Introduction    Tunisia Top of Page
Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in getting the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country's first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. BEN ALI is currently serving his fifth consecutive five-year term as president. Tunisia has long taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
   Geography    Tunisia Top of Page
Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya
Geographic coordinates:
34 00 N, 9 00 E
Map references:
total: 163,610 sq km
land: 155,360 sq km
water: 8,250 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries:
total: 1,424 km
border countries: Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km
1,148 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 12 nm
temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south
mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Shatt al Gharsah -17 m
highest point: Jebel ech Chambi 1,544 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
Land use:
arable land: 17.05%
permanent crops: 13.08%
other: 69.87% (2005)
Irrigated land:
3,940 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
4.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 2.64 cu km/yr (14%/4%/82%)
per capita: 261 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
Environment - current issues:
toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
strategic location in central Mediterranean; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration
   People    Tunisia Top of Page
10,589,025 (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 22.2% (male 1,213,664/female 1,137,084)
15-64 years: 70.5% (male 3,759,955/female 3,704,677)
65 years and over: 7.3% (male 358,447/female 415,198) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 29.7 years
male: 29.1 years
female: 30.3 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.969% (2010 est.)
Birth rate:
15.31 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
Death rate:
5.24 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
urban population: 67% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.073 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 21.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.39 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.99 years
male: 74.17 years
female: 77.94 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.71 children born/woman (2010 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
3,700 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2007 est.)
noun: Tunisian(s)
adjective: Tunisian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74.3%
male: 83.4%
female: 65.3% (2004 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 15 years (2008)
Education expenditures:
7.2% of GDP (2007)
   Government    Tunisia Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Tunisian Republic
conventional short form: Tunisia
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
local short form: Tunis
Government type:
name: Tunis
geographic coordinates: 36 48 N, 10 11 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
24 governorates; Ariana (Aryanah), Beja (Bajah), Ben Arous (Bin 'Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), Gabes (Qabis), Gafsa (Qafsah), Jendouba (Jundubah), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Al Qasrayn), Kebili (Qibili), Kef (Al Kaf), Mahdia (Al Mahdiyah), Manouba (Manubah), Medenine (Madanin), Monastir (Al Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi Bou Zid (Sidi Bu Zayd), Siliana (Silyanah), Sousse (Susah), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Tawzar), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwan)
20 March 1956 (from France)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 20 March (1956); also the anniversary of BEN ALI's assumption of the presidency, 7 November (1987)
1 June 1959; amended 1988, 2002
Legal system:
based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal except for active government security forces (including the police and the military), people with mental disabilities, people who have served more than three months in prison (criminal cases only), and people given a suspended sentence of more than six months
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Zine el Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987)
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed GHANNOUCHI (since 17 November 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); election last held on 25 October 2009 (next to be held in October 2014); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI reelected for a fifth term; percent of vote - Zine El Abidine BEN ALI 89.6%, Mohamed BOUCHIHA 5%, Ahmed INOUBLI 3.8%, Ahmed BRAHIM 1.6%; voter turnout 89.4%
Legislative branch:
bicameral system consists of the Chamber of Advisors (126 seats; 85 members elected by municipal counselors, deputies, mayors, and professional associations and trade unions; 41 members are presidential appointees; members serve six-year terms); and the Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (214 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Chamber of Advisors - last held on 3 July 2005 (next to be held in July 2011); Chamber of Deputies - last held on 25 October 2009 (next to be held in October 2014);
election results: Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - RCD 84.6%, MDS 4.6%, PUP 3.4%, UDU 2.6%, PSL 2.2%, PVP 1.7%, Al-Tajdid 0.5%; seats by party - RCD 161, MDS 16, PUP 12, UDU 9, PSL 8, PVP 6, Al-Tajdid 2; voter turnout 89.4%
Judicial branch:
Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation
Political parties and leaders:
Al-Tajdid Movement [Ahmed IBRAHIM]; Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique) or RCD [President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI] (official ruling party); Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties or FDTL [Mustapha Ben JAFAAR]; Green Party for Progress or PVP [Mongi KHAMASSI]; Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mondher THABET]; Movement of Socialist Democrats or MDS [Ismail BOULAHYA]; Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed BOUCHIHA]; Progressive Democratic Party [Maya JERIBI]; Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Ahmed INOUBLI]; note - the Islamist party, Al Nahda (Renaissance), is outlawed
Political pressure groups and leaders:
18 October Group [collective leadership]; Tunisian League for Human Rights or LTDH [Mokhtar TRIFI]
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Habib MANSOUR
chancery: 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005
telephone: [1] (202) 862-1850
FAX: [1] (202) 862-1858
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Gordon GRAY
embassy: Zone Nord-Est des Berges du Lac Nord de Tunis 1053
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [216] 71 107-000
FAX: [216] 71 963-263
Flag description:
red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; resembles the Ottoman flag (red banner with white crescent and star) and recalls Tunisia's history as part of the Ottoman Empire; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam
note: the flag is based on that of Turkey, itself a succesor state to the Ottoman Empire
National anthem:

name: "Humat Al Hima" (Defenders of the Homeland)
lyrics/music: Mustafa Sadik AL-RAFII and Aboul-Qacem ECHEBBI/Mohamad Abdel WAHAB
note: adopted 1957, replaced 1958, restored 1987; Mohamad Abdel WAHAB also composed the music for the anthem of the United Arab Emirates
   Economy    Tunisia Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Progressive social policies also have helped raise living conditions in Tunisia relative to the region. Real growth, which averaged almost 5% over the past decade, declined to 4.6% in 2008 and to 0.3% in 2009 because of economic contraction and slowing of import demand in Europe - Tunisia's largest export market. However, development of non-textile manufacturing, a recovery in agricultural production, and strong growth in the services sector somewhat mitigated the economic effect of slowing exports. Tunisia will need to reach even higher growth levels to create sufficient employment opportunities for an already large number of unemployed as well as the growing population of university graduates. The challenges ahead include: privatizing industry, liberalizing the investment code to increase foreign investment, improving government efficiency, reducing the trade deficit, and reducing socioeconomic disparities in the impoverished south and west.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$84.04 billion (2009 est.)
