The following article was contributed to The Korea Post for publication by Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia in Seoul.?Ed.
The year 2015 was an important year in the history of Tunisia which ushered a new era in the country marked by the launching of the second Republic in Tunisia and the winning by the “Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet” of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize as the culmination of the success of its political transitional process.
Notwithstanding that Tunisia has witnessed throughout the last five years, some internal obstacles and a difficult regional conjuncture, its people and civil society have shown their firm commitment to pursue building their democratic modern and tolerant State whatever the challenges they might face, through a genuine process impregnated with dialogue and consensus.
In fact, the National Dialogue as process to tackle all standoffs was triggered and sustained by a proactive “quartet” which includes the Labor Union (Tunisian General Labor Union: UGTT), the Business Union (Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts: UTICA), the Bar Order and the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH).
This has led to the acceleration of the adoption of a modernist and consensual new constitution by the National Constituent Assembly which paved the way to setting up an Independent electoral body, The Higher Independent Authority for the Elections (ISIE), which organized and monitored the first ever free fair and transparent legislative and presidential elections in the last quarter of 2014.
Subsequently, Tunisia has been ranked 57th in the world and first among Arab countries in the Democracy Index 2015 prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2015, basically thanks to its high score in the "electoral process and pluralism". It is the best ranking ever for an Arab country since the publication of such reports by The Economist.
Since then, Tunisia has been enjoying a progressive political stability through its elected parliament and president and engaged in building its other permanent constitutional institutions and the startup of its economic transition for a more efficient, inclusive and just development model.
Therefore, the year 2016 which coincides with the celebration of 60th anniversary of the Independence of Tunisia, will be yet another a pivotal year for Tunisia as it marks the kicking off of the implementation of its economic reforms after the adoption a new economic development plan for 2015 - 2020 and a new Investment code besides the launch in November 2015 of the strategy “Digital Tunisia 2018”. These policies are intended to induce a new development model for the country extolling inclusiveness, transparency, entrepreneurship and less regulation and administrative burdens, and will lead to the acceleration of the influx of more foreign investment.
In this regard, the new investment code allows foreign companies to freely transfer their foreign currency profits and assets and plans for numerous tax and financial advantages for companies operating in primary sectors or in the less-favoured regions of the country. It also plans for the setting up of a unique institution serving investors, the National Authority for Investment, and the substitution of authorizations by specifications in most economic sectors. With these new incentives, FDI are expected to double by 2020 and Tunisia is poised to be as a new FDI hub in the future.
The digital economy plan through its ambitious smart IT & ITES off-shoring projects totaling USD 2.5 billion is offering tremendous opportunities for investment and setting up startups. In this regard, Tunisia is among the top 10 places to launch a startup as stated by “Forbes Magazine”. It was ranked 7 just after Sidney and before London thanks to its growing enabling ecosystem.
Furthermore, Tunisia has a second axis of a high added value to attract foreign investments embodied by mechanical and electronic industries, where Tunisia can boast a proven success, knowing that our country has 267 companies with foreign participation, operating in automotive and avionics components.
As a matter of fact, some foreign companies specialized in aeronautics and automotive components are seriously mulling the possibility of setting up assembly units in Tunisia whose output is intended for the whole Middle East and Africa.
An International conference on the five- year development plan (2016-2020) is scheduled to be held next September in Tunis and to which many countries will participate along with International organizations and Financial Institutions. A development plan which requires 63 billion USD of investments over five years, out of which 23 billion USD of foreign investments, will be presented to the participants as well as the mega-projects planned in Tunisia for the next few coming years in order to look for partners, foreign investments and financing.
Taking into consideration the huge Korean potentialities in these fields, we believe that the Tunisia-Korea relations should grow in 2016 thanks to the political will and support of the leadership of the two countries as well as the attractive business environment and real opportunities offered by the Tunisian site.
Political exchanges both at governmental and parliamentarian levels are most likely to be implemented in 2016 and will surely send a positive message to the corporate community to be more proactive for setting up win-win partnerships.
At the economic level, the Embassy will sustain its steady efforts to boost Korean FDI inflows in Tunisia in the future, with special focus on a gamut of areas of high potentials and offering tangible investment opportunities such as ICT, infrastructure and renewable energy and other high added value industries.
Cultural and academic cooperation between Tunisia and Korea will also be boosted up, since we consider that cultural and people-to-people exchanges should always be a cornerstone of any sustainable and long-lasting relationships between countries and nations.