Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in convincing the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country's first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. Street protests that began in Tunis in December 2010 over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices escalated in January 2011, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. On 14 January 2011, the same day BEN ALI dismissed the government, he fled the country, and by late January 2011, a "national unity government" was formed. Elections for the new Constituent Assembly were held in late October 2011, and in December, it elected human rights activist Moncef MARZOUKI as interim president. The Assembly began drafting a new constitution in February 2012 and, after several iterations and a months-long political crisis that stalled the transition, ratified the document in January 2014. Parliamentary and presidential elections for a permanent government were held at the end of 2014. Beji CAID ESSEBSI was elected as the first president under the country's new constitution. In 2016, the new unity government continued to seek to balance political cohesion with economic and social pressures.
Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya
petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
Population - distribution
the overwhelming majority of the population is located in the northern half of the country; the south remains largely underpopulated
Arabic (official, one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce), Berber (Tamazight)
TUNIS (capital) 1.993 million (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Republic of Tunisia
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 36 48 N, 10 11 E
- Time difference
- UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Tunisia's diverse, market-oriented economy has long been cited as a success story in Africa and the Middle East, but it faces an array of challenges following the 2011 Arab Spring revolution, including slow economic growth and high unemployment. Following an ill-fated experiment with socialist economic policies in the 1960s, Tunisia embarked on a successful strategy focused on bolstering exports, foreign investment, and tourism, all of which have become central to the country's economy. Key exports now include textiles and apparel, food products, petroleum products, chemicals, and phosphates, with about 80% of exports bound for Tunisia's main economic partner, the EU.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 27,363,419,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -3,849,716,434
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 21,461,499,069
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 16,897,811,918
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 965,678,965
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 3,124,195,501
olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds; beef, dairy products
petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate, iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages
- clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment
- France 30.7%, Italy 19.3%, Germany 11%, Spain 5.2%, Algeria 4.2%, Libya 4% (2015)
- textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, foodstuffs
- France 18.2%, Italy 15.2%, China 8.5%, Germany 7.5%, Spain 4.3%, Russia 4.1%, Algeria 4.1% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- Political and economic uncertainties and an occasionally difficult business environment can affect corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is appreciable.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is mediocre. The availability and the reliability of corporate financial information vary widely. Debt collection can sometimes be difficult. The institutional framework has a few troublesome weaknesses. Intercompany transactions run appreciable risks in the unstable, largely inefficient environments rated B.
- Natural resources (gas, phosphates) and agricultural and tourism resources
- Gradual poltical transition
- Diversification of the economy underway and reasonably skilled labor force
- Proximity to the European market and Association Agreement with the EU
- Strong social and geographic inequalities
- High unemployment, mainly among young people
- Economic importance of agriculture
- Tourism sector facing political and security issues and greater competition
Growth was fairly soft in 2016.The recovery in services and manufacturing was tempered by the negative contribution of the energy and extractive sectors. Tourism was encouraging with a net improvement in added value in the hotel sector which recorded an increase in the number of overnight stays. In 2017, the economic upswing is expected to continue, although at a slower than expected pace because of weak performances in the key activity sectors, such as energy, which continue to be hampered by weak oil prices and the normal decline on the main oil fields. Negotiations between the government and the unions should limit the continuing social unrest in the phosphate-producing areas which curbed the production in 2016. Tourism activity will pick up slightly following an increase in tourists from Eastern Europe. Finally, despite ongoing consolidation of the public finances, public investment is expected to sustain growth. Moreover, Tunisia 2020 Conference held in November 2016 enabled Tunisia to collect more than USD 15bn in pledges and promises of investment from the country's main international donors and partners. These investments will allow the government to kick off the first phase of the five-year development plan 2016-2020 presented in May 2016, which is expected to include a raft of infrastructure projects such as the extension of road and railway networks. After slowing slightly, inflation will be more dynamic in 2017. The slight rise in oil prices as well as persistent downward pressure on the dinar will lead to higher imported inflation. Higher prices for administered products are moreover expected to favour increases in domestic prices.
The public deficit deepened in 2016. The savings resulting from spending cuts embarked on after the reform of oil subsidies were reallocated to the fight against terrorism and the reinforcement of security policies. The loss in revenue resulting from a fall in oil production also limited the level of taxes collected in 2016.
In 2017, the implementation of structural tax reforms under the IMF program and the austerity policies driven by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed is expected to bring down the public deficit. Of the reforms recommended by the IMF, the authorities are likely to continue with changes to the civil service aimed at bringing down the costs of paying civil servants as well as reforming the civil service pension system. The freeze on public recruitment should limit the increase in current spending in the short term. Tax receipts are also expected to increase in 2017, thanks to better tax collection, which should facilitate tax remittances and combat tax evasion. Moreover, corporation tax will be increased. Despite this commitment to conducting a cautious fiscal policy, there are still considerable obstacles and the government is likely to continue to deal with the representatives of different trade unions and corporations so as to limit strikes and blockades in response to the austerity policy, as was the case in 2016 regarding the liberal professions and pharmacists.
The current account deficit will remain large in 2017 but will be significantly lower than in 2016. Exports are expected to increase moderately, enabling an improvement in the trade balance. A more marked slowdown in foreign demand could, however, dampen export momentum. The Tunisian dinar will continue to face downward pressure but it could firm up with the growth in FDIs.
After the Tunisian parliament ousted Prime Minister Habib Essida in a vote of no-confidence, the president named former minister for local affairs, Youssef Chahed, as prime minister. The challenges facing Youssef Chahed's government, with a cabinet of some thirty ministers, are many. The country continues to face many social and economic challenges, as well as popular expectations, which fuels strikes and protests. On top of this is the scale of the security threat in the territory, of which Tunisia became all too aware after the attacks which hit the country. Improving the business climate is still one of the government's main priorities, aimed at increasing the country's attractiveness for investors. To this end, the country implemented a new investment code in September 2016 to facilitate the placement of FDIs.