Tunisian national monument on the Place de la Kasbah in Tunis

Tunisia Country in transition

What has become known as the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010/2011. The reform movement, after decades of authoritarian government, led to a political turnaround and the introduction of a comprehensive democratisation process.

Straight to
Passers-by in the bazaar of Tunis

Despite this promising start, Tunisia – which was regarded as a beacon of hope in Northern Africa – has to contend with political instability, social inequalities and a severe economic crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a serious economic downturn (by 8.8 per cent) in 2020 and highlighted the fact that much needed structural reforms had been delayed.

Power struggles within the government, frequent changes of government, a fragmented party political landscape and widespread corruption had all played a part in stalling the reform process. The living conditions of ordinary Tunisians have barely improved since the political changes that took place ten years ago. The hoped for “democracy dividend” did not materialise. Discontent over this finds expression in frequent strikes and sometimes violent protests.

In late July 2021, State President Kais Saied used the nationwide protests about government policies and its management of the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to take over the running of the government, dismiss the prime minister and the cabinet and freeze parliament – initially for a period of 30 days. Since then, Tunisia has been at a crossroads. Now the time has come to safeguard the democratic achievements made so far, place the country on a solid basis in both economic and financial policy terms, and effectively contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

German development cooperation with Tunisia

Germany has a vested interest in seeing a region that is so close to Europe become stable again. Tunisia is an important strategic partner in realising that goal. That is why the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) significantly increased its support for Tunisia following the latter's political turnaround in 2010/2011. In 2020, the BMZ newly committed an amount of 190.4 million euros.

Cooperation in four core areas

As part of the BMZ 2030 reform agenda, Germany's development cooperation with Tunisia is undergoing a strategic re-orientation. Germany wants to agree with its Tunisian partners that cooperation in the next few years will focus on the following core areas:

  • Training and sustainable growth for decent jobs
    (Areas of intervention: vocational education and training, private sector and financial sector development)
  • Peaceful and inclusive societies
    (Area of intervention: good governance)
  • Responsibility for our planet – climate and energy
    (Area of intervention: renewable energy and energy efficiency)
  • Protecting life on Earth – the environment and natural resources
    (Area of intervention: water)

Promotion of employment is a cross-cutting issue of development cooperation. Projects in these areas are being promoted especially in structurally weak regions further inland, in order to create opportunities for people there and thus prevent irregular migration.

Emergency COVID-19 Support Programme

Logo of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Tunisia has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the country came through the first wave of infections in spring 2020 rather well by imposing severe restrictions, the number of infections started to rise rapidly from the summer of 2020 onwards. By spring 2021, Tunisia's health care system was severely overstretched.

The BMZ worked with the country's authorities to put together an Emergency COVID-19 Support Programme for Tunisia. By redirecting funds and allocating additional budget funds, the BMZ was able to make available 43 million euros to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds were used to procure items such as medical hygiene products and emergency generators and ventilators for hospitals. The emergency support programme also helped to fund social transfers for needy families and the vaccination campaign.

An apprentice in the GIZ training container in Tunis, where craftsmen are trained

Core area “Training and sustainable growth for decent jobs” Improving the job prospects for young people Internal link

Given Tunisia's high unemployment rate among young people, it is particularly important to create jobs and thus give the young people prospects for the future. Until now, a shortage of training opportunities, a lack of access to financial services and excessive bureaucracy have been acting as a curb on entrepreneurial activities.

A man sells flowers to a passer-by in the old town of Tunis.

Core area “Peaceful and inclusive societies” Responsive services for the people Internal link

The constitution adopted in 2014 envisages the restructuring of administrative authorities at the regional and municipal level in Tunisia and a transfer of responsibilities to lower administrative tiers. The BMZ is supporting selected cities and municipalities in fulfilling their new tasks with a view to enabling the delivery of services that are more reliable, more transparent and more responsive to people's needs, and with the aim of ensuring greater political participation.

Wind turbines in El Alia, Tunisia

Core area “Responsibility for our planet – climate and energy” Promoting renewable energies, launching an energy transition Internal link

Tunisia has set itself the ambitious goal of generating about a third of its energy demand from renewable sources by the year 2030. Currently, 97 per cent of the country's energy comes from fossil fuels, mainly imported from abroad.

Olive harvest near Kairouan, Tunisia

Core area “Protecting life on Earth – the environment and natural resources” The threat of water shortages Internal link

In many regions in the interior of the country, people's livelihoods are under threat because of the increasing shortage of water. At the same time, demand is constantly increasing, especially in the country's irrigation-intensive agriculture.

Current situation

Passers-by in the bazaar of Tunis
Counter of a café in Tunisia
Employee in a call center in Tunis