Tunisia Economic City aims to boost economy

The project of Tunisia Economic City constitutes a major achievement that will attract foreign investors, in the hope of bolstering the economy.

al-monitor Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa (R) speaks with his French counterpart Manuel Valls during the "Invest in Tunisia, Startup Democracy" international conference in Tunis, Sept. 8, 2014 Photo by REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi.

Topics covered

tunisia, tourism, investment, housing market, foreign investments, employment, economy, business

Sep 11, 2014

The major project of Tunisia Economic City was officially unveiled on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Le Palace Hotel, Gammarth. The ceremony was held amid much fanfare, in the presence of a Saudi delegation led by the partner and founder of the project, Emir Ben Fahd bin Abdulaziz Mokren Al Saud. National Constituent Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar; the initiator of the project, Riadh Khalifa Toukabri; and several other stakeholders also attended.

Tunisia Economic City is a major project aimed at building a modern city in the Enfidha district, which is close to the airport and to the country's largest tourist areas (Hammamet and Sousse), extending up to the Bouficha district (14 kilometers [9 miles] south of Hammamet). Moreover, it will complete the deepwater port project already announced in this same district [Enfidha].

It's a complete city, which lies in a strategic location in the heart of the Mediterranean, at the crossroads between Africa, Europe and the Middle East. It also enjoys international dimension and vocation thanks to the quality and diversity of its components and services.

This pilot project will cost the trifling sum of $50 billion “without incurring any debt,” as per the initiators of the project, with the participation of 50 donors and 30 countries. According to studies initiated by the KPMG, it will have a positive impact on the Tunisian economy and add 3 points to the country's gross domestic product. It aims to attract $5 billion-$7 billion in investments per year and 2 million visitors a year by 2030. Its total construction will extend over a period of 15 years and will contribute to the creation of at least 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Another important point is that investors are not willing to buy the land at a symbolic cost, as was previously the case, but want the Tunisian government to be specifically involved. Moreover, it was specified that “a commission is currently evaluating this contribution and studying the proposed partnership.”

Tunisia Economic City was initiated in mid-2011 and has been approved in principle by the Troika government and the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation on May 2012, Toukabri stated. Upon its start, the project received support, mainly financial, from Saudi investors. But the successive crises in Tunisia throughout 2013 (political murders, terrorist attacks, etc.) had delayed the start of the project.

The initiators of the project were invited to the international conference "Invest in Tunisia Startup Democracy,” held on Monday, Sept. 8, during which they were reassured with promises of a new, democratic and transparent Tunisia. As for the timing and considering this, the decision was taken to present this major initiative to “reassure the Tunisian people” and affirm the support of the international community and investors for this democratic transition, according to Toukabri.

In response to a question, Toukabri highlighted the “government’s support and warm welcome of this major project” as well as the support of the political leaders that the project initiators met, including Rached Ghannouchi, Beji Caid Essebsi and Hamma Hammami.

He also specified that from their part, the [initiators of the project] are ready and only awaiting the blessing of the public authorities to start the project, knowing that it requires setting forth a specific legislation. Moreover, a holding company will be established, which will be tasked with monitoring all the works for the realization of this smart city.

Tunisia Economic City will be designed according to a sustainable development smart approach that respects the environment and optimizes resource management. This approach will aim at ensuring greater efficiency and an improved quality of life. The city will cover a surface area of ​​90 square kilometers [35 square miles] and will run along 18 kilometers [11 miles] of coastline. It will consist of 14 smart zones, four economic centers (tourist, academic, health and commercial) in addition to residential areas.

The project will consist of a commercial port allowing the entry of ships of all sizes; an industrial zone; a free warehouse zone; an exhibit and free trade zone; a downtown and an old town; a media city; a medical city with cutting edge technologies and a city of research and science; a pharmaceutical industries zone; a hospitality and tourism city of very high-standards (with more than 200 resorts, hotels and touristic centers); a residential city with a large tower culminating in the sky; large shopping malls; a sports city; an entertainment city; and one of the most luxurious cities in the world for skating and skiing. A global city for heritage and craftsmanship is also projected, whose architecture will mimic the map of Tunisia. It will be divided according to governorates and will host exhibits, restaurants, commercial areas, workshops and permanent theaters.

This is in addition to the permanent international exhibit of agriculture and animal resources that will attract agricultural investors, companies, laboratories and international manufacturers in this field. Moreover, there will be a center for international agricultural marketing. This exhibit will offer opportunities to exchange experiences in the field of modern agriculture and positive management of animal resources that Tunisia and the region in general are particularly rich in.

The sports city will, for its part, include modern stadiums, sports fields, an Olympic village for sports training and education services, hotels, horseback riding clubs, a Formula 1 circuit and golf courses.

Tunisia Economic City is a promising project that will solve part of the unemployment problem, especially among university graduates in Tunisia. Finally, we hope this project will be put into operation, unlike several other announced projects, such as Tunis Sports City by Bukhatir Group; the Mediterranean Gate planned by Sama Dubai; and the Financial Harbour in Raoued by the Gulf Financial House.

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