Stability in North Africa: Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Claire Spencer | Chatham House | April 2009
the countries on the Horn or in Central Africa, countries in North
Africa radiate stability. The rate of economic growth is on
average 5-6%. Abounding energy supplies and cooperation in the war on terror
have led to close partnerships with Europe and the US. But appearances can be deceiving.
In Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
socio-economic as wells as political tensions seriously threaten the consensus
between the government and the people. The West should do something in order to
prevent these tensions from escalating.
North Africa offers good conditions for positive development: economic and cultural exchange with the Mediterranean region, proximity to the European Union, a wealth of resources and economic stability from tourism, construction, textiles and agriculture exports. Thereby North African countries have acquired prosperity that has spurred development in other African countries. Morocco, Algeria and Libya could even settle part of the debt of other countries. For now the US and Europe are leaving the countries alone-at the expense of human rights and the rule of law. At the same time not everybody is profiting from the development. The patronage system hinders political and economic engagement outside of elite circles. There is a lack of transparency, corruption, complicated conditions for foreign investment and low levels of institutionalization. This offers the chance for regional governments to rethink their development strategies and re-engage with their citizens. The countries still lack:
- a skilled and qualified workforce that can adapt to the challenges of globalization;
- targeted public and private investment in the education, health and welfare systems; and
- a political and economic environment that encourages innovation, creativity and endeavor.
order to achieve this, there must be a broadening of participation through an higher
employment levels and the establishment of a viable legal framework independent
of the central government.
The US and Europe should support this process as much as possible. As partners of North Africa, both have a strong interest in the peaceful development of the region. In addition, previous courses of action must be reconsidered, as they often focused on centralized power. However, the financial crisis could become a hindrance to liberalization. The regulatory failures of European and US governments could signal to African leaders that the West would prefer to pull the strings on economic involvement.
This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community editorial team from "North Africa: The Hidden Risks to Regional Stability," published here by Chatham House, April 2009.