Tunisia Industry

The manufacturing industry has an important role in the Tunisian economy and production is largely exported. Together with the textile and food industry, electronics and vehicle manufacturing are the most important industrial sectors. Most industries are located in Tunis.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, there are two free-trade zones in Zarzis and Bizerte, where export companies enjoy major tax relief. For companies that operate outside these zones and whose production is not focused on exports, operations are tightly regulated and there is little competition, which has contributed to low productivity.

Even in Ben Guerdane at the border with Libya, there are now plans for a large free trade area. One of the goals is to reduce the temptation to smuggle goods across the border, which would make black or gray money white. Another is spelling rural development in the hope that it will limit the attractiveness of terrorist groups on people who have difficulty sustaining themselves. When the foundation stone was laid in the spring of 2019, the Minister of Commerce hoped that the zone, directly and indirectly, will create 8,000 new jobs and become a “gateway to Africa”.


Electronics and vehicle production increased sharply during the 1990s. At the same time, it is not about manufacturing but rather a composition industry for large companies, including car companies, mainly in Italy and France, who benefit from low taxes in Tunisia and cheap labor.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Tunisia. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.

Tunisia is also a major supplier of textile products to the EU. When Tunisia’s wholly dominant export market Europe was hit by recession in the wake of the global financial crisis at the end of the 1990s, growth in the industrial sector was slowed due to reduced exports of electronic components to the EU and production. In 1998, an association agreement was concluded which allowed free trade between the Union and Tunisia. Negotiations for a new agreement on trade terms have been ongoing since 2015. The Food industry processes local agricultural products. In addition to olive oil, for example, flour, animal feed, cheese, beer and wine are produced. Of the country’s large phosphate deposits, fertilizers and phosphoric acid are produced in the chemical industry. Tunisia is trying to launch itself as a high-tech center in North Africa and some IT companies have established themselves in the country.

Large parts of the industry are still state-controlled. It is a goal to develop more knowledge-based industry and own more advanced manufacturing and thus also better utilize the increasing level of education among young people.



The Minister of Security is allowed to go

The reason for Rafik Chelly being fired is the attack in Tunis a week earlier (see November).


New terrorist acts lead to a state of emergency

November 24

A state of emergency is announced again and nighttime curfews are introduced in Tunis after an explosion on a bus killed 13 members of the presidential guard and injured about 20. The explosion occurred at a stop where the guard’s staff rises on and off and was caused by a suicide bomber, according to the Interior Ministry. The border with Libya is closed for two weeks. IS takes on the deed.

Terrorist acts averted

A new terror attack in Sousse is stopped and a dozen people are arrested. The plan should have been to hit politicians, beaches and security centers.

Harden the decapitation

A 16-year-old boy is beheaded by jihadists who give head to the boy’s cousin. State TV broadcasts images of the severed head which provokes criticism from the country’s journalists’ association. The government then dismisses the head of the TV company.

Nida Tune’s crisis is exacerbated

30 out of 86 MPs temporarily resign their party membership, at least until a meeting a week later in the executive committee.


Internal crisis in Nida Tounes

Representatives of a phalangist within the party armed with a scandal prevent others from attending a meeting with the party’s executive committee. Both groups are loyal to, on the one hand, the President’s son Hafedh Caïd Essebsi and, on the other, Secretary General Mohsen Marzouk.

Justice Minister kicked

Prime Minister Essid states that he has dismissed Justice Minister Salah Ben Aïssa but gives no reason. Ben Aïssa himself says that there are political contradictions and that he had planned to resign (see also February and September 2015).

Nobel Peace Prize to Tunisian Group

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to the transition to democracy in the country. The quartet was formed in 2013 when the country was in crisis after two political murders (see July 2013 and Modern History). It consists of the national organization UGTT, the employers’ organization Utica, the human rights organization LDTH and the legal association Tunisian lawyers. According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the award should be seen as an encouragement for the Tunisian people and an inspiration for those working for peaceful processes.


Criticism of the ban on homosexuality

Human Rights Watch calls on Tunisia to change its legislation after a 22-year-old man was sentenced to prison for homosexuality. Justice Minister Mohamed Salah Ben Aïssa said in a radio commentary that he too believes that the ban on homosexuality should be lifted, as it violates the right to privacy.

