
The third segment is that of a civil
society claiming the democratic movement. Poorly structured, despite the
relatively large number of associations that comprise it, and undermined by
contradictions in relation, among others, with the question of leadership. For
these first three civil societies, their impact on the turnout in the last
local and legislative elections, despite their accession, was relatively low.
We finally have an informal,
unorganized, totally atomized civil society. It is by far the most active and
important, as well as we saw on February 22nd and the 1st March 2019, with
precise codifications forming a dense mesh.
Without the intelligent integration
of this informal sphere – not by authoritarian bureaucratic measures, but by
the involvement of society itself – it will not be necessary to rely on a real
dynamism of civil society. Because when a state wants to impose its own rules
disconnected from social practices, the society has its own rules that allow it
to function with its own organizations.
Three scenarios for Algeria from 2019
The dynamism of the partisan system
and of civil society in order to make it an effective instrument of the framing
of forces and a powerful lever of their mobilization is likely to succeed only
if the movement that composes it, is not in the service of ambitions personal
unmentionable and sometimes dubious.
We can foresee the different
scenarios possible depending on the state of the power relations at the
internal level, considering the evolution of the strategy of the actors at the
The first scenario: failure of the reform process.
The conditions of failure are real
and combined in the legal and economic environment in case of lack of
visibility and coherence in the economic and social approach. Risk accentuated
by the annuitants at the internal level and certain segments of external actors
maintaining informal relations and who are not interested in deepening the
reforms (loss of contracts in case of transparent tender notices).
On the other hand, the ambiguity of
legal texts allows for the legal blockade of reforms, while the multiplicity of
speakers allows for the confusion of prerogatives. Other parameters
contributing to the risk of failure: the fragility of internal private
investment capacity, stabilization plans that have made forced savings to the
detriment of the average layers that have impoverished; the mistrust generated
by internal and external investors through continual changes in legislation,
while the stability must be rigorous; populist speeches on account settlements
on the sensitive subject of taxation, and finally the high pressure of a
fraction of the internal and external actors linked to the interests of the
annuity, that to preserve protectionist postures because the liberalisation
Destroyed a fraction of the annuity.
The second scenario is the status quo.
It would lead to the regression for both social and physical, the world being in perpetual motion. This hypothesis will prepare the conditions of failure by imputing the current social conditions (poverty and unemployment) to reforms, which, except macroeconomic stabilization, are timid in Algeria (microeconomic and institutional reforms, Issues of future years), or to technical bodies while petrol is the absence of political will (neutralization of power relations).
This status quo will participate in a
programmed failure and would be suicidal for the future of the economy and
Algerian society. This is maintained by the confusion of some concepts
assimilating false reforms to the sale of national heritage.
Thus, according to the proponents of
this analysis, the reforms would be dictated by the major global oil companies,
the IMF and the World Bank. A posture reminding us of the Times of the
Inquisition against those who advocated the market economy and the
establishment of democracy.
The third scenario is the success of solidarity-specific political and economic reforms as contained in the legal, economic and political environment of Algeria, thanks to a youth increasingly aware of the country’s future issues.
The rupture of the previous system, in view of historical experiences, only occurred through violent but short-lived revolutions. Successful experiences have shown that the gradualist pathway inserting the Conservatives into a reformist dynamic has involved a profound redevelopment of the structures of power and new people acquired in the reforms with cultural demystification, the devastating rumours in the opinion are only the translation of the weakness of the communication system, especially in Algeria where the oral route is predominant.
There is, therefore, therefore, an
urgent need for close cooperation between the supporters of the reforms, the
political parties, the associations and, in general, all civil society, the
administration, public and private enterprises, the collectives of Workers,
trade unions, flattening differences through dialogue and consultation.
The goal will be to make the
strategic objective emerge through a symbiosis of individual interests and
collective interest, showing that the medium-term winners of the reforms will
be more numerous than the short-term losers.
The support of external actors for
their interests in order to avoid the negative effects of the Destabilisation,
but above all the mobilisation of the favorable internal actors because no
country can make the reforms in our place, the fate of Algeria is in the hands
of Algerian and Algerian.
Algeria, an indispensable actor for
Euro-Mediterranean and African stability, can lead to a process of inseparable
reforms of a profound democratisation of its society. In the business world,
feelings do not exist, only reforms will allow economic growth and the
reduction of the nagging problems of unemployment and poverty. Any obstacle to
these reforms only decreases the rate of growth, increases the country’s
insecurity and, Over there, contributes to social and political
destabilization. Time being money, any delay in the process of reforms could
result in more important social costs that could be supported by the most
A strategic vision to surpass a
It is time to have foresight in the
medium and long term, in order to correct the mistakes of the past, like
navigating on sight by ignoring the aspirations of society.
The strategic question is: shall we
go towards a real salutary change by reorganizing society, due to the global
geostrategic upheavals announced between 2019-2025-2030 or, thanks to the
passive distribution of the annuity, shall we simply replaster, postponing the
inevitable social tensions?
These are important enough reasons to
seriously consider reorganizing the partisan system and civil society so that
they can fulfil the function that is them in any democratic political system
that reconciles modernity with our authenticity, far from administrative
The redesign of the state, including
administration, integration of the informal sphere, reforms of financial,
fiscal, customs and socio-educational systems, new mechanisms of regulation and
social cohesion, optimisation of the effect of public expenditure and the new
management of infrastructures based on the rationalization of budget choices…
and pose the problem of the future of the Algerian economy so as to reconnect
it with growth and, consequently, to alleviate unemployment.
