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Algeria Hirak, Covid-19, and digital… A new era?

In Algeria, the constitutional referendum, organized last November and marked by a large boycott, revealed the gap between the government and the society. A failure, questioning the results of the hirak while the Algerian economy is facing its eternal problem: diversification. A little hope remains: entrepreneurship and digital development could lead to new perspectives. Analysis.

By Nadjoua Khelil, in Alger

 

More than a symbol. This voting day, organized while the president was absent, occurred one year after the peaceful uprising of the 22nd of February and during the Covid-19 that forced “Hirakists” to stop their weekly demonstration after 13 months of mobilization for radical political changes. “When people thought the movement was over, results of the referendum showed the contrary and boosted the hirak,” Saïd Salhi, a key figure of the movement and the president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, said before suggesting to cancel the election “for want of popular legitimacy.” 

The hirak still alive and ready to come back

According to its leaders, today, the hirak is still on but uses other forms of mobilization, still against a regime that holds its position. After a status quo period due to the pandemic and the lockdown, the power tried to “break the hirak, multiplying activists arrests, closing places of expression and attempting on liberties,” Saïd Salhi explains. But “the hirak is not only weekly protestations. It is an idea coming from the people, and an idea doesn’t die,” the president of the party Union pour le changement et le progès, Zoubida Assoul said. She sees this in the diverse initiatives hols by hirak’s partisans coming from the civil society of the opposition, “reflecting the whole spirit of the hirak and an issue to the crisis.” “Reasons, why the hirak was born, are still existing and more visible,” Hakim Addad, former political detainee and previous leader of the Rassemblement Action Jeunesse underlines, “the quest for change is the same.”

Nevertheless, for Nourreddine Bekkis, political scientist, the power and hirak are hitten “because one can’t impose its roadmap, and the second one can’t bloc the regime’s agenda.” The hirak “is running out” because he didn’t create a real leadership when it was very powerful. The movement’s comeback is “really likely,” and it will be “difficult for the regime to contain it without a real political opening.” 

A new economic model

So the coming months will be decisive on a political level. On one other hand, at the economic level, every indicator is red. “The global economic recovery, into lethargy, will not occur before early in 2022, with consequences on the Algerian economy, mainly concerning the oil incomes that will decrease and represents 98% of currencies’ revenues,” Abderrahmane Mabtoul, expert, said. In 2021, hydrocarbons should yield around 23 billion dollars. The Covid-19 will impact the Algerian growth rate that will reach -5,5%. The unemployment rate will be about 15%. The balance of payments will be reduced by 3 billion dollars, the public treasure deficit will reach 13% of the GNP, and reserves will fall (46 billion dollars), while expenses will increase by 10%. According to Abderrahmane Mabtoul, the pandemic is accelerating the degradation process already existing due to “the rebuild politic instead of structural reforms.”

In this sense, the expert Smail Lalmas, estimates the crisis is due to “the annuitant economic model, complicated because of a confidence crisis and a terrible management by the executive power.” To establish trust and development, it will be essential to create “a dialogue for changes and a new diversified economic model,” Smail Lalmas said.

Entrepreneurship and digital “key factors”

In the current context, entrepreneurship and the development of a digital ecosystem are “key factors for an economic recovery in the country,” Mustapha Mekideche, analyst and previous president of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) of the African Union. In order to diversify the economy, two things are essential: “Push big industrial companies into export transformed products. Make emerged the human capital, of which national startups in services, and the ones of digital industries with strong potential of growth, in a competitive digital ecosystem supported by the state and able to export.”

For Ali Kahlane, consultant in ICT, vice president of CARE, the digital forms with the economy “a logic association” for the recovery, hence the start of a “capital digital transition” for Algeria’s future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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