In 2016, Tunisia sought to stimulate foreign investment in order to revive the country’s economy, which has been stagnating for about 15 years. From 2005 to 2015, the country lost not less than 2,500 jobs per year due to the closure of about 400 companies each year. According to the Tunisian Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation (APII), small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are the most affected by this stagnation because of their lack of competitiveness, liquidity and financial market access. This has an immediate impact on the foreign investors, who try to avoid high-risk markets.
At the end of last November, Tunisia mobilized 34 billion dinars (about 14.5 billion dollars) on the occasion of Tunisia 2020, an international conference aimed at promoting investments in Tunisia. This consists of 15 billion dinars from agreements already signed, during the two-day event, and 19 billion dinars in the form of investment promises. There will be also a question of how to modernize the foreign investment infrastructures, especially since the various industrial zones are relatively isolated; and how to promote export, as deterioration of costs and competitiveness has direct consequences on the foreign investors’ perception towards the country.
As as a major partner of aeronautical manufacturers such as Airbus, the French company Corse Composites Aeronautiques (CCA) has been based in Tunisia since 2010. CCA Tunisia produces the landing gear hatches for Airbus and Dassault Aviation Falcon and proceeds to the fairing of the reactors. According to Patrick De Lattre, general manager of CCA Tunisia, Tunisia experienced between 2011 and 2015 a “great period of floating” due to the “deadly and regrettable” terrorist attacks. “Many French companies have left Tunisia due to the factors linked essentially to a state of troubled society during the last five years.”
Aeronautic remains one of the promising sectors of the Tunisia’s future. However, some neighboring countries are constantly competing with Tunisia in this regard. “Apart from the administrative slowness, the common denominator of all the countries of the region, Tunisia distinguishes itself from its main competitors, such as Morocco, by the fact that the Tunisian government interferes less than other countries in the foreign business activities,” said the director of CCA Tunisia. “Tunisia remains the most attractive business and investment site in the region because of its proximity and cultural rapprochement,” he concluded. The Iberchem group, one of the largest Spanish fragrance manufacturers of fine perfumery, has been present in Tunisia since 1989. “We have doubled our turnover in Tunisia, exceeding 4.5 million euros in 2015, thanks to a solid position on the market,” said Benigno Calvo, director of Iberchem Tunisia.
“The overall performance of our company is influenced not only by the current situation in Tunisia, but also by the general situation in our two other direct markets, namely Algeria and especially Libya,” he said in an interview to Xinhua. According to the director of Iberchem Tunisia, there are some structural problems in the country, in particular the worrying situation of the port of Rades, one of the main commercial ports of Tunisia, located in the suburbs of the capital Tunis, “which could affect our delivery plans and is accompanied by some legal and social uncertainty, although it is improving.”