To make Tunisia an attractive destination for foreign IT companies, the country is actively implementing an ambitious digital plan to create favorable conditions for investment. It is an ideal platform to access neighboring markets such as Algeria or Libya, as well as other African or Middle Eastern markets.
The majority of the foreign firms that have chosen Tunisia as their location are from nearshore or offshore countries. They have not only been able to expand their sphere of influence, but also increase their parent companies’ competitiveness by lowering operating costs.
In addition, nearshoring could make up for the lack of IT professionals, such as software developers, in the country of origin. By collaborating with Tunisian professionals and businesses, employment in the country of origin is strengthened and preserved, while Tunisia becomes a rear base.
1. Tunisia is Very Progressive
The country plays a leading role. Tunisia was the first Arab nation to abolish slavery in 1848, the first Arab nation to adopt a constitution in 1861, the first Arab nation to outlaw polygamy in 1956, and the first Arab nation to oust its dictator in 2011.
With a literacy rate of 96%, Tunisia is a leader in terms of graduates: 550,000 students for a population of 12 million, including 50,000 in ICT sectors, 60,000 multilingual graduates per year (62% of them women), and more than 20,000 scientific engineers.
2. Tunisia is One of the Most Developed African Countries in the IT Industry
Tunisia is an exception in Africa, surpassing countries with much larger populations such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and even Algeria and Morocco.
Among the employees and potential candidates, gender and social equality are evidently and wisely planned, as evidenced by a balanced distribution of males and females by age.
There are numerous reasons for this achievement. Nearly 13,000 young computer engineers graduate annually from approximately 50 institutions (including schools, public and private tertiary institutions, and universities). These institutions include schools, public and private tertiary institutions, and universities.
This quality education has benefited companies that have positioned themselves in specialized business segments, offering services of comparable quality to those demanded by European markets.
The training of Tunisian companies to European standards makes the country an attractive location for outsourcing, particularly for IT services and call center operations (219 service centers are located on Tunisian soil).
In Tunisia, the telecommunications sector (fixed line voice and data, wireless voice and data) accounts for 66% of the digital services sector, while the hardware sector (resale of servers, PCs, tablets, and displays) accounts for 24%.
3. Tunisia Always Ranks in the Top Five
To illustrate the strength of the Tunisian IT sector and its leading positions, it is best to look at the positions Tunisia has reached in recent years:
- 1st best startup Visa program in Africa (Startups Without Borders (SWIBO) – 2020)
- 2nd number of graduates in science and engineering worldwide (Global Innovation Index, 2020)
- 2nd level of maturity of governments in the field of Artificial Intelligence in Africa (Government AI Readiness Index, 2019)
- 3rd most innovative economy in Africa (Global Innovation Index, 2020, WIPO)
- 4th competitiveness of skills in Africa (Global Talent Competitiveness Index, 2020, INSEAD)
- 4th terms of human development integrating the high category in Africa (Programme des Nations Unies pour le Développement (PNUD), 2019)
- 5th most competitive country in Africa (World Economic Forum, 2019)
- 5th best startup ecosystem in Africa (StartupBlink, 2020)
4. Over 2,000 Companies are Active in the IT Industry
In 2017, Tunisia had approximately 2,320 active IT companies, excluding call centers. The sector employs an average of 11,5 people per enterprise and a total of 24,451, of which 17,603 are employed by the government.
These companies, which previously represented only 2.1% of all companies, now account for 10.7% of all foreign firms. In 2016, the total revenue of these companies was 2,113,000,000 DT (Tunisian dinars). In the same year, they exported 867 million dinars, or nearly 41% of their total revenue, with high added value, excellent resilience, and a five-year survival rate of 75%. The industry had a remarkable coverage rate of over 340%.
The IT industry in Tunisia is consistently creating employment for qualified candidates. Nearshore and offshore companies, including startups, SMBs, and large corporations, are consolidating.
There are highly educated professionals available for employment. Therefore, let’s investigate their qualifications in greater detail.
