Tunisia’s economic growth historically has depended on oil, phosphates, agri-food products, car parts manufacturing, and tourism. After five particularly difficult years, economic activity seems to be picking up. In 2011, after the Arab Spring, the economy slumped but then recovered with 2.81% GDP growth in 2014. Tourism and investor confidence were hit by social tensions, followed by the terrorist attacks in 2015. The Tunisian economy slowed markedly in 2015 when growth reached 0.8 percent compared to 2.3 percent in both 2013 and 2014. There was a notable decline in manufacturing, mining (oil, gas, and phosphate industries) and tourism. According to IMF Growth is expected to pick up to 2.5 percent in 2017 from 1.3 percent in 2016 supported by improved confidence following the successful “Tunisia 2020” conference in November and the adoption of crucial private-sector legislation. In the medium term the current account is likely to benefit from the gradual recovery of remittances and services trade and would decline gradually toward 6.4 percent of GDP in 2017-18.
The threat of terrorism continues to weigh on tourist arrivals and low growth in partner countries largely the European Union members that are restricting exports. The closed trade regime and rigid labour markets largely prevent the emergence of a vibrant private sector
Why invest in Tunisia?
- Strategic geographic location on the Mediterranean and the country is about on average a two hour flight from the major European capitals. There are about 1,435 flights between Tunisia and Europe every week highlighting how accessible the country has become to the rest of the world;
- The government is committed to providing modern supportive infrastructure to the economic development effort. Major investment to improve roads, industrial areas and technology regions are in the pipeline. This includes about one hundred industrial zones;
- A well-developed social system and an ambitious education policy aims to reduce the social cost of adjustment and reinforce the modernisation of the country;
- Skilled and productive workforce, there are 65,000 graduates looking for employment every year, while Tunisia has more scientists and engineers available than some of the most affluent nations in the world such as France and Germany;
- Tunisia benefits from reduced tariffs granted in the context of the General System of Preference (GSP), for manufactured and agricultural and handmade products with Japan, Canada, the USA, Switzerland and Australia. The country also benefits from a preferential access to certain African markets (Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Niger);
- Stable financial market;
- Favourable investment incentive code;
- Two free trade zones in Bizerte, in the North of the country, and in Zarzis, in the South and
- Freedom to invest and transfer the capital invested and the profits
Tunisia has a history of political stability. In December 2010 and January 2011, however, civil unrest in the underserved interior regions eventually forced former President Ben Ali to flee Tunisia on January 14, 2011. Post-revolution instability in 2013, including two high profile political assassinations, resulted in widespread public protests. However , political calm was restored in early 2014 with the successful conclusion of Tunisia’s National Dialogue; a new constitution; and the installation of an interim, technocratic government that paved the way for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections at the end of the year. Prime Minister Essid’s government was sworn in on February 6, 2015, following free and fair democratic elections. The current government has a five-year mandate and places a priority on reducing unemployment, attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and girding itself against terrorist attacks by shoring up and expanding its security sector.
Tunisia has a total estimated population of about 11.4 million people in July 2016 with an estimated population growth rate of around 0.86% (2016 est.). Tunisia Population is projected to trend around 12.2 Million in 2025
About 67.1% of the population live in urban (7,710,512 est 2017) compared to 66.84 % in 2015 according to World Bank with an urbanisation rate of about 1.38% based on the period from (2010-15 est.)
Doing business in Tunisia
The highlights of World Bank score of doing business in Tunisia are summarised as follows;
|Topics||World Bank 2017 Rank||World Bank 2016 Rank||Change in Rank|
|Starting a Business||103||91||
|Dealing with Construction Permits||59||57||
|Protecting Minority Investors||118||112||
|Trading across Borders||92||91||
Standard & Poor’s credit rating for Tunisia stands at BB- with negative outlook. Moody’s credit rating for Tunisia was last set at Ba3 with negative outlook.
The Tunisian Dinar (TND) can be traded only within Tunisia. It is illegal to move TND out of the country. The TND is convertible for current account transactions (repatriation of profits, purchases, bona fide trade and investment operations, etc.). Central Bank authorization is needed for some foreign exchange operations. For imports, Tunisian law prohibits the release of hard currency from Tunisia as payment prior to the presentation of certain documents establishing that the merchandise has physically arrived in Tunisia.
Tunisia does not have remittance policies in place. Foreign investors may transfer funds at any time and without prior authorization. This applies to both principal and capital in the form of dividends or interest. Procedures for capital and dividend repatriation are complex, however, and subject to discretion by the Central Bank administration.
