News / Africa

Struggling Tunisian Economy Gets Boost From Libyan Conflict

Wissem Abdennadher speaks to a potential customer at the Sfax business fair
Wissem Abdennadher speaks to a potential customer at the Sfax business fair

More than six months after its revolution, the North African country of Tunisia is struggling to get back on its feet. Tourism has plummeted. Tunisians have emigrated in droves. But from the industrial city of Sfax, the economy is getting a boost from an unexpected source - Libya.

A thriving family business

The sound is deafening as Nabil Triki tours his factory. In one room, machines are pumping out small rectangles of his Florida brand chewing gum. Candy production is only one part of Triki's business, which is located on the outskirts of Tunisia's southern industrial city of Sfax. The family company also processes poultry -- and business is booming for both...thanks to one particularly demanding customer: Libya.

Triki says that since Libya's rebel uprising began in February, that country's industrial production has ground to a halt. He says Libyans now rely extensively on neighboring Tunisia and Egypt for their food imports.

Triki says his small factory can't meet the Libyan demand. He's buying new equipment - and hiring more workers.

Libya's conflict - Tunisia's economic revival

But the Libyan conflict has had a two-fold impact.

Khalil Charfi, spokesman for Tunisia's employers' union UTICA, says many Tunisian businesses have been forced to close their operations in Libya.  Critical remittances have dried up as thousands of Tunisian workers headed home. And this small North African country is overwhelmed by thousands of refugees who fled Libya.

All this is adding to an already tough economic situation since this country's own popular revolt in January, which ousted long-term ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisians have left in droves aboard rickety boats, heading for Europe and - they hope - to a better life. Tourists - the country's economic lifeline - still shy away, fearing more unrest. Government statistics show tourism revenues dropped 50 percent in the first half of this year.

Post-revolution Tunisia

As Tunisia lobbied for foreign assistance during the May G8 summit in France, Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed said getting the economy back on track is critical to consolidating its fledgling democracy. "Because if Tunisians don't feel very quickly that democracy is creating the conditions for them to feel better, to feel more prosperous, then we run the risk to see that democratic process fail in the end," he said.

In the capital Tunis, the bustling old Medina is bereft of the summer-time tourists who normally pack its narrow streets. Mahmoud Abdellewi, who sells leather goods, misses them. "We need clients making a tour of the Mediterranean...France or Spain, American, English. A lot from many countries. But this time, we only have Russian people and Poland people...so we really need help, from England, from America, from Beverly Hills!" Abdellewi stated.

Just outside Tunis, the whitewashed Mediterranean town of Sidi Bou Said is also unusually quiet. But 50-year-old jasmine seller Khmais is philosophical.

Jasmine seller Kmais at Sidi Bou Said
Jasmine seller Kmais at Sidi Bou Said

Khmais says business is going slowly. But there are some tourists. And things are better since Ben Ali's departure. People are able to live and work in peace.

In Sfax, many people are also guardedly upbeat. In the evenings, hundreds pack the city's annual business fair, checking out home furnishings and mobile phone offers.  

Fifty-three-year old Jallel Abdellewi is among them. "The business is not yet. It's not like before. But it's going to be better with the time," he said.

Wissem Abdennadher, who sells water purifying products at the fair, agrees business is slowly picking up.

Abdennadher says the people of Sfax are beginning to adapt to post-revolution Tunisia. Like factory owner Triki, he's seeing new demand from Libya.

Both men believe Tunisian companies will bounce back - helping to reconstruct not only their own nation, but also neighboring Libya... after that popular revolt is over.

 

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs