Tunisia is a priority country in SECO's economic and development cooperation. Although significant progress was made in the area of democratisation, economic reforms have lagged behind, resulting in weak economic development in recent years. As a result, the country is experiencing rising unemployment and increasing regional disparities. Switzerland has a cooperation programme with Tunisia (2021-24), under which SECO promotes sustainable and inclusive economic development in the country.
Significant progress has been made over the past decade in Tunisia, particularly in terms of democratic reforms. After the revolution of 2010/2011, Tunisia set out on a path to creating a modern democracy with marked decentralisation, the adoption of a new constitution as well as presidential and parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, these political successes have since stalled and have not yet led to noticeable economic improvements.
Barriers to inclusive economic development
As a country that relies heavily on tourism, Tunisia's economy has been hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, GDP dropped by about 7%,unemployment rose to nearly 18%, and was particularly high among young people. But even before the health crisis, the country was experiencing a deficit in macroeconomic and sectoral policies. Inefficient bureaucracy and dense regulation for businesses led to low productivity and low competitiveness, further reinforced by rampant nepotism and a resulting opaque business environment. These obstacles undermine Tunisia's comparative advantages, such as low production costs, the availability of a well-trained workforce and its favourable location on the Mediterranean.
What are SECO’s objectives?
Switzerland contributes to sustainable peace and inclusive economic development in Tunisia. SECO, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs' Peace and Human Rights Division and the State Secretariat for Migration jointly develop and implement the Swiss cooperation programme in the country. The three main objectives of this programme are to promote inclusive and sustainable economic development, strengthen public institutions and civil society, and ensure good governance in migration. SECO works mainly in the first area, focusing particularly on:
- Public sector and basic infrastructure
SECO, in cooperation with other development partners, provides technical assistance to the government in implementing reforms in the public sector and in financial and investment management. This makes for a more efficient and transparent administration. In addition, SECO directly supports public service providers in order to improve the quality of services and minimise costs.
- Macroeconomic framework conditions and business climate
SECO provides technical support to key macroeconomic policy actors to optimise the management of monetary policies, fiscal balance, employment, entrepreneurship and public debt issues. SECO also provides technical support towards the reform of the legal and regulatory framework for investment and improving the business climate in general. The aim is to create an environment that promotes dynamic economic development while taking into account environmental and social aspects.
- Private enterprise, value chains and vocational training
SECO supports the private sector directly and by improving economic framework-conditions in order to boost the productivity and competitiveness of Tunisian companies. By supporting vocational education and training, SECO improves companies' access to a qualified workforce and gives young people, including women, greater career opportunities. SECO also helps facilitate trade and promotes sustainable value chains, which creates decent jobs for young Tunisians.
Gender equality, a climate-friendly approach and the efficient use of resources are prerequisites for a sustainable and inclusive economic development. These aspects are therefore taken into account in all SECO activities. A budget of approximately CHF 101 million has been earmarked for Switzerland's international cooperation with Tunisia between 2021 and 2024, of which SECO will contribute around CHF 40 million.