Helping the Private Sector to Support Democracy and Economic Development

CIPE sees the economy as the issue that will decide whether Tunisia’s democracy succeeds. A fair market will deliver the prosperity citizens need, which in turn will contribute to stability and security, fuel innovation that will create jobs, restore citizen faith in government, and foster civic participation – all of which will further invigorate democracy. CIPE also believes that Tunisia’s private sector has some of the most informed and pragmatic advice about economic reform to offer decision makers. Businesspeople throughout the country live the realities of badly designed laws, bureaucracy and corruption; they know exactly why Tunisia’s private sector is not growing as it must, and have specific ideas for improvements.

Through a long-term partnership with the Arab Institute of Business Leaders (IACE, in French), CIPE has launched a National Business Agenda (NBA) in Tunisia. An NBA produces a coherent roadmap of reforms to improve the business environment, and then supports dialogue and business-driven advocacy to implement those reforms. At the outset, IACE secured the government’s buy-in, along with the Prime Minister’s signature on a Memorandum of Understanding to work with IACE and the country’s two most prominent private sector organizations. IACE adapted the usual NBA structure to ensure it responded to Tunisia’s urgent priorities and longer-term needs: first, IACE launched SOS Ijraat, an app and hotline that allows businesspeople across Tunisia to report problems navigating bureaucracy and helps the government make some visible “quick wins” to counter growing citizen frustration. Second, private sector surveys and roundtables give the government real-time feedback on reforms already underway, allowing them to ensure reforms respond to actual needs. Third, IACE and the NBA steering committee have submitted many draft laws to various groups within parliament, the majority of which have been either directly incorporated into existing law or future plans. IACE will soon replicate this process on the regional level, developing Business Agendas in three governorates. Overall, Tunisia’s NBA has spurred unprecedented levels of public-private dialogue, continues to reinforce the civic reflexes of private sector organizations and the government, and ensures that new laws will respond to realities on the ground.

In order to address Tunisia’s deepening need for effective economic policymaking, CIPE and Stanford University launched an initiative titled A Leadership Academy for Development (LAD), supported by the Mediterranean School of Business. Dr. Francis Fukuyama and his Stanford colleagues will provide 60 young leaders from the public, private and civic sectors with an intensive course on economic policymaking. CIPE will also deliver hands-on, follow-up activities to prepare program graduates to apply their training to seek more innovative, pragmatic solutions to Tunisia’s most intractable problems. Ultimately, the LAD will produce a growing cadre of reform-oriented leaders prepared to create the specific policies and programs Tunisia needs to address its economic crisis.

Among CIPE’s other partners is a Sfax-based business association, the Union for Small and Medium Industries (UPMI), with whom CIPE works to develop a Sfax-specific Small and Medium Industry Agenda. Similar to the NBA, the SMI Agenda will offer recommendations to facilitate business, improve the SMI sector, and stimulate regional economic growth. The project seeks to reinforce UPMI’s ability to represent its members to decision makers, help unify local industry around reform, and add momentum to Tunisia’s overall economic and democratic progress. CIPE also partners with the Jasmine Foundation, a local NGO, to build the civic capacity of Tunisia’s future business leaders. Young people have been the driving force behind much of Tunisia’s democratic revolution, but they have not yet fulfilled their own potential as collective voices for reform. CIPE and the Jasmine Foundation chose three regions across Tunisia where they convene young entrepreneurs to discuss and act on barriers to success.