NARCO CLOSEHOLD: Groundhog Day in Algeria


Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has appeared in a video broadcast on state TV, which puts to rest recent speculation about the president's health. And Minister of Energy Noureddine Boutarfa dismissed Sonatrach CEO Amine Mazouzi, replacing him with Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour. NARCO has your analysis about what these developments mean for politics and for the energy sector in Algeria.

NARCO Analysis: The War for Libya (and Its Oil)


At risk of sounding simplistic, the new conflict over Libya’s oil crescent ports is bad. And at risk of sounding alarmist, the conflict will accelerate Libya’s descent into instability. Libya’s oil sector was finally getting its groove back. Production rose 300% in 4Q16. And while production was recently down from 700kbpd to around 630kbpd, this was due to maintenance issues. The oil sector was settling into a (boring?) rhythm, a welcome development after three years of unpredictability. National Oil Corporation (NOC) Chairman Mustafa Sanallah was encouraging investors to come back to Libya to bolster the sector’s recovery. North Africa Risk Consulting was planning a trip to Tripoli later this spring. But just how fragile that normalcy was is now there for everyone to see. Libya’s oil sector is still deeply troubled and is still a long way from boring.

NARCO RoundUp (JAN2017)


The January NARCO RoundUp returns to the conventional format looking at Politics, Security and Oil in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. If there is any one regional political trend it is stasis. Apart from Libya, there is not much happening on the political front in North Africa. So much so that it has been more than 17 weeks since Morocco’s legislative elections and still no government. Violent crime has displaced terrorism as the main security risk in Libya. Algeria remains unchanged. And Morocco keeps busting terror plots, with the latest allegedly involving an Islamic State bomb maker from Libya. Lastly, for the first time in years Libya’s near term oil outlook is good. Algeria’s not so much, but for reasons that are largely outside of its control. And questions continue to swirl around Samir, Morocco’s only (and shuttered) refinery

NARCO Analysis: Why the US bombed ISIS in Libya


Overnight, the US bombed Islamic State training camps in the vicinity Sirte, Libya. The bombing came as somewhat of a surprise both because of its timing and how it was carried out. In particular, the bombing comes a month after the Pentagon announced the end of air operations against the Islamist State in Libya (and on the last full day of Barack Obama’s presidency.) In addition, the bombing was carried out by B-2 bombers based in the US rather the US fighter jets based in Europe or on aircraft carriers. There are several (not mutually exclusive) explanations for why the bombing and why now.

NARCO RoundUp: Looking Backwards and Forward


This issue of the NARCO RoundUp is a kind of retrospective on the last twelve months and a little forecasting for what’s to come. A lot changed. Libya defeated a lot of demons, but only to make room for some more. Algeria’s change is paradoxically incremental and disruptive, with the landscape shifting, but not in any determinate way. Tunisia’s changes seem to be mostly cosmetic. But a lot also stayed the same. Libya is still barely a state. Expected changes in leadership in Algeria failed to materialize. Tunisia is still a political, economic and security mess. What does it all mean? There will be a civil war in Libya. In Algeria, the state will have to manage its contract with society more carefully than it has in the last decade. And Tunisia will struggle to remain relevant.

NARCO RoundUp (November 2016)


The November NARCO RoundUp focuses on the impact that the incoming Trump administration in the US will have on politics, security and oil in North Africa. Trump’s affinity for strongmen and stability means that, apart from Libya where he’ll bolster Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, he is likely to leave the region well enough alone. The new US intelligence and security chiefs will probably take a much tougher (and less nuanced) stance on counter-terrorism in the region which is likely to sit well with the region’s governments. Political uncertainty, the higher likelihood of vioLent confrontation, and a former oil executive as Trump’s potential Secretary of State all point to upward pressure on oil prices, with winners and losers in the region.

NARCO CLOSEHOLD: Icarus in Algeria


For months Algerian institutions, both public and private, had been talking up the African Investment Forum. The event was going to showcase Algeria’s potential as an investment destination and its commitment to south-south development and cooperation. It was endorsed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was supported by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Commerce, and Energy, and was sponsored by the powerful Forum de Chefs d’Entreprise (FCE). North Africa Risk Consulting was told that it was going to harken back to the good old days of the 1970s when Algiers was a Third World pole, when it feted leaders from far and wide. Algeria was rediscovering itself and the event was going to broadcast to Africa north and south of the Sahara that it was back.

NARCO Analysis: President Trump & North Africa


It’s going to take a while for the dust to settle, but it’s possible nonetheless to tease out a couple of implications of a Trump presidency for North Africa. First, there are two very big unknowns.One is that it is not clear what Donald Trump’s actual foreign policy is. This is in part due to the fact that it is difficult to separate Trump’s bombast from what he will actually do and in part because he has no past against which to measure the future. The second is how the professional bureaucratic cadre in Washington, DC will engage with President Trump. There won’t be mass resignations in the Department of State or the Pentagon. So if the career diplomats and soldiers stay on, will they slow roll Trump’s policy initiatives or will they temper his more extreme tendencies?

NARCO RoundUp (October 2016)


At NARCO, we love Halloween, so the October NARCO RoundUp celebrates the Halloween spirit. Politics explores the theme of zombie governments and presidents who are “not dead yet.” Security looks at the fate of the Islamic State in Libya – where are all the corpses? We revisit Mokhtar Belmokhtar, simultaneously dead and alive (!), and in Tunisia we highlight on going ties between al-Qaeda in Algeria and its affiliate in Tunisia. Oil argues that Libya’s oil recovery is an unsustainable freak event, highlights how Algeria got its mojo back, and showcases the collapse of Tunisia’s extractives industry.

NARCO Analysis: Why Morocco is not Tunisia


The accidental death of a fishmonger in northern Morocco on Friday 28 October and the ensuing marches have generated lots of comparisons to Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution. Then, a street vendor’s suicide sparked protests that led to the downfall of the Ben Ali regime. Now, in Morocco, as protests move into their third day, people are starting to speculate that Morocco is having its own revolutionary episode. But the comparisons between Tunisia 2011 and Morocco 2016 are knee-jerk.



NARCO CLOSEHOLD is timely, actionable analysis derived from discreet sources. NARCO CLOSEHOLDs are crafted as events merit. They are available to NARCO's subscription and retainer clients and on a case-by-case basis.

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