Tunisia's trade liberalisation and increasingly global outlook are the themes of Emerging Tunisia 2006. It contains in-depth analysis of all the economic and business sectors, along with interviews and viewpoints from key players. President Ben Ali contributes an article on international relations, and there are interviews with Foreign Minister Abdelwahab Abdallah; Head of the EU Commission Delegation in Tunisia, Marc Pierini; Theodore Ahlers of the World Bank; Taoufik Baccar, Governor of the Central Bank; Derk Fisher of BG Tunisia; and Minister of Tourism Tijani Haddad.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
POLITICSIt’s been a encouraging time for democracy advocates, with a national election in 2004 – albeit one that resulted in a crushing victory for incumbent Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – and some signs that political reforms are underway. The terrorist threat and continued Maghreb tensions did nothing to dampen Tunisia’s increasingly global outlook, which is the focus on our exclusive Ben Ali-penned article on international relations. This chapter looks closely at Tunisia’s political reform process, and has articles covering Tunisia’s relations with its Maghreb neighbours, the EU, the US, and Palestine and Israel. A viewpoint from Lord McNally, Secretary to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tunisia, highlights the positive role Tunisia is playing in bringing about regional change.
While few doubt that in the long term increased global competition will be for the good, in the medium term it is posing challenges for countries all over the world, not least Tunisia. This chapter examines some of the likely winners and losers from trade liberalisation, as well as government plans to tackle chronically high unemployment and the “grey” economy. It looks at the current state of Tunisia’s economy and finds it wanting in a number of departments, not least the continued dominance of the public sector and the masses of red tape that increase the cost of business. Expert-written articles and interviews with top executives survey the challenges that face both business and government, and point the way forward for an economy in transition.
Burdened by NPLs, the Tunisian banking sector is nevertheless growing at a healthy clip. Our overview lays out the reasons for the sector’s encouraging performance, and looks at the areas where the expansion is happening. Specialist articles look at the privatisation of the public banks, including the long-planned sale of the Banque du Sud, and at the persistent problem of bad loans. We interview the governor of the central bank, and CEOs of the larger local banks. Finally we review the performance and the fundamentals of Tunisia’s top 10 banks.
Like many smaller regional exchanges, the life-blood of the Tunis bourse is IPOs. We look at the likely next wave, including the mooted float of Tunisie Télécom, and survey the top stocks. Read why Tunisie Valeurs says that the Tunis bourse must reform, and fast. Hear from the president of the bourse’s regulating body, and profit from our shares analysis.
A sector that is expanding despite chronic structural challenges, including a lack of transparency, poor capitalisation and meagre earnings. The question is when will it open to foreign competition, and what will that mean for local companies. This chapter reviews the reforms to date and looks for the signs of more to come. It includes an interview with the president of the Tunisian insurers’ council.
Since becoming a net importer of oil in 2000, just as world prices began to soar, Tunisia has needed something to offset its dwindling oil reserves. The answer may be gas. Articles look at Tunisia’s new era of gas exploration and exploitation, including the regulatory framework, and survey the major players on the Tunisian energy scene. There is an interview with the president of BG, Tunisia’s largest foreign energy partner, and a feature on Tunisia’s share of the giant Transmed gas pipeline. There is also a special feature on the government’s energy-saving plan, and efforts to harness renewable sources such as solar.
Tunisia is richly endowed with tourist draws, from beaches to deserts, to cheap shopping and bountiful sunshine. But it is not without its problems, either, including a surfeit of beds and a lack of real variety when it comes to attractions. We explain how the improved performance of national carrier will help with the former, and in an interview with the minister for tourism, Tijani Haddad, we see what the government has in mind to address the latter.
CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE
A growing tourism industry, surging demand for new housing and luxury units, and a raft of plans to expand the transport infrastructure and develop Tunis’ growth corridors have been a boon for construction firms and investors alike. This chapter surveys the growth areas, the bottlenecks, the big projects and the demographic trends to give you a full picture of this rapidly emerging market.
TELECOMS & IT
The local giant, Tunisie Télécom, is slated for privatisation. At the same time, the increasingly liberalised mobile phone sector has achieved one of the highest subscriber rates in Africa. As Tunisia prepares to host the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and makes its bid to be North Africa’s telecoms hub, we take a close look at the state of the industry. How do internet controls impact on IP? Will Tunis succeed in becoming the call centre of the francophone world? We speak with Montassar Ouaili, minister of communications technology, about Tunisia’s ambitious plans to lead the information revolution in North Africa and beyond.
With its World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments, and an EU Association Agreement about to come into effect, Tunisian industry has its work cut out for it if it is to remain competitive on the global stage. Articles in this chapter look at the industries likely to be impacted by Tunisia’s foreign obligations, e.g. textiles and agro-industry, and timetable what needs to be done before the onset of full competition. Other articles profile Tunisia’s export bodies, foreign involvement in the largely closed shop that is Tunisian mining, and the gradual modernisation of the retail industry.
MEDIA & ADVERTISING
It is perhaps ironic that at the same time that it is about to host the WSIS, the freedom – or not – of Tunisia’s media is the focus of so much attention. The Media Overview tackles this most sensitive of topics. Other articles cover the decline of French-language print media, Tunisia’s first private TV station, and the country’s growing consumer culture, which is proving a boon for advertisers. Finally, there is a profile of Tunisia’s film industry, which has played host to such classics as “Star Wars”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Life of Brian”, and is looking to score some more big hits in the near future.
Tunisia needs its agriculture, to maintain employment as much as to earn export earnings. Yet the rains are not always kind, binding Tunisia and agriculture in a fraught relationship, full of peaks and troughs. This chapter looks at the government’s plans to reduce Tunisia’s rain dependency. It also examines efforts to create an export culture amongst Tunisian agri-businesses, with drives to market organic produce and “brand Tunisia” olives.
In World War II, the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, fought the final battles of his desert campaign in and around Tunisia. We revisit the battlegrounds in the campaign for mastery of North Africa.
THE BUSINESS GUIDE, ACCOUNTANCY
Accountancy firm Ernst & Young guides us through the Tunisian investment framework. Articles cover company and individual taxes, tax reform and incentives for FDI.
THE BUSINESS GUIDE, LEGAL
Legal eagles ACR survey the state of Tunisian commercial law. We see that doing business in Tunisia is getting easier, even as there is room for improvement. Feature articles cover real estate law and laws governing foreign investment.
All work and no play makes any Tunisia trip a wasted opportunity. Read our guide to desert tourism, and get a taste of the Sahara. Admire the views from the breathtaking Cap Bon peninsula; treat yourself to the Maghreb’s finest French-North African restaurants; and make yourself at home at Tunisia’s best business and resort hotels. We’ll even let you in on a few well-kept secrets when it comes to Tunis’s nightlife. And when you tire of business briefings, our profile of Tunisian film mogul Tarak ben Ammar makes for fascinating poolside reading.
All the numbers you’ll need to know, including chambers of commerce, airlines, car rental, couriers, hospitals and taxis. Plus web sites and tips on enjoying your stay in Tunisia.