$82.96 billion (2008 est.)
$79.33 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$40.04 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.3% (2009 est.)
4.6% (2008 est.)
6.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$8,000 (2009 est.)
$8,000 (2008 est.)
$7,700 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 11%
industry: 35.3%
services: 53.7% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
3.74 million (2009 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 18.3%
industry: 31.9%
services: 49.8% (2009 est.)
Unemployment rate:
14.7% (2009 est.) 14.2% (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line:
3.8% (2005 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.3%
highest 10%: 31.5% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
40 (2005 est.) 41.7 (1995 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
25.9% of GDP (2009 est.)
revenues: $9.217 billion
expenditures: $11.62 billion (2009 est.)
Public debt:
53% of GDP (2009 est.) 46.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
3.7% (2009 est.) 5.1% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
Stock of narrow money:
$10.07 billion (31 December 2009) $9.917 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of broad money:
$16.55 billion (31 December 2009) $14.72 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of domestic credit:
$28.06 billion (31 December 2009) $26.5 billion (31 December 2008)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$9.309 billion (31 December 2009) $6.374 billion (31 December 2008) $5.355 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds; beef, dairy products
petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages
Industrial production growth rate:
-1.7% (2009 est.)
Electricity - production:
11.08 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
11.8 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - exports:
130 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
145 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
86,930 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
90,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports:
77,130 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports:
87,300 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
425 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production:
2.97 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
4.22 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
1.25 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
65.13 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
Current account balance:
-$2.117 billion (2009 est.) -$1.711 billion (2008 est.)
$14.42 billion (2009 est.) $19.18 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment
Exports - partners:
France 29.6%, Italy 21%, Germany 8.8%, Libya 5.8%, Spain 5%, UK 4.8% (2009 est.)
$19.03 billion (2009 est.) $23.19 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
France 20.1%, Italy 16.4%, Germany 8.8%, China 5%, Spain 4.5%, US 4% (2009 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$11.06 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $8.853 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$15.64 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $20.81 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$30.48 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $29.08 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$170 million (31 December 2009 est.) $155 million (31 December 2008 est.)
Exchange rates:
Tunisian dinars (TND) per US dollar - 1.3494 (2009), 1.211 (2008), 1.2776 (2007), 1.331 (2006), 1.2974 (2005)
   Communications    Tunisia Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
1.239 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
8.569 million (2008)
Telephone system:
general assessment: above the African average and continuing to be upgraded; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis; telephone network is completely digitized; Internet access available throughout the country
domestic: in an effort to jumpstart expansion of the fixed-line network, the government has awarded a concession to build and operate a VSAT network with international connectivity; rural areas are served by wireless local loops; competition between the two mobile-cellular service providers has resulted in lower activation and usage charges and a strong surge in subscribership; a third mobile, fixed, and ISP operator was licensed in 2009 and will begin offering services in 2010; expansion of mobile-cellular services to include multimedia messaging and e-mail and Internet to mobile phone services also leading to a surge in subscribership; overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity is about 95 telephones per 100 persons
international: country code - 216; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel; 2 international gateway digital switches
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7, FM 38, shortwave 2 (2007)
Television broadcast stations:
26 (plus 76 repeaters) (1995)
Broadcast media:
broadcast media is mainly government-controlled; the state-run Tunisian Radio and Television Establishment (ERTT) operates 2 national television networks, several national radio networks, and a number of regional radio stations; 1 TV and 3 radio stations are privately-owned and report domestic news stories directly from the official Tunisian news agency; the state retains control of broadcast facilities and transmitters through L'Office National de la Telediffusion; Tunisians also have access to Egyptian, pan-Arab, and European satellite TV channels (2007)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
406 (2009)
Internet users:
2.8 million (2008)
   Transportation    Tunisia Top of Page
32 (2009)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 16
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2010)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 16
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 7 (2010)
gas 2,179 km; oil 1,285 km; refined products 372 km (2009)
total: 2,167 km
standard gauge: 471 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 1,688 km 1.000-m gauge (65 km electrified)
dual gauge: 8 km (2008)
total: 19,232 km
paved: 12,655 km (includes 262 km of expressways)
unpaved: 6,577 km (2006)
Merchant marine:
total: 11
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 2, chemical tanker 2, passenger/cargo 4, roll on/roll off 2
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Bizerte, Gabes, La Goulette, Rades, Sfax, Skhira
   Military    Tunisia Top of Page
Military branches:
Army, Navy, Republic of Tunisia Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jamahiriyah At'tunisia) (2008)
Military service age and obligation:
20 years of age for compulsory military service, 18 years of age for voluntary military service; 1-year conscript service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 3,065,431
females age 16-49: 2,974,060 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 2,594,602
females age 16-49: 2,510,159 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 96,697
female: 90,599 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
1.4% of GDP (2006)
   Transnational Issues    Tunisia Top of Page

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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