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From Football Victory to Economic Success in Algeria

Algeria created a winning national football team in the midst of a political revolution that toppled the country's autocratic president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. How it did so also provides a way to understand the economic reforms Algeria desperately needs.

WASHINGTON, DC – Algeria’s recent victory in the Africa Cup of Nations – the continent’s biennial men’s football (soccer) championship – was not just the triumphant culmination of a highly contested tournament. Coming nearly five months into a popular uprising that has already driven Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power, it also provides a way to understand the economic reforms the country desperately needs.

The revolution that has unfolded this year in Africa’s largest country (by territory) has broad support. Like so many of the region’s protest movements, Algeria’s has been energized by young people who are frustrated by a lack of economic opportunity. Annual GDP growth currently amounts to less than 2% – one-third of the level needed to create enough jobs for Algeria’s fast-growing working-age population.

The key to addressing the protesters’ frustrations is completing the transition from an administered to a market economy. But this prospect arouses considerable mistrust in Algeria, where many blame market liberalization for the rise of crony capitalism, with the commanding heights of the country’s economy in the hands of a few oligarchs.

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