New information about missing journalists

Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche says there is evidence that two Tunisian journalists reported to have been murdered in Libya are alive. Mass meetings have been held several times with demands for information about what happened to the two. Sofiene Chaurabi, an investigative blogger who was active during the 2011 revolution, and photographer Nadhir Ktari disappeared in September 2014. IS reported in January 2015 that they had been murdered, and in April the internationally recognized government of Libya stated that five arrested persons had committed the murders.


A new terrorist act is adopted

Parliament approves the law which gives the authorities increased powers. The death penalty is imposed for more crimes than before, the suspects will be able to be detained for two weeks without access to a lawyer and public support for terrorism will be able to provide prison.

Visit to the UK

A delegation, including the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Transport and the Speaker of Parliament, is visiting the UK to try to persuade the British Government to withdraw its warning to the British not to travel to Tunisia. Several other countries have also called on their citizens to avoid Tunisia, because of the security situation.

An emergency permit is introduced

An emergency permit gives the security forces extended powers and the right to gather in public places is limited. More than 1,400 police officers and soldiers have been deployed to strengthen security at hotels and beaches. Authorities say twelve suspects have been arrested for involvement in the attack in Sousse in June. In October it is announced that the state of emergency will be lifted.


Trial begins

A court opens the trial against 24 people suspected of involvement in the murder of Chokri Belaid (see February 2013). However, the continued negotiations are immediately postponed until the end of October.

Tourists leave Tunisia

After the attack, many tourists travel from the country and many travel operators cancel all planned trips during the rest of the season. The attack is a killing blow to the important tourism industry.

Terrorism in Sousse

June 25

A young man shoots 38 people, most British tourists, on the beach and inside a hotel in the tourist resort of Sousse. The perpetrator, who was shot dead by police at the time of the attack, was a 23-year-old Tunisian who, according to authorities, had been attending an Islamic training camp in Libya. IS takes on the deed, which is the bloodiest thing to date in the country. Prime Minister Essid orders stricter security after the attack, including at archaeological sites and tourist sites.

Terrorist attack in Sidi Bouzid

Three police officers are killed and about ten are injured in the attack that IS later takes on. A suspected Islamist is also killed.


Terror-suspected arrest

They are arrested in Italy, suspected of involvement in the attack on the Bardom Museum in March.

State visit to the United States

President Essebsi meets Barack Obama and receives promises of military and financial support. The United States has already promised to double security support for Tunisia, due to the threat from jihadist groups and the chaos in neighboring Libya.


State visit to France

President Essebsi meets his French counterpart François Hollande. Several agreements on cooperation and French support for Tunisia are signed.

Trial begins

77 people, including 50 Algerians, who are suspected of being involved in an attack near the Algerian border (see July 2013) are facing trial, most in their absence.


Terrorist acts against the Bardo Museum in Tunis

March 18th

More than 20 people, including most foreign tourists, are killed and around 50 are injured when two perpetrators open fire on tourists outside the Bardom Museum in Tunis. They then take hostages inside the building but are shot dead when security forces storm the museum. President Essebsi says the country is at war on terror. The attack is feared to have major consequences for the important tourism industry. The Islamic State (IS) claims to have been behind the attack. All perpetrators are said to have received training in Libya, in an area controlled by IS.


Parliament approves new government

February 5

It is dominated by Nida Tounes but Ennahda as well as the smaller parties UPL and Afek Tounes are included (see Political system). Nida Tune’s secretary general Taieb Baccouche, who is considered to represent the party’s left flank, becomes foreign minister. The Interior and Justice Ministers are appointed with independent candidates, following a request from Ennahda.


Essid is proposed to become prime minister

President Essebsi nominates Habib Essid as prime minister and assigns him to form government. Essid held several government posts under Ben Ali’s regime and was Minister of the Interior when Essebsi became Acting Prime Minister after the 2011 revolution.

Bloggers are sentenced to prison

Blogger Yassine Ayari is reportedly previously sentenced to three years in prison for “defaming the army” and “insulted commander” in posts on Facebook. Ayari should have been arrested when he came to the country from France where he lives at Christmas. He was then informed that he was sentenced in his absence in November. Following a new trial, Ayari is now sentenced to one year in prison. Human rights groups say the verdict is in violation of the freedom of speech and defense lawyers are appealing. A military appeals court later cuts the sentence to six months in prison and Ayari is released in April, after serving half the sentence.

Tunisia Industry

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