Photograph provided by Mariem Chalouati, MEII Tunisia Staff

Photograph provided by Mariem Chalouati, MEII Tunisia Staff


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MEII'S Strategy in TUNISIA

MEII’s objective is to increase access to finance for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Tunisia, and decreasing barriers to financial inclusion for over 90% of small businesses in Tunisia.


Economic activity in Tunisia has been slow in the post-revolutionary period, as real GDP grew only 2.3% in 2014.  In 2015, the IMF and World Bank estimate this rate to slow to 1%.  The recovery in external demand has been largely absent reflecting developments in the European Union, while the domestic demand is increasingly affected by tighter macroeconomic policies. 

The social tensions that marked the first half of 2015, as well as the combined effect of the two dramatic terrorist attacks of the Bardo Museum and the Sousse holiday resort, further negatively affected activity in 2015. This deterioration is also attributable to production declines in mining (social tensions in the phosphate sector), oil and gas, and commercial services (mainly tourism and transport).  Reflecting the slowdown in activity, CPI inflation eased towards 4% in the summer of 2015.  Unemployment slightly increased in 2015, to 15.2%, despite a minor decline in graduate unemployment (from 20.8% to 19.9%).

Photograph provided by Mariem Chalouati, MEII Tunisia Staff.

Photograph provided by Mariem Chalouati, MEII Tunisia Staff.

Small and Medium Enterprises in TUNISIA

According to the IFC, 98% of businesses in Tunisia are MSMEs, which account for about 40% of GDP and56% of employment.  The outlooks remains dim for these firms, which have been constrained by the difficult domestic situation, particularly political instability and insecurity.  While about 71% if MSMEs are banked, one-fourth of SMEs consider access to finance as a major obstacle to the operation of their business.  The most important sources of financing for working capital and fixed assets are internal funds and retained earnings, and more than 40% of all SMEs report being credit constrained.

SMEs play a vital role in Tunisia because at least 97.8% of Tunisian firms (across all sectors) fall into this category as of 2011. In 2010 it was reported that SMEs employ more than 50% of the workforce in the private sector. The main consequence of the prevalence of SMEs in Tunisia’s economic landscape is that all economic development strategies are de facto based on the performance of this category of companies.

SMEs ability to obtain financing for their business operations and investments is therefore crucial to Tunisia s future economic development.

However, access to credit in Tunisia remains limited, particularly for the low-income workers and for consumers. Banks generally neglect micro, small, and medium enterprises, which mainly are part of the informal economy.
MEII is currently making a difference in Tunisia through the programs it runs and manages there, especially regarding facilitating access to credit for SME’s. More insights of MEII’s work and accomplishments in Tunisia can be found on the website mainly under Expertise and Impacts.