Tag Archives: Tunisia

The Tunisian Business Community: Still Working to Keep Tunisia’s Democracy on Track

A forum held by IACE in May 2016. (Photo: Kapitalis.com)

A forum held by IACE in May 2016. (Photo: Kapitalis.com)

By Ali Ayadi, Pam Beecroft, and Brenna Curti

In 2015, Tunisia’s business community, government and civil society worked together to overcome a series of political and security crises that almost derailed their grand democracy experiment, and won a Nobel Prize for their efforts.

Now it is the economy that needs an intervention. Instead of transforming and growing, it has been sliding backward. The Tunisian dinar is losing value, public debt is mounting, inflation continues to rise, and unemployment grows daily. Corruption and cronyism are rampant, spreading injustice and slowing growth even more.

As Tunisians lose faith in their leaders, discontent is fueling new social unrest. Violence and terrorism have added new layers of economic woes, virtually wiping out tourism and resulting in $4 billion for economic recovery being diverted to cover national security needs.

It is no exaggeration to say that Tunisia’s democratic future hinges on fixing all this. For one thing, if citizens are worried about basic survival, they cannot focus on elections and civic groups and all those other things that keep leaders accountable and democracy vibrant. For another, Tunisia needs the spirit of enterprise itself – economic dreams, hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurship – to create the prosperity citizens need.

That is why CIPE’s long-time partner, the Arab Institute for Business Leaders (IACE, in French) has joined with one of the Nobel prize winners, the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce and Crafts (UTICA), as well as the Tunisian Union for Agriculture and Fisheries (UTAP) and the government, to get Tunisia’s economy back on track. With CIPE support, they have launched a “National Business Agenda” (NBA) – a CIPE process that helps the private sector consult local businesses, identify economic priorities and advocate government to improve the economy through reforms.

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Leveraging the Youth Bulge to Transform the Arab World

Syrian Economic Forum students learning civic education in Syria.

Syrian Economic Forum students learning civic education in Syria.

Last Thursday marked five years since Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power in what has come to be known as the Jasmine Revolution. A well-waged campaign of civil resistance, provoked by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, ultimately led to the upending of Ben Ali’s autocracy and catalyzed a series of protests across the Middle East and North Africa.

Five years after the first Arab Spring uprising, we have the benefit of hindsight. We can pinpoint, with relative certainty, the various elements that contributed to the revolutions occurring when and where they did. Five years on, and we continue to grapple with both the inspiring and heartbreaking implications of revolutions in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. A critical element that drove the protests, often mentioned in the early days but since relegated to the margins of the conversation, is the youth populations of these countries.

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Tunisia’s Nobel Peace Prize: Keeping the Boat Sailing

When I heard about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Tunisia, my first reaction was happiness – they deserve it. Not just the members of the Quartet who were the recipients, but every Tunisian participating in this grand democracy experiment.

I have worked in places that never got this far, despite the presence of amazing, intelligent, admirable people trying their best. Over time I have come to think that will is the true secret ingredient. Capacity can be built, but some kernel of shared will needs to be there from the start. You need the right people, with the right intentions, at the right time, and there is no substitute for it.

I think about this same thing every time I read writings from America’s Founding Fathers. From the distance of history, America’s birth looks like a process; a lot of people met repeatedly, argued a lot, reacted to foreign events, hammered things out, and a nation came to be.

But then read the letters between John and Abigail Adams, and you suddenly are plunged into the chaos, stress and daily-ness of it all. Abigail is alone running the farm and business, dealing with insecurity and tending sick children. John is riding back and forth to Philadelphia and beyond, complaining bitterly about recalcitrant short-sighted delegates. There is tedium, inching progress and failure along the way. John was exhausted and frustrated as much as he was inspired. Unlike us reading his letters, he didn’t know if they would succeed.

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Fixing Tunisia’s Economy Requires Reform, Not More Foreign Investment


In light of the recent terror attacks in Tunis and Sousse, which have debilitated the tourism industry and sent investors scurrying to reconsider their options and assets in the country, it is more important than ever to look at the intersection between economic growth and transparent democratic institutions in Tunisia.

President Obama and Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi, meeting during Essebsi’s May visit to the United States, published this article about consolidating democratic gains in Tunisia and spurring responsible economic growth. The discourse would benefit from a deeper understanding of the legal and regulatory issues that stifle job growth in that country.

