WHAT TO CONSIDER IF YOU INVEST IN TUNISIA
The solvency of the country gives it access to international capital markets and allows it to find its place in the world economy, The growing diversification of the economy such as tourism, mining production developed in phosphates and oil sectors, etc strengthens its resistance to economic crises, Support from the IMF and other international institutions, The economy can rely on a young, fairly skilled and productive workforce at competitive pay levels, The country’s proximity to the European market and its association agreement with the EU: the capital city Tunis is, on average, two hours flight from the main European capitals, The social system is well developed and an ambitious education policy has been launched; it aims to reduce the social cost of adjustment and strengthen the modernization of the country, The political transition has been gradual and relatively peaceful in comparison with Egypt and Libya, for example, creating a generally positive business environment. The country is rich in natural resources, including phosphates and hydrocarbons.
Investment opportunities in Tunisia are:
- Textiles and clothing
- Automotive parts
- Light manufacturing
Keep reading as we go in depth
Key sectors open to investment in Tunisia are Energy, textiles and clothing, tourism, automotive parts, and other light manufacturing activities. High potential sectors are Electronics, call centers, aerospace and aeronautics, and agro-food. Already there is ample room for privatization in the following sectors: cement production, electricity generation, construction of motorways, State-owned banks like STB, BH, and BNA have been privatized, wastewater treatment and solid waste, telecommunications, desalination of water, fuel distribution, banking, and insurance, etc. The government is expected to sell more of its stakes in state-owned banks, although no clear schedule has been announced so far.
Investment Opportunities Are Fewer in monopolistic Sectors as State-owned companies still play a prominent role in the Tunisian economy. Some of them work in monopoly, mostly in sectors considered sensitive by the government, such as railroad transportation, water, and electricity distribution, port logistics, importation of basic food staples, and strategic items. Other state-owned companies compete with the private sector as is seen in the telecommunications, banking, and insurance businesses.
Tunisia, officially the Republic of Tunisia, is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a part of the Maghreb region of North Africa, and is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east; covering 163,610 kilometers square, with a population of 11 million. Tunisia is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the north. It gained its independence from France on 28 March 1956. Its capital is Tunis with 24 Provinces or Governorates.
It is a multiparty parliamentary republic with the President sitting as the Head of State and the Prime Minister as the Head of Government. It runs a unicameral legislative system of government. Major languages in the country include Arabic as the official language and French as the language of commerce. Islam is the predominant religion and Arabs are the major ethnic group with very few European groups. It has a mixed legal system of civil law, based on the French civil code and Islamic or sharia law, and some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session.
Tunisia has an estimated population of 11.8 million comprising mostly of the mid-age population between 255 to 4years which makes up about 53 percent of the population, those in the age bracket of fewer than 25 years make up about 38.2 percent of the population and above 65 years age group makes up of about 8.8 percent of the population. The average population density is estimated at 76 inhabitants per kilometer square. In terms of human development indicators, it has a life expectancy of 78.4 years for Women and 74.9 years for Men. It achieved universal primary education with a 115.4 percent Primary enrolment rate in 2018 and an overall literacy level of 81.8 percent as of 2015.
Tunisia has many advantages, including proximity to Europe, diverse industries such as aeronautics, chemicals, and textiles, high agricultural and fishery potential, and sizable deposits of phosphates, oil, and gas. Agriculture accounts for 10.4 percent of the GDP and employs 13 percent of the workforce according to World Bank. The tourism industry which is made up of beaches, businesses, mountains, oasis, eco-tourism, and seawater therapy was until 2011 a significant source of growth and employment. The country experienced Jasmin Revolution in 2011 caused by high unemployment, inequalities, and less inclusiveness which culminated in the Arab spring revolution that engulfed the Arab nations thereafter.
