April 16, 2012—It has been a difficult year for businesses in the Maghreb countries of North Africa, including Tunisia and Morocco. Unrest and fallout from the European debt crisis have put a damper on growth
Tunisia is not used to a lot of attention, but in the last few years the Arab Spring and subsequent political upheaval has thrust the country into the spotlight.
The rest of the Middle East and North Africa is taking great interest in Tunisia as it copes with genuine political, economic and social challenges—not least recent political assassinations—and embarks upon a transitional process that could be a benchmark for the wider region.
The government enacted a new constitution in January 2014, which is encouraging in its inclusivity and promises to uphold the democratic spirit that ultimately ended decades of single party rule.
Pluralistic values such as these are essential for encouraging an open and transparent private sector, developing a healthy business environment, and providing people from all walks of life with the opportunity to create and expand their own business.
IFC plays a key role in Tunisia:
We promote reforms that make the investment climate more business friendly and boost investor confidence;
We help small businesses get the finance they need to grow;
We help young people and women get the skills they need to find employment; and,
We help develop essential infrastructure like hospitals, schools, and airports.
IFC’s strategy in Tunisia places emphasis on inclusion, and focuses on job creation through increased private sector participation and growth.
IFC supports Tunisia’s private sector by mobilizing investments, which improve investor confidence, expanding access to finance for smaller businesses, with a focus on women and youth entrepreneurs, investing in labor intensive and high value-added manufacturing, and improving infrastructure and social services.
In fiscal year 2013, IFC committed $54 million in Tunisia and our total investment portfolio stands at around $370 million (including mobilization). Our engagement has been predominantly in infrastructure and we supported the first airport concession in the country. IFC also supported MSMEs through investments in SME funds, financial intermediaries and microfinance.
Highlights from the 2013 fiscal year include a $48 million equity investment in Amen Bank to help the lender expand support for small businesses (a vital part of Tunisia’s economy), and a $6 million investment in micro-lender ENDA to help it increase its support for entrepreneurs.
Previously, IFC has provided $10 million in support to Amen Bank under IFC’s Global Trade Finance Program, helping boost trade and giving Tunisian companies access to new markets.
IFC made an $8 million investment in Amen Sante, a healthcare provider, to help broaden access to quality private health care for lower-income groups in Tunisia.
We also committed $10 million to Candax Energy, an oil and gas company with Tunisian holdings, and made a $22 million commitment to the Maghreb Private Equity Fund III, which provides guidance and financial support to small and medium enterprises across North Africa.
IFC’s advisory program is designed to play a key role in improving the business environment, strengthening financial markets, addressing skills mismatches and supporting public-private partnerships in infrastructure.
In the last year, IFC helped the Tunisian government prepare several reforms that will boost investor confidence, such as drafting a new investment code, simplifying administrative regulations (about 90 tax and customs procedures were simplified), and reforming bankruptcy law. IFC also helped the Central Bank of Tunisia upgrade its public credit registry.
IFC has advised Tunisia's Amen Bank as it strengthened its corporate governance and risk management practices, allowing the company to solidify its position as a market leader and expand its lending to smaller businesses.
To help build the institutional capacity of Enda Inter-Arabe, a leading microfinance institution, IFC provided training in corporate governance and risk management. This will increase Enda’s ability to reach out to micro enterprises, especially those owned by women.
IFC signed a partnership with the University Iset Djerba, to use IFC’s Business Edge solutions, prepare their students for the job market, and offer high quality training to young people employed in the tourism industry.
IFC also signed a partnership with the ICT Federation to design and implement the labor component of their ICT observatory; upgrade the qualifications framework in the sector; and create a matchmaking mechanism to better align employers' demands with training offered in the market.
We also helped L’Institute Arabe des Chefs d’ Entreprises promote sound corporate governance practices in Tunisia.