Tunísia flag Tunísia: Invertir a Tunísia

Inversió estrangera directa (IED) a Tunísia

FDI in Figures

In the context of social and political turmoil, FDI flows to Tunisia remain below their potential. According to UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2021, FDI inflows to Tunisia fell to USD 652 million from USD 845 million in 2019, a 23% drop, following the global economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The manufacturing sector attracted the most FDI (54%), followed by energy (33%). The biggest impact of the pandemic on investment was in the services sector, where FDI fell by 44%, leaving its share of total FDI flows to Tunisia at only 9% in 2020. Tunisia's FDI stock was around USD 35 billion in 2019. The main investors in Tunisia are the UAE, France, Qatar, Italy and Germany. In terms of stocks, manufacturing is by far the sector that attracts the most investment, followed by tourism and telecommunications. According to preliminary data, FDI flows fell by -2% during the first nine months of 2021 and the main investors were France, Italy and Japan (FIPA-Tunisia).

The key assets of Tunisia are its proximity to Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, free trade agreements with the EU and much of Africa and an educated workforce. In recent years, the Tunisian government had carried out necessary structural reforms to improve Tunisia's business climate, including an improved bankruptcy law, an investment code and an initial 'negative list' and a law allowing for public-private partnerships. The government adopted laws allowing to start a business more easily (more services are available into the one-stop shop, fees decreased); registering property is now faster and more transparent and paying taxes is easier (implementation of a risk-based tax audit system). These improvements in return boosted portfolio investments and helped Tunisia progress in World Bank's ranking. Indeed, Tunisia gained 2 places in the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 report, ranking 78th out of 190 countries. Nevertheless, there are still huge bureaucratic barriers to investment. State-owned enterprises are a major player in the Tunisian economy and several sectors remain closed to foreign investment. The informal sector, estimated at between 40% and 60% of the overall economy, is still a concern since legal businesses are forced to compete with smuggled goods. Moreover, the country is facing high political and social instability, unemployment, inflation, and rising levels of public debt. The current coronavirus crisis is nonetheless seen as an opportunity to attract more FDI from neighbouring countries in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, digital technologies and technical textile (FIPA-Tunisia).

Foreign Direct Investment 201920202021
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 845652660
FDI Stock (million USD) 31,60535,00633,440
Number of Greenfield Investments* 31108
Value of Greenfield Investments (million USD) 2,519474268

Source: UNCTAD, Latest available data

Note: * Greenfield Investments are a form of Foreign Direct Investment where a parent company starts a new venture in a foreign country by constructing new operational facilities from the ground up.

Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors Tunisia Middle East & North Africa United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 6.0 6.4 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 7.0 4.8 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 5.0 4.7 9.0 5.0

Source: Doing Business, Latest available data

Note: *The Greater the Index, the More Transparent the Conditions of Transactions. **The Greater the Index, the More the Manager is Personally Responsible. *** The Greater the Index, the Easier it Will Be For Shareholders to Take Legal Action.

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What to consider if you invest in Tunisia

Strong Points

Advantages for FDI in Tunisia:

  • The solvency of the country gives it access to international capital markets and allows it to find its place in the world economy
  • The growing diversification of the economy (tourism, mining production developed in phosphates and oil sectors, etc.) strengthens its resistance to economic crises
  • Support from the IMF and other international institutions
  • The economy can rely on a young, fairly skilled and productive workforce at competitive pay levels
  • The country's proximity to the European market and its association agreement with the EU: the capital city Tunis is, on average, two hours flight from the main European capitals
  • The social system is well developed and an ambitious education policy has been launched; it aims to reduce the social cost of adjustment and strengthen the modernisation of the country
  • The political transition has been gradual and relatively peaceful (in comparison with Egypt and Libya, for example), creating a generally positive business environment
  • The country is rich in natural resources, including phosphates and hydrocarbons.
Weak Points

Disadvantages for FDI in Tunisia:

  • Economic reform in Tunisia has not kept pace with political reform since the revolution of 2011
  • Issues of corruption and nepotism
  • High social and geographical inequalities, which may be exacerbated after the COVID-19 crisis
  • Prohibitive customs and tax regimes continue to pose barriers to small and medium-sized enterprises
  • Structural imbalances in the public and external accounts, with a significant increase in external debt
  • State-owned enterprises still play a large role in Tunisia’s economy; many sectors remain closed to foreign investment
  • The informal sector is large (estimated at 40-60% of the economy by the U.S. State Department)
  • The high level of youth unemployment, as well as unemployment among those with university degrees (about a third of the unemployed), are seen as potential risks to social and economic stability
  • The country's high public debt and the great dependence on the European economy make the Tunisian economy vulnerable.
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI
Over the last few decades, Tunisia has chosen to further liberalise its economy and to integrate it into the world economy. A new competition law cancelled previous provisions that fixed prices, limited the entry of companies into certain sectors and controlled production, distribution, investment, etc.
Furthermore, Tunisia adopted a new investment law that simplifies the procedures for obtaining licenses, permits and investment authorisations and limits restrictions on the hiring of foreign workers. The law created the High Investment Board as a central body to replace the multitude of administrative bodies that previously issued these required documents. The hiring of foreign workers is also made easier by this law, adding an element of flexibility to what are otherwise the most rigid labour market regulations in the MENA region. Other initiatives include a new bankruptcy law, an investment code and a law enabling public-private partnerships. The Tunisian Parliament also passed law 2019-47, which contains 38 amendments to address shortcomings in existing laws and regulations that impeded investment.

Tunisia has free trade zones (known as Parcs d’Activités Economiques) in Bizerte and in Zarzis, where companies are exempt from taxes and customs duties and benefit from unrestricted foreign exchange transactions. The production in these zones has limited duty-free entry into Tunisia for the purpose of transformation and re-export.

Further information is available on the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA) website.

Bilateral investment conventions signed by Tunisia
To see the list of investment treaties signed by Tunisia, consult UNCTAD's International Investment Agreements Navigator.

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Actualitzacions: January 2023

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