As I have often recalled, in this
month of February 2019 – and this is not today – Algeria is going through a crisis
of governance, which implies having a strategic vision of the future of Algeria
on the 2030 horizon.
Algeria needs for its national and
international credibility, geostrategic tensions at the level of the region and
the inevitable budgetary tensions between 2019-2020-2025 to bring all its
children into their diversity and not to divide us, requiring a minimum of
economic and social consensus that could not mean unanimism, a sign of
decadence of any society in order to stabilise the social body.
The reforms – beyond the natural
resistance of the pensioners – by rehabilitating good governance (the fight
against corruption, in concrete terms and not only by legislation) and human
capital, are the basis for development. The cries of youth in these months of
February and March 2019 for a profound change must be heard so that Algeria can
meet the challenges of the 21st century characterized, in this constantly
interdependent world, by major geostrategic upheavals in the security,
economic, political, social and cultural fields.
Faced with the inevitable budgetary
tensions and the geostrategic stakes of 2019-2025-2030, the success of the
reforms must be based on four axes: gathering, rebasing of the state,
democratisation and economic reforms accommodating economic efficiency and
profound social justice.
The announcement that Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika is seeking a fifth term has been met with a rising tide of nonviolent public protests – and possibly the beginning of a new era of resistance against the political regime that has held power since 1962.
In February, Algeria’s state news agency announced Bouteflika’s candidacy in the upcoming elections, to be held on April 18. While there had been little public opposition to Bouteflika’s continued reign since he first took office in 1999, this time Algerians have shown increasing resistence. Currently 81 and in poor health after a 2013 stroke, Bouteflika is perceived as an ineffective head of state in a country suffering from a deep economic and structural crisis.
Taking to the streets
In the weeks that followed, from Algiers to Oran, people young and old have taken to the streets and campuses to protest the continuing hold of Bouteflika and his inner circle on power, and the president’s inability to lead. Since 2013 his public appearances have been extremely rare, to the point where he failed to meet Saudi crown prince in December, supposedly because he had the flu.
Today’s protesters are of all ages and walks of life – students, working men and women, and journalists resisting state censorship. All are calling for a return to the rule of law and demanding that Bouteflika renounce running for a fifth term. As they march, protesters often sing popular football anthems with a political twist to express their demands. Songs ring out from Algeria’s 1962 independence movement and the social movements of the 1980s. In the balconies overhead, women sing out ululating “youyous” in support.
While there has also been anger and indignation, expressed through fiery speeches and unambiguous slogans, violence and clashes with the police have been relatively limited. A “million-man march on Friday, March 1, was reported to be “mostly peaceful”, with the state news agency claiming that 183 people were injured.
The street as public forum
In the absence of state institutions that allow a real political dialogue and without credible elections, the streets of Algeria have become the place where politics is practiced. The moving crowds, rallies and meetings have turned them into a public forum, with those present calling for an end to the rule of Bouteflika and his clan. This includes his brother Saïd and many members of his family or close acquaintances who have a controlling hand state affairs and the economy. In an effort to keep control, prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia has warned that a “Syrian scenario” is possible if Bouteflika isn’t returned to office. On Sunday, the TV station Ennahar reported that Bouteflika was officially a candidate for reelection.
In response, protesters have taken to the social networks to share messages of hope, filling the web with broad smiles and forceful slogans. Twitter posts have remained positive that this time things will be different.
Ongoing coverage shows streets and squares occupied by protestors, with police officers surrounded by demonstrators. Still, there’s a feeling that the regime’s grip on power may be slipping and that the balance of power could be shifting.
So far, the protesters’ strategy has been resolutely nonviolent: peaceful gestures toward the police and civic responsibility sometimes expressed in unexpected ways – including cleaning the streets after demonstrations. But will that be enough?
A fifth term for Bouteflika is unthinkable for many, yet the future is uncertain. Algeria stood aside during Arab Spring that brought down authoritarian governments in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, in part because of memories of the country’s brutal civil war of the 1990s. However, Algeria’s regime has plagued the country with a weak economy that has worsened as oil revenues have plunged. The unemployment rate is currently near 12%, with the youth rate at 29%. Given that half of the population is younger than 25, the continuity of the state is now facing a structural and social crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Despite the Algerians’ desire for emancipation from Bouteflika’s regime, they have a stark choice: the continuation or cancellation of elections. Cancellation is the most risky of the two because it could well trigger a the declaration of a state of emergency and the return of the military to power. Yet the if elections go forward, the regime still holds the keys to power.
Given what’s at stake, should Algerian citizens accept the April 18 elections in the hope that the regime will have received the message, or push for a general strike?
By resisting political pressure and fatalism through non-violence, Algeria’s civil society is seeking to change how power is exercised in Algeria. By peacefully yet insistently calling on the country’s government and ruling clique to let citizens express themselves and truly listen to what they have to say, Algerians are setting an example. Only peaceful political dialogue and real debate can change how power is practiced in Algeria, and restore the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people.
Translated from the original French by Clea Chakraverty and Leighton Kille.