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Libya or Tunisia: Who Needs the Other More?

March2015 Hiba

Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

Diplomatic Ties

The Libyan conflict is not only causing tens of thousands of deaths, destroying a society, and wiping out a state. It also is spilling over into neighboring Tunisia, destabilizing its internal equilibrium, redefining cross-border interactions, and affecting all neighboring countries in the Maghreb.

Since the uprising against President Muammar Qaddafi in March 2011, Tunisia has seen a vast influx of Libyan refugees. Cars, decrepit vans, and trucks packed with families sitting among bundles of belongings, suitcases, and mattresses stream into Ras Jedir and Dhehiba – official border crossings in southern Tunisia.

According to the former Tunisian Minister of Commerce, the country hosts around 1 million Libyans—equal to nearly 10 percent of the Tunisian population. Libya’s crisis and the ongoing entry of Libyan refugees into the country has resulted in unprecedented social, economic, and security challenges to Tunisia. Despite these difficulties, Tunisia has thus far maintained an open border policy toward Libyans and Libya’s Egyptians seeking respite from the violence in Libya—a decision that’s been praised by UN officials and Western diplomats.

No effective regulatory framework defines the relationship between the two countries, “They don’t need [a] visa to enter Tunisia nor any particular authorization to reside [in Tunisia],”stated Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui.

Tunisia bears the brunt of the economic and social spillovers of the Libyan civil war. The 43-mile border (Ras Jedir in Libya and Ben Guerdane in Tunisia) has become a smuggling route for goods, oil, and arms, but also for anti-regime armed groups and terrorists. Moreover, the conflict next door has exacerbated inter-communal conflicts raging within Tunisia domestically.

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Democracy Has Survived in Tunisia, But What Comes Next?


Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

After decades of dictatorship, Tunisia’s revolution set in motion a series of uprisings across the Arab world, laying the foundations for a flourishing democracy. It has become the sole “flower” of the Arab Spring and is now heralded as a role model for the Middle East and North Africa region. However, behind the shiny façade, the road towards democracy has certainly not been without barriers and Tunisia still faces numerous hurdles not only in managing security but also solidifying democratic institutions.

Today, Tunisia has made enormous progress in its democratic transition – its future is determined by Tunisians themselves, able to choose their political leaders and their own path. Freedom House described Tunisia in its annual report as “the Arab world’s only free country, the sole success story of the Arab Spring and a full-fledged democracy,” while the Economist Intelligence Unit classified Tunisia as the most democratic Arab state in its last democracy index.

The “Tunisian exception,” political analysts say, resulted from a reconciliation between modern ideals and Islam, the neutral role played by army, a genuine multiparty democracy, a successful national dialogue initiative, and the massive role played by civil society pushing for an end to the Tunisian political crisis.

As a result of these and other factors, Tunisia underwent its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in December 2014, accompanied by a newly elected parliament, the first democratic presidential elections, and a new constitution, all conducted in a free, fair, and transparent process.

This peaceful political transition is seen as a positive example to the region that should bring hope in the midst of a bloody civil war in Syria, deeply embedded divisions in Libya, and chaos in Yemen. Tunisia now stands tall as the relative success story among the recent popular revolutions in the region.

But to sustain this progress into the future, it must also get its economy on the right footing.

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Reforming the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem: A Study on Barriers to Growth in Tunisia and Egypt


The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 were sparked by citizen frustration based on a range of grievances including lack of opportunity, dissatisfaction with local governance, corruption, and unemployment. The public self-immolation by Tunisian informal entrepreneur, Mohamed Bouazizi, was a shocking demonstration of the frustration and hopelessness felt by some sectors of society and led to calls for political and economic reforms to address citizen grievances. Today, however, North African economies still urgently need economic reforms to promote greater economic inclusion and provide opportunities for youth.

The Center on Development, Democracy, and the Rule of Law at Stanford, in cooperation with CIPE, has conducted a survey of 131 Egyptian and Tunisian entrepreneurs and business owners to find what that the greatest barriers are to the growth of businesses in these countries. As Global Entrepreneurship Week comes to a close, CIPE is releasing an Economic Reform Feature Service article by Amr Adly about the study to contribute to the continuing conversation on supporting entrepreneurs around the world.

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