News / Africa

Algeria's Large Youth Population Has Few Opportunities

Young Algerians on Rue Didouche Mourad
Young Algerians on Rue Didouche Mourad

Walk down Rue Didouche Mourad - a bustling auto route lined with colonial-era buildings that winds its way toward the Algiers port - and this is what you will see: groups of children heading home from school; young girls, some with headscarves, others bareheaded, mobile phones glued to their ears; young men hanging out in cafes; a street population that is overwhelmingly young.

This is the face of Algeria. Seven out of 10 people in this North African country are less than 25 years old. These youths should be the country's wealth. But are they?

No, says Imad Boubekri, youth coordinator for the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights. At least, that is not the way they are seen.

Boubekri says few jobs are available for young Algerians. There is a collective anguish among the youth population here, sparking a string of self-immolations mirroring neighboring Tunisia, where the death of a young man who set himself on fire triggered a powerful revolt that toppled the country's longtime president.

But while there was rioting over high food prices in January and an ongoing series of scattered protests for disparate causes, young people here have failed to catalyze - much less lead - the kinds of national revolts against authoritarian governments witnessed in other Arab countries.

Riot police blocking a teachers strike for better benefits in Algiers
Riot police blocking a teachers strike for better benefits in Algiers

Consider a protest last weekend in Algiers by part-time school teachers demanding benefits. Mohammed Shekalel, a teacher in his late '20s who works at a school about 80 kilometers away, was among them. The protest, he said, had nothing to do with demands for political reform.

"We don't speak about politics because we don't belong to any political party. We [want] our rights concerning our jobs," said Shekalel.

Algerian students have also been protesting in front of the education ministry to demand a better recognition of their university diplomas. But again, their calls have yet to gain a political edge.

Still, youth activist Boubekri believes it is only a question of time.

Boubekri says Algeria's economic, political and social situation is very precarious. He has no doubt it will lead to a social explosion.

Boubekri was among the organizers of a youth march announced on the Internet social network Facebook last weekend aimed to demand major political reforms. Only a few dozen young people showed up, and every time they tried to gather police broke them up.

Unlike neighboring Tunisia, where Cyberspace helped drive the political revolt, the Internet has failed to galvanize the youth here.

On Didouche Mourade street, 16-year-old Ilias Fouial says he is not interested in participating in the political protests.

Ilias says that is the opposition party. His friends are not involved with that.

Is he interested in politics?

Not really, Ilias says. He is interested in sports.

That is not to say that youths have not been key members of anti-government protests that have rippled across the country in recent weeks.

But youth leader Boubekri says Algeria has one striking characteristic that other protest-roiled Arab countries do not have; the fallout of a bloody civil war in the 1990s that killed upwards of 100,000 people and continues to traumatize Algerians. It has put political militancy on hold.

But today, says Said Saadi, head of the opposition RDC party, a whole new generation of young people is growing up with little memory of the 1990s conflict.

Still, Saadi says, these young people remain barred from any kind of political participation. Young people are not going to mobilize if they do not get help and training - if there is no political dynamic to motivate them.

Communications Minister Nacer Mahel describes a series of measures the government is introducing to improve opportunities for Algeria's youth. They include incentives to get young people into farming and to start their own businesses.

Mahel says the government is aware it needs to establish better lines of communication with young people and get them involved in the political process.

Youth activist Boubekri is also planning to get young people more involved politically. He outlines plans to get youth mobilized, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Boubekri says political activists like himself are telling young people not to listen to the political establishment.  He says it is up to them to change Algeria and they need to follow their convictions.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid