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. Elections for the new Constituent Assembly were held in late October 2011, and in December, it elected human rights activist Moncef Marzouki as interim president. The Assembly began drafting a new constitution in February 2012 and, after several iterations and a months-long political crisis that stalled the transition, ratified the document in January 2014. Parliamentary and presidential elections for a permanent government were held at the end of 2014. Beji Caid Essebsi was elected as the first president under the country’s new constitution.



Country Name:

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


  • name: Tunis
  • 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 Beji Caid Essebsi (since 31 December 2014)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Habib Essid (since 6 February 2015)
  • cabinet: selected by the prime minister and approved by the Chamber of the People's Deputies
  • elections: president directly elected by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held in 2 rounds on 23 November and 21 December 2014 (next to be held in 2019); prime minister selected by the majority party or coalition following legislative elections and appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral Chamber of the People's Deputies

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Court of Cassation


People & Society


  • 10,937,521 (global rank: 79)
  • growth rate: 0.92% (global rank: 126)


  • noun: Tunisian(s)
  • adjective: Tunisian

Major Cities:

  • Tunis (capital): 1.978 million

Ethnic Groups:

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


  • Muslim (official; Sunni) 99.1%, other (includes Christian, Jewish, Shia Muslim, and Baha'i) 1%


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

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 75.68 years (global rank: 93)
  • male: 73.6 years
  • female: 77.9 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 23.19 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 78)
  • male: 26.63 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 19.51 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: less than 0.05% (2013 est.) (global rank: 112)
  • people living with AIDS: 3,400 (2013 est.) (global rank: 109)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 79.7%
  • male: 87.8%
  • female: 71.7%



Overview: Tunisia's diverse, market-oriented economy has long been cited as a success story in Africa and the Middle East, but it faces an array of challenges during the country's ongoing political transition. Following an ill-fated experiment with socialist economic policies in the 1960s, Tunisia embarked on a successful strategy focused on bolstering exports, foreign investment, and tourism, all of which have become central to the country's economy. Key exports now include textiles and apparel, food products, petroleum products, chemicals, and phosphates, with about 80% of exports bound for Tunisia's main economic partner, the European Union. Tunisia's liberal strategy, coupled with investments in education and infrastructure, fueled decades of 4-5% annual GDP growth and improving living standards. Former President (1987-2011) Zine el Abidine Ben Ali continued these policies, but as his reign wore on cronyism and corruption stymied economic performance and unemployment rose among the country's growing ranks of university graduates. These grievances contributed to the January 2011 overthrow of Ben Ali, sending Tunisia's economy into a tailspin as tourism and investment declined sharply. During 2012 and 2013, the Tunisian Government’s focus on the political transition led to a neglect of the economy that resulted in several downgrades of Tunisia’s credit rating. As the economy recovers, Tunisia's government faces challenges reassuring businesses and investors, bringing budget and current account deficits under control, shoring up the country's financial system, bringing down high unemployment, and reducing economic disparities between the more developed coastal region and the impoverished interior.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $125.1 billion (global rank: 77)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $11,400 (global rank: 122)
  • real growth rate: 2.8% (global rank: 117)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 8.7%, industry: 29%, services: 62.3%


  • currency: Tunisian Dinar (TND)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 1.704


  • population below poverty line: 3.8%
  • unemployment rate: 15.2%

Agricultural Products:

  • olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds; beef, dairy products


  • petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate, 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: 18.27%
  • permanent crops: 15.51%
  • other: 66.21%

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; Tunisia’s increased number of street children, children working to support their families, and migrants who have fled unrest in neighboring countries are vulnerable to human trafficking; Tunisian women have been forced into prostitution domestically and elsewhere in the region under false promises of legitimate work; East and West African women may be subjected to forced labor as domestic servants

Published: Friday, May 01, 2015