macrohistory & world report


Map of Tunisia

Tunisa (capital Tunis) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Tunisia's diverse, market-oriented economy has long been cited as a success story in Africa and the Middle East, but it faces an array of challenges during the country's ongoing political transition. Following an ill-fated experiment with socialist economic policies in the 1960s, Tunisia embarked on a successful strategy focused on bolstering exports, foreign investment, and tourism, all of which have become central to the country's economy. Key exports now include textiles and apparel, food products, petroleum products, chemicals, and phosphates, with about 80% of exports bound for Tunisia's main economic partner, the European Union. Tunisia's liberal strategy, coupled with investments in education and infrastructure, fueled decades of 4-5% annual GDP growth and improving living standards. Former President (1987-2011) Zine el Abidine BEN ALI continued these policies, but as his reign wore on cronyism and corruption stymied economic performance and unemployment rose among the country's growing ranks of university graduates. These grievances contributed to the January 2011 overthrow of BEN ALI, sending Tunisia's economy into a tailspin as tourism and investment declined sharply. During 2012 and 2013, the Tunisian Government's focus on the political transition led to a neglect of the economy that resulted in several downgrades of Tunisia's credit rating. As the economy recovers, Tunisia's government faces challenges reassuring businesses and investors, bringing budget and current account deficits under control, shoring up the country's financial system, bringing down high unemployment, and reducing economic disparities between the more developed coastal region and the impoverished interior."

Economic growth rate
2011: 0%
2010: 3.1%

Labor force in agriculture
2009: 18.3%

Unemployment rate
2011: 16%
2010: 14.7%

Public debt
2011: 51.8% of GDP

Export commodities
Clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 63rd among 140 countries (lower rank number is less equal). Less equal than Britain, which ranks 94th, and more equal than the US, which ranks 45th.

Export partners
2010: France 26.5%, Italy 17.4%, Germany 9.6%, Libya 6.2%, UK 5.6%, Spain 4.2%

Health expenditures
2009: 6.2% of GDP



Living in an urban area
2010: 67% – with an annual increase of 1.5%

Ethnic groups
Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Net migration rate
A net loss of 1.78 persons per 1,000 population per year

Literacy, Age 15 and Older
2004 census: males 83.4%, females 65.3%


Between Algeria in the west and Libya in the east. Coastline: 1,424 kilometers along the Mediterranean Sea. Equivalent to 404 by 404 kilometers or 253 by 253 miles.

Recent History

Independent from France in 1956.

Dec 17, 2010: In the town of Sidi Bouzid (see map), Mohammed Bouazizi, 26-year-old fruits and vegetables merchant, responds to police harrassment by setting himself afire. Protests begin in that city – a spark that begins what will be called the Arab spring.

Dec 28: Protests have spread to Tunis, the capital. The president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, describes the protesters as "a minority of extremists" and says the law will be applied "in all firmness" to punish protesters."

Dec 31: Lawyers across Tunisia protest against recent arrests of other lawyers and in solidarity with the protests in Sidi Bouzid.

Jan 14, 2011: President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali vacates his office and flees with his wife and three children to Saudi Arabia.

The World Factbook

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.