Tunisia (TN)

Capital

Tunis

Population

11.5 million

Constitution

Presidential rule by emergency decree; parliament suspended

Head of state

President Kais Saied

National Day

March 20th

Tunisia's Ambassador to the UK

H.E. Mr Nabil Ben Khedher

Embassy of Tunisia, 29 Prince’s Gate, London, SW7 1QG

UK' Ambassador to Tunisia

H.E Ms Helen Winterton

British Embassy Tunis, Rue du Lac Windermere, Les Berges du Lac, Tunis, 1053, Tunisia

The Republic of Tunisia is the smallest country in the North Africa region, covering 163,610 square km. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, by Libya to the southeast, and by the Mediterranean Sea to the east and north. The northern part of the country is mountainous along the Atlas Mountains whereas the rest is low-lying, with the south merging into the Sahara Desert. Tunis is the capital and largest city in the country.

Population

The population of Tunisia is an estimated 11,700,000 people. The ethnic breakdown is Arab 98%, European 1%, and other 1%. The official language is Arabic. Berber languages are also spoken. French, although not an official language, continues to play a major role in business, the media, and across the education system. It is spoken by roughly two-thirds of the population.

The median age in Tunisia is 32.7 years and the population is growing at a rate of 0.85%. Life expectancy is 76.3 years. The literacy rate is 81.8% while the unemployment rate stands at 15.4%.

Government

Tunisia is a representative democracy comprising of an executive president, a legislature and judiciary. The executive branch is made up of the president (as head of state) the prime minister (as head of government) and the cabinet. Legislative authority is held by a single chamber, the Assembly of the People’s Representatives. This chamber has 217 seats, 199 of which are directly elected in Tunisian multi-seat constituencies and 18 in multi-seat constituencies abroad by party-list proportional representation vote. Members serve 5-year terms.

The judiciary is divided into four branches: the ordinary judiciary headed by a Supreme Court, the administrative judiciary, the financial judiciary, and the Constitutional Court.

History

Due to its strategic location in the centre of North Africa, close to vital shipping routes, Tunisia has been an important player in the Mediterranean throughout history.

Tunisia gained independence from France on 20 March 1956 and one year later the country proclaimed itself a republic, with Habib Bourguiba its first president. Bourguiba remained president until 1987 when in a constitutional change he was succeeded by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ben Ali’s regime was overthrown in January 2011 as part of the so-called Arab Spring. In 2014, Tunisia approved a new constitution which resulted in the organisation of successful parliamentary and presidential elections.

Religion

Islam is the official religion in Tunisia, and around 98% of the country’s inhabitants describe themselves as Sunni Muslim. There are also small Christian, Jewish, and Baha’i communities.

Economy

The currency in Tunisia is the Tunisian Dinar (TND). In the most part, its economy remains dominated by a handful of sectors, namely mineral exports, including petroleum and phosphates, manufacturing, particularly textiles and clothes and agriculture. Its main agricultural commodities include citrus fruits, olive oil, tomatoes, dates, and almonds, with the sector accounting for roughly 10% of GDP. Tourism has also provided a significant source of revenue, however a string of terrorist attacks in recent years have hit the sector hard.

Exports are a key part of the economy and Tunisia relies heavily on trade with Europe, especially France, Italy and Germany. Indeed, 80% of its exports are to the European Union. 

Regional disparities between the more fertile and economically developed north and the arid central and southern regions, high unemployment and corruption have beset Tunisia’s economy in the past. As a result, the Tunisian Government is seeking increased foreign investment and is working with the IMF through an Extended Fund Facility agreement to fix fiscal deficiencies.

Key dates

Circa 1100 BC
Phoenicians settle North African coast. The city of Carthage- near present day Tunis- becomes great naval empire
146 BC
Rome defeats Carthage following Hannibal wars in Africa and Italy and destroys the city
600s
Arabs invade present day Tunisia
909
Berbers take the country from the Arabs
1574
Ottomans finally conquer the former Hafsid Tunisia
1881
FRENCH COLONY: French troops occupy Tunis and Tunisia becomes French protectorate in 1883
1934
RISE OF BOURGUIBA: Tunisian lawyer Habib Bourguiba founds independence movement, known as Neo-Destour
1942
WORLD WAR 2: German troops arrive in Tunis to resist Allies in Algeria
1943
WORLD WAR 2: Allies drive out German troops following victory in Battle of El Alamein in Egypt
1956
BOURGUIBA COMES TO POWER: Tunisia becomes Independent. Nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba becomes first prime minister
1957
MONARCHY OVERTHROWN: King Muhammed VIII is overthrown and the monarchy is abolished. Tunisia becomes. republic with Bourguiba as its first president
1981
1ST MULTI PARTY ELECTIONS: Bourguiba's party wins by a landslide Tunisia's first multi-party elections
1985
ISRAEL STRIKES PLO IN TUNISIA: An Israeli airstrike against the PLO HQ at Hammam Chott near Tunis kills approximately 60 people
Nov' 1987
FALL OF BOURGUIBA: Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali replaces Bourguiba -after 30 years in power- in a bloodless palace coupF
April 2000
FATHER OF MODERN TUNISIA DIES: Bourghiba dies at the age of 95 and is entered in mausoleum in Monastir, the coastal city where he was born
2002
DJERBA BOMBING: A bomb in a Djerba synagogue kills 19 people including 11 German tourists, severely damaging the country's vital tourism industry. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility
Dec' 2010
ARAB SPRING BEGINS IN TUNISIA: Street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the northern coastal city of Ben Arous on December 17th 2010, and dies on January 4th 2011. His death triggers street what became known as the Arab Spring
Jan' 2011
FALL OF BEN ALI: Long term president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali resigns presidency his 23 year rule and flies into exile to Saudi Arabia
Oct' 2011
MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD VICTIORY: Islamist Ennahda party wins parliamentary elections but without overall majority
2015
TOURIST MASSACRE BY IS: An Islamic State group gunman kills 38 people, mainly tourists, on beach at Sousse
2019
KAIS SAIED BECOMES PRESIDENT: Retired law professor Kais Saied wins presidency on anti-corruption ticket
July 2021
President Saied suspends parliament and fires prime minister Hichem Mechichi after violent anti-government protests
Sept' 2021
President Saied appoints Najla Bouden Romdhane as Tunisia's first woman prime minister

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