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

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs