Note: The recent developments in Tunisia from January 2011 are not considered in this data. Kindly note that some of the data may not be valid any more.
COUNTRY NAME: Tunisian Republic
LAND AREA: 155,360 km2
POPULATION: 10,5 million (2010 est.)
LANGUAGE: Arabic (official), French (commerce)
CURRENCY: 1 Tunisian Dinar (TND) = 100 Milim; 1 EUR = 1.92 TND (Nov. 2010)
MAIN CITIES: Tunis (capital), Nabeul, Sousse, Sfax, Bizerte, Gabes
NATIONAL DAY: 20 March
TIME ZONE: Tunisia Standard Time is GMT + 1
One of Tunisia’s main attractions for investors is its stable market which has offered a degree of security and certainty for business over many years. The country is widely noted for its social stability and consensus politics, characteristics which no doubt led it to be named as Africa’s “most at peace” country in a recent Global Peace Index.
Tunisia has also long been able to offer a modern infrastructure along with supportive business legislation and a significant degree of transparency in the decision making processes which benefits the ease of doing business.
The economy has demonstrated resilience in the face of the global downturn and the Tunisian banking sector continued to operate relatively undisturbed because of its minimal exposure to foreign capital. Tunisia was ranked as the most competitive business environment in Africa in a report released during the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Cape Town. The 2009 Africa Competitiveness Report, produced by the WEF in association with the African Development Bank and the World Bank, gives the Tunisian economy a score of 4.6 out of a maximum five for competitiveness, ranking it the 36th most competitive economy globally, and the fifth most competitive in the Arab world. The report, which is based both on hard data and responses to the WEF’s Executive Opinion Survey, singles out Tunisia’s institutional performance in particular for praise, noting that the country’s institutions are “one of its most competitive advantages”, resting on “fairly transparent and trustworthy relations between government and civil society”. The country was also ranked highly in terms of the quality of its infrastructure (34), its health and primary education (27), higher education and training (27), goods market efficiency (30) and innovation (27).
Trade with Europe
Tunisia enjoys close and mutually beneficial relations with the countries of the European Union. More than 75% of the country’s foreign trade occurs within the markets of the EU. Tunisia has many attractions for investors and has achieved important successes in establishing itself as an outsourcing destination for many European companies. Its close proximity to the European continent gives it a special advantage and EU member states are major trade partners for the country. It takes only 20 hours for goods to be shipped from a Tunisian port to reach the main ports of the Mediterranean. One key development in Tunisia’s drive to enhance its export potential to Europe and further afield is the construction of the Enfidha port project which will give the country its first deepwater docking capabilities. With Enfidha, Tunisia hopes to repeat the success that Morocco has achieved with the Tanger-Med port. In its bid to integrate its economy into the global market, Tunisia became the first Arab country to complete the process of entering the EU free trade zone in January 2008. Tunisia has also announced that it intends to join six other Mediterranean countries in implementing a full “open-sky” agreement by 2010, a move that will make the country available to low-cost flights and provide a boost for its tourism industry. Its policy of exchange rate flexibility was seen as a key factor in helping the economy to reduce tariffs and barriers to entry, enabling the country’s textile sector in particular to compete in European markets without the need for protective measures. Stable fiscal policy has also contributed towards a low inflationary environment, another key requirement for maintaining competitiveness, especially in the manufacturing sector.
The Tunisian workforce is well educated and the population is notable for its large middle class. People in this social category are estimated now to make up some 80% of the total population. Tunisia is also a country of homeowners at more than 80%. An increasing number of students are choosing to study for technical, scientific and engineering degrees with computing, telecommunications, multimedia, nanotechnology. Genetic engineering is gaining in popularity. Meanwhile, a feature of the Tunisian labour market is the high number of women in the workplace. As a result of the education policies pursued over many years, 99% of Tunisian girls now complete primary education, while over 58% of university students are women. A literacy rate of over 90% has also been achieved for girls and young women. According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2009-2010 “Global Competitiveness Report”, Tunisia ranks second in the Arab world and first in Africa for the quality of its educational system, while coming in 17th worldwide. These are all real achievements that have significantly improved the life chances of many hundreds of thousands of Tunisians. This record also means that the country has a pool of well educated, competent and adaptable people equipped with the skills needed in a modern economy. A major task of Tunisia in the medium term is to create sufficient job opportunities for its people, particularly for young university graduates, the IMF has said.
