[Source: NUSACC's U.S.-Arab Trade Outlook 2013]
In January 2011, Tunisia’s government was overthrown and President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was deposed. The road ahead for Tunisia is unknown.
Last October, prior to the civil unrest which toppled the government, NUSACC led a high-level trade and investment mission to Tunisia. Delegation members met with a wide range of senior government officials, including H.E. Mohamed Naceur Ammar, the Minister of Communication Technologies. The ICT sector is central to Tunisia’s development. Tunisia ranks 39th in the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index and 32nd in the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report.
“The U.S. and Tunisia have strong and growing commercial ties,” said the Hon. Gordon Gray, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia. “Every day, more American companies inquire about doing business with Tunisia. We look forward, with partners such as the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, to fostering even closer business ties between our two countries.”
For the third year in a row, the Davos World Report on Information and Communication Technologies ranked Tunisia in first place in the Maghreb and Africa ICT category, and 38th globally out a total of 134 countries. Growth in Tunisia’s high tech sector expanded 5.9 percent in 2004, 9 percent in 2007, and accelerated to 17.8 percent in 2008.
Tunisia’s diverse agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing-oriented economy relies heavily on import demand from Europe and funding from Gulf investors. The 2010-2014 Development Plan and the National Industrial Strategy for 2016 targets the creation of 100,000 new manufacturing jobs. Diversifying investments beyond tourism boosts the nation’s plans to be an investment hub for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Technology parks such as El Ghezala are currently under construction. Phase one of the park will cover an estimated 100,000 square meters and provide 5,000 jobs. A future expansion will increase the footprint of the technology park to 500,000 square meters – including 200,000 in the area of Ennahli and 300,000 in Manouba. Additional technology parks are planned in Sousse and Sfax.
Two major real estate projects – Tunis Financial Harbor and the $5 billion Tunis Sports City – are currently in the works. Gulf Finance House (GFH), the Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank, and the Tunisian Government have launched North Africa’s first offshore financial center. The center is part of Tunis Financial Harbour, a $3 billion mixed-use waterfront development. Thanks to a law enacted in 2009, nonresidents can now bid on projects.
Tunisia has been positioning itself to become a top Mediterranean tourist destination for Europeans by 2016. Prior to the recent revolution, Tunisia was attracting around seven million visitors per year.