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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs