Three years after the 2015 terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia is on track to achieve 8 million tourist arrivals in 2018, which would be higher than the figure in 2014. Correspondingly, FDI figures in the first half of 2018 have also increased.
Around 3.2 million tourists travelled to Tunisia between January and June 2018, a 26% rise on the same period in 2017 thanks to a 60% increase in European visitors, according to Reuters.
The return of tourism, a key pillar of Tunisia’s economy, is also reflected in a spending spree by luxury hotel chains in the past nine months. In late 2017, when Four Seasons Hotel Tunis first opened its doors, the Ritz-Carlton announced plans to construct a $129m hotel in the country, while the Movenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis announced a project in early 2018, and Anantara Tozeur Resort is due to open later in 2018.
As well as tourism, foreign investment into Tunisia climbed by 16% in the first five months of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017, according to a report published by Tunisia’s Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA).
“The increase in FDI is principally due to security stability improvements and the new investment law, effective since April 2017,” says Khalil Laabidi, general manager of FIPA. He adds that this has stimulated investment by simplifying procedures for investors, offering better legal protection and directing FDI into priority areas such as hi-tech industries and projects that create jobs for young people, especially in the interior regions.
Jobs created from greenfield FDI have surged during the first half of 2018, with 3431 new positions in Tunisia, marking almost double the annual figure since 2014, thanks to several large investments in hi-tech industries, according to greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets.
In May, Algeria-based Condor Electronics invested in a television assembly plant that will create 1000 jobs, while Germany-based cable manufacturer Leoni expanded its plant in Messadine by creating 1200 new jobs. In the automotive OEM sector, China-based Dongfeng Motor Corporation plans to establish a new assembly plant in a joint venture that will create 864 jobs.
“FDI in Tunisia is very substantial in the manufacturing sector, especially in electronics, automotives and aerospace. However, FDI is also strong in the service sector and ICT,” says Mr Laabidi.
The main source of greenfield FDI into Tunisia since 2003 has been in the business and finance sector, which has attracted 82 projects in that timeframe, followed by 40 projects in IT services, 29 in fossils fuels, 24 in electrical components, and 24 in hotels and tourism.
Tunisia is aiming to become a regional technological leader for its industrial sector. In November 2017, the Tunisia Investment Forum showcased the progress being made in implementing new technologies in automotives, mechatronics, agri-business and pharmaceuticals.
Meanwhile, progress in the renewable energy sector is being made. Most of 2017’s greenfield FDI went into renewables, following major investments from Belgium-based WindVision and China’s Sinoma Energy Conservation, according to fDi Markets.
This wave of investment could be attributed to a new Tunisian law on the development of renewable energy, effective since May 2015, which permits the export of electricity made from renewables. The Tunisian government is aiming to increase the share of renewable electricity generation to 30% by 2030.
Most FDI into Tunisia comes from France, which has invested in 128 greenfield projects since 2003, followed by 37 projects from Germany, according to fDi Markets. France’s prestigious Insead Business School ranked Tunisia first in north Africa in terms of talent competitiveness, according to its 2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index.
“Currently, our will is to diversify our partners [when it comes to] FDI origin. For instance, one of our major objectives is to [do more business with] Asia and the Far East,” says Mr Laabidi.
Tunisia’s business leaders are relatively optimistic, with 77% of chief executives having either positive or very positive expectations of local business conditions, according to Oxford Business Group’s ‘Business Barometer – Tunisia’, which surveyed more than 100 CEOs in Tunisia in early 2018.