Tunisia has a mixed economy with both public and private
companies. Business is based on oil and phosphate
extraction, textile industry and tourism. In 2009, 18 per
cent of the labor force was employed in agriculture, 35 per
cent in industry and 47 per cent in the service sector.
Despite investments in labor-intensive production and
despite the fact that about 13 percent of the labor force
works abroad, underemployment is high.
During the 1990s, the country implemented sweeping
economic reforms; inter alia state companies were privatized
and large sums were invested in education and development
projects. This modernization has had a positive effect, and
the country has had a stable economic growth during the
COUNTRYAAH, about half the country's area can be used for
agriculture, mainly as pasture. The most fertile areas are
in the north, while scattered oasis farms are in the
rain-poor south. Since the 1980s, major efforts have been
made to modernize and expand the artificial irrigated area.
During the 1960s, a comprehensive program of agricultural
reforms was initiated. The basis of this was collective
farming (at least 500 ha) with merged small farms and land
expropriated from French colonialists and large property
owners. However, collectivization failed, and since the
1970s the role of the private sector in agriculture has
increased. Today, agriculture consists of small farms using
traditional farming methods and large modern, mechanized
The most important crops are wheat, barley, olives,
fruits and vegetables; olives and fruits are exported.
Tunisia's agriculture is hampered by uneven rainfall and
fluctuating harvests; the country is not self-sufficient
with food even during good years.
With the 1,300 km long coastline, Tunisia's fishing
conditions are favorable. Mainly landed sardines and tuna.
Major efforts are being made to expand the fishery. Catches
increased sharply over a period, but during the late 1990s
and early 00s they declined again as a result of
overfishing. However, catches have recently increased again,
mainly thanks to a modernization of the fishing fleet.
Minerals and energy
Phosphate, oil and natural gas have long been of great
importance to Tunisia's economy. However, during the 1990s,
the economy has expanded and the dominant position of these
commodities has decreased. In addition, smaller amounts of
iron, lead and zinc are mined. Tunisia is the world's fourth
largest producer of phosphate, which is mined in the western
parts of the country and is mainly processed for the
production of chemicals and fertilizers for export.
Oil is mainly extracted from the al-Borma field in the
south, Douleb in the west and from the off-shore field in
Lilla Syrten. Natural gas is mainly extracted in al-Borma,
but new discoveries have been made off the coast
(Miskarfältet). Tunisia is self-sufficient when it comes to
natural gas but imports about half its oil demand.
The import substitution policy introduced in the 1960s
was unsuccessful as capital-intensive production dominated
and the domestic market was limited. Since the 1970s, they
have instead focused on labor-intensive and export-oriented
production, where the textile and clothing industry has a
prominent role. The food industry is also significant. Other
activities include the production of building materials and
the mechanical, electromechanical and chemical industries.
More than half of Tunisia's industry is concentrated in
Tunis. Other industrial species are Sousse, Sfax, Gabès and
Banzart on the coast as well as Qafsa and Kasserine in
western, central Tunisia.
Tunisia has a permanent trade deficit, and since the
1960s, the export value has only corresponded to about 60
percent of imports. The most important export goods are
textile and food products. Other important export goods are
machinery, agricultural products, leather goods and
phosphate. The most important import goods are textiles,
chemicals, iron and steel, as well as food, electrical
equipment and transport. The most important trading partners
are France, Italy and Germany.
Tourism and gastronomy
Tunisia's large-scale tourism started in the 1960s and
1970s with the development of bathing tourism. Tunisia was
visited in 2012 by 6 million visitors, which was a decline
from previous years. The reason for the decline was the
country's political unrest in 2010-11. It is mainly tourists
from neighboring countries and Europe who visit the country.
Most of the tourists have the coastal zone at Hammamat
Bay south to al-Mahdiya. Cities such as Hammamat, Sousse,
al-Munastir and al-Mahdiya, as well as the farther south of
Sfax, have old town centers with narrow streets, exciting
bazaar blocks, worthy mosques (in Sousse and al-Munastir in
the form of a kind of fortified monastery from the Middle
Ages). and interesting museums with high-class objects from
mainly Roman times (especially mosaics).
To see the well-preserved Roman ruins you have to go
inland. In El-Djem (see Thysdrus) there is an amphitheater
that is smaller but better preserved than the Colosseum in
Rome. One of the international destinations of Islamic
culture is the great mosque in Kairouan, the oldest of which
dates back to the 600s; the city is also a center for making
carpets. In Nabul, not far from Hammamat, ceramics are made
in the form of vessels and tiles, mainly in blue and white.
But it is in Tunismedina, the old town center, where you
will find the largest bazaar for fabrics and clothing,
jewelry, spices, carpets, shoes, leather work and much more.
There are also interesting and partly very old mosques and
tombs, Koran schools, palaces and small traditional cafes.
On the outskirts of the city is the famous Bardom Museum,
housed in the ancient Beirut palace, with famous collections
from Roman and Muslim eras (including beautiful wall tiles),
but also interesting objects from the Punic period. If you
want to see more of the Punic culture, you should visit
Carthage just north of Tunis, with the excavated city hill,
the harbor and the Baal Temple.
The regions west and southwest of Tunis exhibit a stately
landscape with dark mountains and greenery on plains and
ravines. Here are hot springs, which have been exploited
since Roman times, further afield towards the Algerian
border large forests of cork oak, inhabited by wild boars.
In the south, the Sahara begins, with higher daytime
temperatures and intensely lush oases, some of which, such
as Nafta and Tawzar, are larger resorts with excellent
hotels. The journey on the road bank across the salt lake
Shatt al-Jarid, which sometimes looks like a large shallow
sea, sometimes like a white sparkling ice crust in the heat,
is a strange experience. From the large oasis at Gabès, the
only seaside in North Africa, with 300,000 date palms, you
can continue on to the holiday island of Jarba, whose soft
cultivation landscape, massive building condition and
interesting handicraft products are different from the rest
Tunisia's rich gastronomic offer has white-branched
roots, where Bedouins, Phoenicians, Romans, Turks, Jews and
Frenchmen have all left their mark. A refined flavoring of
the usual simple ingredients is common, although in general
it can be said that in Tunisia a stronger spice is
preferred. So, for example, the couscous found
throughout Tunisia in Tunisia is heavily harissed. It is
cooked in vegetarian form, almost always with chickpeas, or
with lamb or fish.
The meal is often started with soup, bride,
cooked on beans, lentils or chickpeas with lamb, fish or
chicken. The Tajine stew is cooked in Tunisia with
rabbit or lamb and plum, flavored with fennel and lemon.
Marinated vegetables served with pancakes (brisket)
stuffed with minced meat, cheese and eggs are a popular
dish, as are chakchouka, tomatoes with eggs and
bell peppers. Fish (sardines, mullus, tuna) are grilled or
marinated with lemon fruits or olives.
Pastries with millimeter-thin puff pastry, filled with
nuts, honey and almonds, as well as honey or syrup marinated
dates and other fruits are eaten with delight.
The most important Tunisian vineyards are located on the
hillsides in a crescent around the capital Tunis; it also
produces an excellent nutmeg at Qulaybiya on Cape Bon
Peninsula. Much of the production consists of table wines,
and the quality can be uneven. A common drink for both the
strong food and the sweet desserts is mint. Boukha
is a kind of fig brandy that is suitable for rounding off a