Tunisia is a lower-income country in North Africa. While important progress has been made on the political front, economic growth has not developed at the same pace. In 2019, Tunisia had a population of 11.6 million people with a GDP growth rate of 1% and a per capita income of $3,317. Both the GDP growth rate and GDP per capita have been falling in the past five years. The fragmentation of the political party system and the relative difficulty in reaching consensus on the key economic reforms have combined with external constraints –such as the conflict in neighboring Libya and the continued threat of instability – to slow economic recovery.
Additionally, there is a growing social dissatisfaction with the lack of employment opportunities for women and youth in particular. The World Bank reports that Tunisia is one of the few countries in the world where a higher level of education decreases employability, especially for women. This has resulted in the emigration of many youth and women to neighboring countries to find employment, posing a further threat to economic growth and stability. However, unemployment has remained high and is rising, reaching 16% in 2019, and is more than twice as high for youths (36.4%).
While the information on the entrepreneur landscape in Tunisia is somewhat limited, it’s estimated there are over 600,000 SMEs in Tunisia which are responsible for 59% of total employment. There is broad recognition that the development of SMEs and the entrepreneurial system will be important components to addressing youth unemployment.
CEED has partnered with the USAID Mission in Tunisia to provide critically needed business capacity programming to existing entrepreneurs and develop the entrepreneurial network in Tunisia. Since opening the center in Tunis in 2014, CEED has run accelerator programs, job fairs, pitch competitions, and other training programs for entrepreneurs. The center, and it’s 13 chapters across the country, focus particularly on women and youth entrepreneurship, along with growing the fintech space. In 2019, there were 764 active members with 200 of them being youth entrepreneurs and 53% of the CEED enterprises being women-led.