Algeria is a country in dire need of economic reform. As global oil prices have dropped and the dinar has depreciated, Algeria’s export revenues have been cut in half, and the state deficit has risen rapidly. Unemployment continues to go unchecked, and job creation is not high enough to keep up with a population in which 70 percent of people are under age 30.
For nearly three years, the Circle for Reflection and Action on Business (“CARE” in French) has mobilized members of Algeria’s business community to work with each other — and with the Algerian government — to bring about much-needed economic reform. With support from CIPE and funding from the Middle East Partnership Initiative, CARE recently achieved a major milestone that puts it on the path to success.
In 2014, CARE launched a National Business Agenda (NBA), which began by convening and surveying Algerian businesspeople on their problems and priorities, insights and ideas. CARE evoked sincere responses by asking a straightforward question: “As a businessperson, what keeps you awake at night?” The challenges they identified fell under the areas of governance and administration, business competitiveness, finance, taxes, and human capital. CARE condensed the businesspeople’s feedback into dozens of recommendations for the Algerian government and called for a new approach to business-government collaboration. CARE also launched an Observatory that will track reform progress over time.
For the first time, businesspeople from all over the country — not just those in the capital city of Algiers — had their voices heard. CIPE believes businesspeople around the world are the experts on economic issues in their countries, and Algeria is no different: they had first-hand information to offer policymakers on factors hurting the business community and hindering their ability to succeed, create jobs, and help the country prosper. Ultimately, more than 200 businesses from across the country joined the alliance to advocate for economic reform, with 20 business organizations uniting in a collective voice.
This is the first time a large group of independent business associations has united for change in Algeria, and it is a major accomplishment. But now, the real work begins. Achieving economic reform is a long, arduous endeavor that will require diligence and persistence in the years to come. In fact, an NBA’s work never really ends. NBA mechanisms and coalitions require constant management and attention to stay efficient and effective. The cycle of dialogue, consensus, and reform advocacy continues year after year.
CARE is up for the challenge, and the group’s slogan says it all: “From Demands to Collaboration.” CARE’s collection of recommendations for the Algerian government represents the consensus of business leaders throughout the country. This sends a strong and positive signal that Algeria’s private sector is serious about economic reform and willing to partner with all sectors.
Pamela Beecroft is CIPE’s Senior Program Officer for North Africa.