Tunisia Economy Facts
Although Tunisia has good conditions for tourism, an important export industry and large agricultural exports of olive oil, among other things, the economy has not picked up momentum since the 2011 revolution. Political and social turmoil and terrorist attacks have disturbed tourism and foreign investment, while poor agricultural harvesting and difficulties in the energy and mining industries have had a negative impact. In addition, Tunisia has been affected by external factors in the outside world – not least the corona crisis.
At the same time, structural problems in the economy also present considerable obstacles to development. Large differences in development between the different parts of the country are one such problem. In the coastal areas in the Northeast, residents have higher incomes, here there are over 90 percent of industrial companies and there are more jobs than in the poorer inner parts of the country where unemployment is close to three times higher.
- Countryaah.com: Major imports by Tunisia, covering a full list of top products imported by the country and trade value for each product category.
Economic growth in the 2010s has not been enough to create enough new jobs, and the jobs that have been added have mainly been less qualified jobs in industry and service, while the country’s many highly educated academics have gone unemployed. The percentage of unemployed people is higher among academics than in the average population.
Other obstacles to development are corruption and nepotism, complicated regulations and other bureaucracy that lives on from the dictator Ben Ali’s time, when the economic system was primarily intended to benefit the president and his immediate family. This has also helped to discourage foreign investors.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Check this abbreviation website to find three letter ISO codes for all countries in the world, including TUN which represents the country of Tunisia. Check findjobdescriptions to learn more about Tunisia.
Today, the economy is not as dependent on agriculture and commodity exports (oil and phosphate) as before, and the sensitivity to drought or lower prices for export products has decreased. The manufacturing industry and the service sector (especially tourism) have grown economically, but tourism is susceptible to disruptions. This was evident in the wake of terrorist acts in 2015. A major bankruptcy in international travel in 2019 also raised fears, especially as many hotel owners depend on individual large customers. The stoppage of travel during the corona crisis causes severe feuds in a country where tourism accounted for 14 percent of GDP, and four-fifths of income is generated by tourists from abroad.
In 2018, the African Development Bank estimated growth in the economy at 2.6 percent, and gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to increase in the next few years as well. The state budget showed deficits a few years into the 2010s, but it was no greater than that it was manageable according to economic analysts.
Inflation was set to rise by almost 7.5 percent in 2018. Tunisia’s currency dropped sharply in value against the US dollar and the euro. A heavy expenditure item in the state budget is that the state still subsidizes staple goods and energy, but in recent years the governments have started reducing these subsidies. There are also problems in the banking sector, for example, banks have a high proportion of “bad” high-risk loans, while ordinary small businesses often find it difficult to borrow money for their operations.
After the revolution in 2011, when Tunisia’s need for external financial assistance increased sharply, the World Bank and the African Development Bank assisted the country with direct assistance. In addition, the eight richest countries in the world within the G8 promised $ 25 billion in loans for the coming five-year period. In addition, Tunisia received $ 1.7 billion in loans for the period 2013–2015 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In May 2016, the IMF granted a new $ 2.9 billion four-year loan to support the government’s five-year plan to stabilize the economy and improve the business climate. In 2017, the IMF approved a payout after first shooting at it. Lenders believe Tunisia needs to strengthen the Treasury by trying to increase its tax revenue and continue to reduce government subsidies. By 2020, the IMF has agreed to emergency loans in the pandemic’s tracks.
Electronic goods and electromechanics account for the largest share of export value, followed by textiles and clothing. Olive oil and phosphoric acid and fertilizers are also important export products. The EU is Tunisia’s largest trading partner, especially France and Italy. Approximately three-quarters of Tunisia’s exports to EU countries go to more than half of the imports.
Tunisia, through an agreement with the EU and the World Trade Organization (WTO), has undertaken to gradually reduce its high tariffs. In 1995, the EU signed an association agreement with Tunisia. Trade in industrial goods has been liberalized since 2008. In the autumn of 2015, the EU began negotiations on a free trade agreement with Tunisia, which, in addition to trade in goods, will also include agricultural products, services and investments. In Tunisia, there are fears that it will lead to, among other things, agriculture and fisheries being knocked out by an influx of European agricultural and industrial products.
Tunisia also participated when 44 African states signed a new free trade agreement, AFCFTA, in March 2018. The agreement must be ratified at national level before it can come into force but is seen by many as an important step towards increased trade exchange within Africa.
The country’s largest port is Tunis-La Goulette. A deep water port is planned in the city of Enfidha (al-Nafida), which also has its own international airport, the country’s ninth.
FACTS – FINANCE
GDP per person
US $ 3,447 (2018)
US $ 39,861 million (2018)
2.5 percent (2018)
Agriculture’s share of GDP
9.5 percent (2017)
Manufacturing industry’s share of GDP
14.5 percent (2017)
The service sector’s share of GDP
60.3 percent (2017)
6.6 percent (2019)
Government debt’s share of GDP
77.0 percent (2018)
US $ 32,152 million (2017)
US $ 15,563 M (2018)
US $ 21,434 million (2018)
– US $ 4 429 million (2018)
Commodity trade’s share of GDP
96 percent (2018)
Main export goods
textile and clothing products, food (mainly olive oil), oil, oil products, phosphoric acid, chemical products, phosphate
Largest trading partner
France, Germany, Libya, Spain (2010)