Always open to the outside
For thousands of years Tunisian society was open to outside influences. Through international trade the country was able to develop its economy by trading its goods with peoples and nations all around the Mediterranean region and beyond, according to Noureddine Ferchichi, deputy director general of the Société Commerciale Tunisienne (Socotu).
Today Tunisia is on the move in every way, attracting great interest from other countries eager to participate in these national developments, Noureddine Ferchichi, deputy director general of the Société Commerciale Tunisienne (Socotu) told the ITJ recently.
The international investment conference ‘Tunisia 2020’ for example, which took place in the capital Tunis at the end of 2016, was attended by a large number of high-ranking officials. It provided a welcome opportunity to describe Tunisia’s advantages to them, in order to at the same time bring in the necessary capital with which to realise various projects. Success in this field will rejuvenate the economy as well as the ability to compete for firms from the country. The funds pledged at the event were substantial. Some countries and numerous international institutions such as AFD, AFESD, EIB, WB, IFC and EBRD* held out the prospect of active support for the economy amounting to no less than around USD 15 billion.
Adopting international standards
At the same time, Tunisia is introducing reforms at various levels, aimed at adopting international standards and at winning new domestic as well as international investors. Thus the government recently announced some new investment guidelines, as well as progressive tax reforms. Other specific objectives are the development of the country’s road network, as well as of ports, logistics zones, information technology and other infrastructure as well as a series of potentially promising new firms. This is expected to reinvigorate the economy and combat unemployment amongst university and polytechnic graduates. “This group of people with their strong qualifications are one of the country greatest trumps and have to be guided in the proper direction, in order to create greater wealth and prosperity,” Ferchichi elaborated.
In 2016 the country was happy to register improvements in the manufacturing sector, in mining as well as in the services segment. Exports grew by 5.6% (+6.5% in manufacturing and +15.7% in the mechanical and electrical industries). Imports, in turn, grew by 5.3% (with a 9.9% improvement in the manufacturing and semi-manufacturing sector, +9.6% in equipment, +10.5% in the consumer segment, and a decline of 19.2% in the energy sector).
Cargo volumes in ports rose by no less than 4%. When measured in teu the number of containers passing through the terminals rose by 10%, while the number of new automobiles loaded and unloaded has also increased by 4%. “This economic upturn, along with the above-mentioned financial investments, will also affect players in the supply chain, of course – players such as freight forwarders, transporters, and logistics companies,” Ferchichi added.
In Ferchichi’s corporation, the Société Commerciale Tunisienne, which was founded in 1900 and which is headquartered in Radès, in the immediate vicinity of the local port, there is optimism for the coming years. New contracts on the basis of offers, or of negotiations with large groups, are already in the portfolio. Demand will continue to develop and there will be opportunities in the company’s grasp.
Socotu remains dedicated
Socotu is ready to make the necessary effort required to meet growing demand by providing the commensurate transport solutions, investments, information technology systems and employees that its customers require, Ferchichi said. Over and above this, the company is also planning to offer value-adding logistics services in the future, by linking up with operators with the proven know-how in the sector concerned.
* AFD: Agence française de développement (French development agency); AFESD: Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development; EIB: European Investment Bank; WB: World Bank; IFC: International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank group; EBRD: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.