Tourism is a mainstay of the national economy; Tunisia’s tourism product offers superb beaches, good infrastructure of thermals, spectacular desert scenery and a wealth of historical sites dating back nearly 3,000 years to when the ancient city of Carthage dominated the entire western Mediterranean. The combination of Islamic and European cultures makes Tunisia a very popular North African holiday destination for a broad range of visitors. While Europeans continue to hold the largest market share, in recent years there have been a rising number of arrivals from countries that have not traditionally been important markets for Tunisia; these include Eastern Europeans and people from neighbouring countries such as Libya. Apart from catering to the needs of a more diverse range of visitors, Tunisia is also diversifying its tourism product by developing niche sectors such as sports and medical tourism where significant growth opportunities exist. For example, the country is attracting an average of 60,000 visitors to take part in golfing holidays each year. A special study was conducted into the potential for expanding this market area a couple of years ago. There are at present 10 golf courses in the country, but with a planned expansion there is potential for another 20 to be developed. Investment in this area is highly encouraged. As far a medical tourism is concerned, Tunisia is expanding rapidly as a top medical tourism destination. It is now securely placed on the tourism map for this niche product and it is widely recognised as offering a large range of services such as heart, dental, eye and aesthetic surgery at competitive rates. Medical services in Tunisia are on average some 40-70% cheaper than in many European countries. There are many opportunities for innovation and development of this specific niche area of the tourism sector.
Construction & Real Estate
As part of its economic development strategy, Tunisia encourages large-scale infrastructure projects and has been successful in attracting significant investment for some major high profile projects such as the Tunis Sports City and the Tunis Financial Harbour. Many of the investors for these ambitious new developments in the capital Tunis and around the country have come from the Gulf. Additional activity in the construction sector is seen with the financing of some major projects to upgrade the transport sector with notable activities taking place to enhance roads and ports. Tunisia recently inaugurated the international airport “Enfidha-Zine El Abidine Ben Ali” which is supposed to become the biggest airport of Tunisia. It will have a capacity of receiving 5 million passengers and reaching 30 million passengers.
The Tunisian financial sector has not been directly affected by the international crisis. The country continues with its long-term strategy of reinforcing the bankingsector, which has led to a decline in the ratio of nonperforming loans to total loans from 17.6% in 2007 to 15.5% in 2008 and an increase in the provisioning ratio from 53.2% in 2007 to 56.8% in 2008. Tunisia intends to continue this effort even after reaching the targets of 15% and 70%, respectively. The IMF commented that a more forward-looking and comprehensive approach to the prudential indicators could prove beneficial, particularly in the context of the implementation of Basel II.
The fishing industry is among those sectors most likely to show improved export performance in the intermediate to long term, because of growing demand for fish products and the abundance of exploitable species in Tunisia’s Mediterranean Sea. Current policies designed to encourage investment and deregulation of the industry offer promises for the industry’s expansion, particularly in value-added products. Tunisia is now a major producer and exporter of seafood. Therefore, the fish processing industry has attracted the attention of foreign investors as well as of local companies. Given the abundance of fish resources existing in Tunisia’s waters and the growing world demand for fish products, there are considerable opportunities both for new companies to enter this sector and for the expansion of existing ones, particularly in value-added (processed) products.
Source: Austro-Arab Trade Directory 2011.
The mentioned data are subject to modification. No responsibility is taken for the correctness of the details provided.
Last modified: 24 January 2011