This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Six Tunisian airlines operate in the country, two state-owned and four privately held. Tunisair, the country’s national flag airline and the major carrier serving Tunisia’s international markets, remains heavily subsidized by the GOT. Tunisair currently operates 13 aircraft and a parts factory in-country. In 2021, Tunisair’s cumulative turnover increased by 24.7% compared to 2020, while the number of passengers rose from one million to almost two million (1,997,000) during the same period. Passenger traffic increased 10% in 2021 after a significant decrease in 2020 because of pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions. Tunisair continues to struggle with a low punctuality rate (40% in 2019), significant debt, and long-running structural problems that worsened with COVID-19 travel restrictions. In May 2022, the CEO of Tunisair presented a rescue plan of the airline aimed at reducing expenses and helping the company comply with international standards. The plan included a strategy to develop the fleet, improve profitability, and digitize passenger check-ins.
Tunisair Express, Tunisia’s second publicly owned airline and a subsidiary of Tunisair, operates domestic and short-distance international flights through a fleet of nine ATR turboprops.
Of Tunisia’s four private airlines, Nouvelair is the largest and operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A320s. Tunisavia, a private commercial fixed-wing and helicopter operator, services desert and offshore petroleum installations. Express Air Cargo is a cargo carrier serving African and European countries from Tunis and operates four Boeing 737s. Jasmin Airways is the newest private airline, of which the Libyan state owns 40%, and it obtained its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the National Civil Aviation Authority in 2019. The airline is operating two Embraer 170s offering short- and medium-haul charter and special private flights to countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The airline mainly operates from the Enfidha-Hammamet International Airport and occasionally from the Djerba-Zarzis Airport. The airline intends to fly to European destinations.
Eighty export-oriented aerospace companies, mostly French, operate in Tunisia across a wide range of sectors, including aircraft maintenance, aerospace wiring, engineering and consultancy, metal sheet cutting and assembly, software development, and electronics. The aerospace industry employs about 17,000 people as of 2019. The Tunisian Aerospace Industry Association, a leading Tunisian aerospace industry trade organization, has 51 member companies.
As a result of a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between EADS (reorganized as Airbus Group in 2014) and the GOT, EADS launched an aeronautical industrial zone near the Port of Rades. The facility constructs aircraft sub-assemblies for Airbus.
Latécoère, a major supplier of Airbus, runs two cable factories in Tunisia, employing 900 people. Another major supplier, Zodiac Aerospace, recently acquired by Safran, runs four production sites for passenger seats and metal structures, employing 3,500 people. These projects create a complete and complementary avionics supply chain system. In partnership with Telnet Holding, a high-tech Tunisian engineering company, Altran established an engineering and research and development platform specialized in advanced aerospace technology. In 2019, U.S. aerospace company Paradigm Precision announced an additional $15 million investment for the extension of its manufacturing plant in the industrial zone of El Mghira, a suburb of Tunis.
Tunisia has also well positioned itself in the niche market of light airplane manufacturing. Two local companies, Avionav and Evada Aircraft, manufacture and export two- and four-seat light airplanes for several countries, such as Italy, Spain, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria.
With an initial capacity of 7 million passengers annually, the first phase of an international airport at Enfidha, built by the Turkish Holding Company Tepe Akfen Ventisres (TAV) under a 40-year concession, was finished in 2009. Originally conceived as a potential hub for flights to Sub-Saharan Africa, the airport remains underutilized, and expansion plans are suspended indefinitely. Currently, the airport operates mostly charter flights, and it has absorbed passenger traffic from the nearby Monastir Airport. However, TAV faces financial challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and has also accumulated unpaid debt by Tunisair since 2015.
In late 2019, the Ministry of Transport announced a plan for the extension of Tunis-Carthage Airport at an estimated cost of $100 million, with the aim of increasing its annual passenger capacity from 5 million to 8 million. An international tender for the project was launched in 2021 and bids are still under review.
EU and Tunisia negotiations on an Open Skies agreement are ongoing, and the GOT has indicated interest in the negotiation of an Open Skies agreement with the United States. Tunisia signed an Air Transport Agreement with Canada in 2009, and Tunisair started flights to Montreal in June 2016.
Tunisia’s tourism sector had largely recovered from the 2011 revolution and terrorist attacks on tourist sites in 2015, which negatively affected Tunisia’s air carriers, but the COVID-19 pandemic represented another significant setback. Private sector airlines, in particular, appear to be increasingly exploiting underserved European markets. An Open Skies agreement with the EU would expand competition and allow lower airline ticket prices for cost-sensitive tourists.
Regarding aeronautics, Tunisia is positioning itself as an industrial hub with high added-value capability in the manufacture of avionics, aircraft servicing, engine components, air-traffic-control equipment, and other areas. The GOT provides tax breaks and other incentives for foreign investment in this sector. Tunisia also offers an educated, relatively low-cost workforce, including trained engineers, and very close proximity to Europe.