Tunisia’s government remains under pressure to boost economic growth quickly to mitigate chronic socio-economic challenges, especially high levels of youth unemployment, which have persisted since the 2011 revolution. Successive terrorist attacks against the tourism sector and worker strikes in the phosphate sector, which combined account for nearly 15 percent of GDP, slowed growth from 2015 to 2017. It managed to achieve a 1.9 percent 5year compound annual GDP growth rate in 2019. Its currency is Tunisia Dinar. Main export includes Cotton, phosphate and chemicals, Textiles, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment, semi-finished goods, items of clothing, etc. Major imports include Fuels, Machinery and Equipment, Foodstuffs, Chemicals, textile, etc.
Tunisia is implementing plans to liberalize its economy and integrate it into the world economy. It recently introduced a new competition law following the cancellation of the previous provisions that fix price, limit the entry of companies into certain sectors, and controls production, distribution, investment, etc.
It also adopted a new investment law that simplifies the procedures for obtaining licenses, permits, and investment authorizations and limits restrictions on the hiring of foreign workers. Tunisia is an ideal investment destination in Africa given the country’s proximity to the European market, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and its free trade agreements with the EU, and much of Africa. Its capital city Tunis is, on average, two hours flight from the main European capitals. Investment opportunities are available in the following sector of the economy: Equipment Manufacturing, aerospace industry, Agribusiness, Plastic, Leather & Footwear, Textile & Apparel, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronic, etc.
FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
Since the Tunisian revolution of January 2011, political and economic stability in Tunisia remains fragile. According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2021, FDI inflows to Tunisia fell to 652 million dollars from 845 million dollars in 2019, a 23 percent drop, following the global economic crisis triggered by the Covid 19 pandemic. The manufacturing sector attracted the most FDI at 54 percent, followed by energy at 33 percent. The biggest impact of the pandemic on investment was in the services sector, where FDI fell by 44 percent, leaving its share of total FDI flows to Tunisia at only 9 percent in 2020. Tunisia’s FDI stock was around 35 billion dollars in 2019. The main investors in Tunisia are the UAE, France, Qatar, Italy, and Germany. In terms of stocks, manufacturing is by far the sector that attracts the most investment, followed by tourism and telecommunications.
Investor confidence is recovering with the end of terrorist attacks, as evidenced by the growing number of international tourist arrivals in recent years. The key assets of Tunisia are its proximity to Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, free trade agreements with the EU and much of Africa, and an educated workforce. In recent years, the Tunisian government has carried out necessary structural reforms to improve Tunisia’s business climate, including improved bankruptcy law, an investment code, an initial negative list, and a law allowing for public-private partnerships. The government adopted laws allowing to start a business more easily as more services are available in the one-stop-shop, fees decreased; registering property is now faster and more transparent and paying taxes is easier with the implementation of a risk-based tax audit system. These improvements in return boosted portfolio investments and helped Tunisia progress in World Bank’s ranking. Indeed, Tunisia gained 2 places in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report and is now ranked 78th out of 190 countries. Nevertheless, there are still huge bureaucratic barriers to investment.
State-owned enterprises are a major player in the Tunisian economy and several sectors remain closed to foreign investment. The informal sector, estimated at between 40 and 60 percent of the overall economy, is still a concern since legal businesses are forced to compete with smuggled goods. Moreover, the country still faces high unemployment, high inflation, and rising levels of public debt.
In Tunisia, it is strictly forbidden to import certain goods and effects such as Tunisian dinar, Weapons other than authorized hunting weapons, Explosives, Narcotic drugs, other psychotropic products, Counterfeits, Thrift stores, Palm trees, branches of palm trees, and their derivatives, Henna, Dangerous dogs belonging to the following breeds: Pit Bull, Rott Weiler, Tosa, Mastiff or Boer bull, Any product likely to endanger good morals, health, and public safety such as pornography, Any product likely to endanger the security of the State.
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Tunisia’s solvency gives it access to international capital markets and allows it to find its place in the world economy. State-owned companies still play a prominent role in the Tunisian economy. The country is now ranked 78th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business report.
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