5. More than 10,000 Graduates in IT-Related Fields
In North Africa, Tunisia ranks first in terms of quality of vocational training, graduate skills, and access to skilled workers.
The cost of labor is a significant competitive advantage for the Tunisian market; the average annual cost of Tunisian engineers is highly competitive compared to the principal competing locations. Additionally, the country has an abundance of integrated and developed facilities designed to promote R&D, production, and training.
In 2008, more than 9,500 of these graduates were educated in computer science and communication, compared to only 1,769 in 2002. Engineers from Tunisia are acknowledged to possess international-level skills.
Thus, Tunisian developers have obtained the expertise that is exported to various global regions.
6. Tunisian IT Professionals Speak Three Languages
Not only are the vast majority of IT employees highly educated, but they also speak at least three languages. In addition to Arabic, these are French and English, both of which are mastered to a very high and fluent degree.
According to the French International Organization, the level of French proficiency in Tunisia is superior to that of Morocco, Egypt, and Romania. On this premise, a number of publishing houses have sprung up in Tunisia. Numerous French-speaking companies have established IT operations in Tunisia or outsource development and testing to specialized Tunisian firms.
However, non-French companies have excellent opportunities to enter the Tunisian market or collaborate with Tunisians due to their proficiency in Arabic and English.
7. Tunisia is Considered as a Technological Hub
The information technology industry is one of the priority sectors defined by the new investment law. It benefited from a substantial investment of approximately 6,300 billion TND between 2007 and 2011, compared to only 430 million dinars between 1992 and 1996.
This substantial increase is primarily attributable to the improvement of the infrastructure, particularly that of telecommunications, which has also benefited from the participation of the private sector.
9. The ICT Industry Contributes Over 7.5% of the National GDP
The information and communications technology industry has a high added value. Tunisia has invested massively in this sector since 2000 to boost its economic development. Consequently, the growth rate of this industry has increased significantly.
The average annual growth rate for the sector between 2009 and 2014 was 11%, and it was 7.7% between 2015 and 2016. Nearly 80,000 people are employed by the sector’s over 1,800 businesses, which are primarily located in the Greater Tunis area and coastal communities. In addition, the sector accounts for 20% of service sector exports and 3% of the nation’s total exports (1 billion TND). This quantity has not changed since 2011, demonstrating the sector’s resilience during the recession.6
According to the National Institute of Statistics, the sector contributed 7.5% of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2018 and employed more than 86,000 individuals.
10. Tunisia’s Geographical Location Makes it an Ideal Nearshore Location
Tunisia’s rich cultural history comprises the customs and traditions of all Mediterranean nations on three continents: Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
From antiquity to the present, Tunisia’s centralized geographic location and ideal climate have made it a refuge for travelers from all directions seeking commercial exchange, contact, and extended stays. To wit: the tourism sector constitutes a significant source of national revenue and has maintained its status and allure despite being dented by world events in recent years.
Numerous investments have resulted from the favorable conditions established for foreign companies in various industries. The geographic location also plays an essential function.
Many European nations share the same time zone (Central European Time) as Tunisia, and there is no change between summer and winter time. Software developers and IT personnel employed by European companies or their Tunisian subsidiaries work identical hours.
Not only does the time zone favor the country, but travel times are also very short. From Frankfurt or Paris, you can reach Tunisia by aircraft in 2.5 hours.
This makes Tunisia an ideal nearshore destination for European IT and software firms seeking to outsource company divisions or services.
Tunisia Definitely Deserves a Closer Look as a Nearshore Country!
Tunisia is not necessarily the first country that comes to mind when thinking about outsourcing IT services or software development.
The country has invested a lot in its infrastructure and training of professionals. Investment incentives, tax advantages, highly educated professionals, a constant stream of new IT graduates and low salaries: all this speaks in favor of the country!
And if you liked this article, sign up for the monthly features newsletter. A handpicked selection of stories from Carthage Magazine, delivered to your inbox.