Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic, is a country located in North Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast. It is the northernmost country on the African continent, and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. Around forty percent of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and a 1300 km coastline.

Background History

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. Street protests that began in Tunis in December 2010 over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices escalated in January 2011, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. On 14 January 2011, the same day Ben Ali dismissed the government, he fled the country, and by late January 2011, a "national unity government" was formed. In late October 2011, elections for a Constituent Assembly were held. The Constituent Assembly is charged with appointing a new interim government, drafting a new constitution, and preparing for legislative and presidential elections.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Tunisian Republic
  • conventional short form: Tunisia
  • local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
  • local short form: Tunis


  • name: Tunis
  • population: 759,000
  • geographic coordinates: 36 48 N, 10 11 E
  • time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 20 March 1956 (from France)

Government Type:

  • Republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Moncef Marzouki (since 13 December 2011)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali (since 14 December 2011)
  • cabinet: Prime Minister Jebali I was asked to form a new government on 14 December 2011
  • elections: president elected by Constituent Assembly; election last held on 12 December 2011(next to be held NA); prime minister appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: following the 2010-2011 political revolution in Tunisia, a 217-member "Constituent Assembly" was elected on 23 October 2011

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Court of Cassation

People & Society


  • 10,732,900 (global rank: 79)
  • growth rate: 0.964% (global rank: 120)


  • noun: Tunisian(s)
  • adjective: Tunisian

Major Cities:

  • Tunis (capital): 759,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%


  • Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%


  • Arabic (official, one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 75.24 years (global rank: 89)
  • male: 73.2 years
  • female: 77.42 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 24.98 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 80)
  • male: 28.58 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 21.12 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2009 est.) (global rank: 160)
  • people living with AIDS: 2,400 (2009 est.) (global rank: 133)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 74.3%
  • male: 83.4%
  • female: 65.3%


Overview: Tunisia has a diverse, market-oriented economy, with important agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing sectors but faces an array of challenges. Following an ill-fated experiment wih socialist economic policies in the 1960s, Tunisia successfully focused on bolstering exports, foreign investment, and tourism. Key exports now inclulde textiles and apparel, food products, petroleum products, chemicals, and phosphates, with about 80% going to the European Union. Tunisia achieved four decades of 4-5% annual GDP growth. As the presidency wore on, ronyism and corruption under former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali (1987-2011) stymied economic performance and unemployment rose among the university's graduates. In January 2011 Ben Ali was overthrown, sending Tunisia's economy into a tailspin. The country's newly elected government faces immediate challenges stabilizing the economy. It must reassure businesses and investors, bring budget and current account deficits under control, shore up the country's financial system, bring down high unemployment, and reduce economic disparities between the more developed coastal region and impoverished interior.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $101.7 billion (global rank: 70)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $9,500 (global rank: 112)
  • real growth rate: 0% (global rank: 198)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 10.6%, industry: 34.6%, services: 54.8%


  • currency: Tunisian Dinar (TND)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 1.397


  • population below poverty line: 3.8%
  • unemployment rate: 16%

Agricultural 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

Exports Commodities:

  • clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment

Imports Commodities:

  • textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, foodstuffs



  • Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya


  • total: 163,610 sq km (global rank: 93)
  • land: 155,360 sq km
  • water: 8,250 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than Georgia


  • temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south

Land Use:

  • arable land: 17.05%
  • permanent crops: 13.08%
  • other: 69.87%

Natural Resources:

  • petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt

Current Environmental Issues:

  • toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural freshwater resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: none
  • human trafficking: Tunisia is a source, destination, and possible transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; young girls are forced into domestic servitude, some of whom are subsequently sexually and physically abused

Published: Friday, February 13, 2009