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Tunisia ushers in new economic era after raising $14bn

By Frida Dahmani and Mathieu Galtier in Tunis
Posted on Thursday, 1 December 2016 13:27

The country’s reform process remains the most credible of all countries impacted by the Arab Spring, but this has come at a high cost.

“Tunisians had to make sacrifices, but these are now bearing fruit,” Chahed said at the end of the Tunisia 2020 conference.

The prime minister said $6.5bn of deals were signed and $8.2bn of funds were pledged. The amount includes donations, investment, and the conversion of debt into investment. Mourad Fradi, the co-commissioner of the international conference, said the conference had “an exceptional scorecard”.

The conference was well-attended despite its awkward timing, wedged between the US elections, the conservative primaries in France, and the referendum in Italy.

“Tunisia has successfully completed its democratic transition, it must now succeed its economic transition,” said Mohamed El Kettani, the chairman of Moroccan bank Attijariwafa.

Some skeptics have said that in these “investment telethons” promises are not always met, pointing to Egypt which has not gained any concrete benefits from a conference in Sharm el Sheikh.

Some pledges may be more solid than others, such as those of European institutions: $2.6bn from the European Investment Bank and $650m from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. France has committed €3bn in loans over four years, Chahed said. Analysts are hoping the sums announced will be used for investment, and not to mop up public finance deficits.

Canada, whose presence highlighted the absence of the US, pledged $24m in projects linked to the emancipation of Tunisian women, youth, education and social inequality.

Despite the absence of the United Arab Emirates, Arab countries also made their presence felt. Qatar pledged $1.25bn in support split between currency relief, loans and investment. Kuwait has given $500m. The Arab Fund for Economic and Social development committed $1.5bn, while Saudi Arabia announced an investment in a hospital and the possibility of rebuilding the grand mosque in Kairouan.

Several leading Tunisian companies including the Loukil group and Telnet signed partnership contracts during the conference.

“Yes, now we have to work, consolidate promises and also meet our own engagements. What we have harvested today is not only donations, we will have to reimburse [these loans],” said one businessman who asked not to be identified.

*The conference was organised by a consortium including the French investment bank Arjil, the Tunisian consultants COMETE Engineering, and the media group Jeune Afrique, which owns The Africa Report.

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