The Tunisian Arbitration Code brought into effect by Law 93-42 of 26 April 1993 governs arbitration in Tunisia. Certain provisions within the code are based on the UNCITRAL model law. Tunisia has several domestic dispute resolution venues. The best known is the Tunis Center for Conciliation and Arbitration. When an arbitral tribunal does not adhere to the rules governing the process, either party can apply to the national court for relief. Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, an arbitral tribunal may, on the request of one of the parties, order any interim measure that it deems appropriate.
Tunisia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes and is signatory to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Key development challenges
- To establish political stability and anchor democracy
- To restore security in all corners of the country
- To boost economic development in order to address issues of unemployment and poverty.
- State-owned enterprises still play a large role in Tunisia’s economy and many sectors remain closed to foreign investment.
- Stringent labour regulations are among the key constraints to higher private investment in the country.
Tunisia is the 75 least corrupt nations out of 175 countries and scored 41 points out of 100, according to the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.
Tunisia is politically stable following peaceful elections and transition of power to a democratic elected government. The government is focused on border security and on development policies to alleviate underlying causes of conflict in communities far outside Tunis. Despite recent economic and security challenges, Tunisia continues to show perseverance and patience in its transition. However the risk of terrorist attacks is high, but overall stability is expected to be maintained. The Tunisian government continues security force operations against Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T), ISIL, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Unemployment and skilled labour
Tunisia has a highly literate labour force of approximately 3.9 million. The official 2015 unemployment rate was 15 percent; however, unemployment is estimated at over 30 percent among university graduates. The right of labor to organize is protected by law. The unemployment rate remains high at 15.4 percent, particularly for women (22.6 percent), university graduates (31. 2 percent) and the youth (31.8 percent).
Attitude to Foreign Direct Investment
Historically, the government has encouraged export-oriented FDI in the interior regions and in key industrial sectors, such as call centres, electronics, aerospace and aeronautics, automotive parts, and textile/apparel manufacturing.
Foreign investment in Tunisia is regulated by the Investment Code (Law 1993-120), last amended in 2009. The current Investment Code divides potential investments into two categories:
- “Offshore” investment is defined as entities in which foreign capital accounts for at least 66 percent of equity, and at least 70 percent of production is destined for the export market. Some exceptions to these percentages exist for the agricultural sector.
- “Onshore” investment caps foreign equity participation at a maximum of 49 percent in most non-industrial projects. In certain cases, “onshore” industrial investment may attain 100 percent foreign equity, subject to government approval.
The Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA) is the central point of contact for foreign investors.
Restrictions on Foreign investment
Some strategic sectors like national defense are not open to foreign investment. Due to labor restrictions, foreign firms tend to be confined to making offshore investments in the energy sector or in low value-added industries. Market access regulations remain tight in multiple sectors, with 15 sectors and 20 activities for which investment is subject to authorization. These include tourism, transport (road, air, and sea), handicrafts, telecommunications, education and vocational training, health, advertising, and agricultural extension services. An additional 49 sectors require pre-authorization on a per case basis by the Commission Supérieure d’Investissement if a foreign investor intends to hold more than 49 percent ownership.
Screening of FDI
The government screens FDI that targets the domestic market to minimize the possible negative impact on domestic competitors and employment. If a foreign investor seeks to hold more than 49 percent ownership of a domestic company (onshore), a pre-authorization from the High Committee on Investment (Commission Supérieure d’Investissement) is required.
Intellectual Property (IP) Rights
Tunisia is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and signatory to the United Nations (UNCTAD) Agreement on the Protection of Patents and Trademarks. The agency responsible for patents and trademarks is the National Institute for Standardization and Industrial Property (INNORPI – Institut National de la Normalisation et de la Propriété Industrielle). Tunisia is party to the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Marks. Foreign patents and trademarks should be registered with INNORPI.
Tunisia updated its legislation to meet the requirements of the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). Copyright protection is the responsibility of the Tunisian Copyright Protection Organization (OTPDA – Organisme Tunisien de Protection des Droits d’Auteur), which also represents foreign copyright organizations.
Tunisia’s major National parks include Bou-Hedma National Park, Boukornine National Park, Chambi National Park, El Feidja National Park, Ichkeul National Park, Jebel Chitana-Cap Négro National Park, Jebel Serj National Park, Jebil National Park, Sidi Toui National Park among others
Tunisia is endowed with significant natural resources, including petroleum, zinc, lead, iron ore, salt and phosphates
Investment Climate in Tunisia has been summarized to include the following
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