Tunisia - Country Commercial Guide
Investment Climate Statement
Last published date:

The U.S. Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements provide information on the business climates of more than 170 economies and are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world.  They analyze a variety of economies that are or could be markets for U.S. businesses.  The Investment Climate Statements are also references for working with partner governments to create enabling business environments that are not only economically sound, but address issues of labor, human rights, responsible business conduct, and steps taken to combat corruption.  The reports cover topics including Openness to Investment, Legal and Regulatory Systems, Protection of Real and Intellectual Property Rights, Financial Sector, State-Owned Enterprises, Responsible Business Conduct, and Corruption.

Executive Summary

In 2022, Tunisia’s economy continued to be heavily impacted by the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Despite a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia’s GDP grew by only 2.4 percent in 2022 after 3.1 percent growth in 2021, and a record contraction of 8.8 percent in 2020.  The country still faces high unemployment, high inflation, and rising levels of public debt, in addition to shortages of food products, medicines, and energy commodities due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

On July 25, 2021, citing widespread protests and political paralysis, President Saied took “exceptional measures” under Article 80 of the 2014 constitution to dismiss then prime minister, freeze parliament’s activities for 30 days, and lift the immunity of members of parliament.  On August 23, 2021 Saied announced an indefinite extension of the “exceptional measures” period and on September 22, 2021 he issued a decree granting the president certain executive, legislative, and judiciary powers and authority to rule by decree.  On September 29, 2021 Saied named Najla Bouden Romdhane as prime minister, and on October 11, she formed a government.

In a July 25, 2022 referendum, 94.6 percent of voters approved a new constitution, much of which President Saied personally drafted.  The constitution concentrates powers in the presidency, removes checks and balances on the executive, weakens the parliament, and gives the president enhanced authorities over the judiciary and the legislature. 

Elections for the first chamber of Parliament, the Assembly of People’s Representatives, were held in December 2022 with a turnout of 11.4 percent.  Elections for the second chamber, the National Council of Regions and Districts have not been announced as of April 2023.  International and domestic observers assessed that December 2022 parliamentary elections were technically well-administered but lacked legitimacy and fell short of international standards.

Before the pandemic and President Saied’s decisions on July 25, 2021 successive governments had advanced some much-needed structural reforms in an effort to improve Tunisia’s business climate, including an improved bankruptcy law, investment code, an initial “negative list,” a law enabling public-private partnerships, and a supplemental law designed to improve the investment climate.  The Government of Tunisia (GOT) encouraged entrepreneurship through the passage of the Start-Up Act in June 2018.  The GOT passed a new budget law in January 2019 that ensures greater budgetary transparency and makes the public aware of government investment projects over a three-year period.  These reforms are intended to help Tunisia attract both foreign and domestic investment.

Nevertheless, substantial bureaucratic barriers to investment remain and additional economic reforms have yet to be achieved.  State-owned enterprises play a large role in Tunisia’s economy, and some sectors are not open to foreign investment.  The informal sector, estimated at 40 to 60 percent of the overall economy, remains problematic, as legitimate businesses are forced to compete with smuggled goods.  Due to a growing budget deficit, the GOT sought international lending support in 2022.  In October 2022, the GOT and the IMF reached a staff-level agreement on economic policies and reforms to be supported by a new 48-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of $1.9 billion.  However, final approval has yet to occur as of April 2023.

Tunisia’s strengths include its proximity to Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East; preferential or free-trade agreements with the EU and much of Africa; an educated workforce; and a strong interest in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).  Sectors such as agribusiness, aerospace, infrastructure, renewable energy (notably green hydrogen), telecommunication technologies, and services remain promising.  The decline in the value of the dinar over recent years has strengthened investment and export activity in the electronic component manufacturing and textile sectors.

Since 2011, the United States has provided more than $500 million in economic growth-related assistance, in addition to loan guarantees in 2012, 2014, and 2016 that enabled the GOT to borrow nearly $1.5 billion at low interest.

To access the ICS, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statements website.