Franco-German-Tunisian Triangulation to build economic and commercial partnership with Africa

Tunis: It is important to build partnerships with African countries in order to create wealth together in a spirit of co-development, said Lazhar Bennour, director general of economic and commercial cooperation at the Ministry of Trade and Export Development. Speaking at a conference on a 'Franco-German-Tunisian Triangulation towards the African Continent: Broadening Horizons, Strengthening Economic Ties,' held Tuesday in Tunis, he added that "Tunisia's ambitions are primarily to open up prospects on the African continent to the private sector, whereas historically the country's trade has been concentrated on the European Union. This diversification must take place in cooperation with European partners in a win-win approach," he further pointed out. In this context, the official mentioned the African Corridor project for landlocked African countries, under the Ministry of Trade. This is a Tunisian-Libyan commercial, economic and social development project that will give these landlocked countries access to the Mediterranean via Tunisia. A preliminary scoping study for this project has already been carried out with the support of GIZ, said Bennour, confirming Tunisia's strong commitment to this project, which will change the country's development model that has been based since the 1970s on subcontracting to European companies. For his part, Mourad Ben Hassine, CEO of the Export Promotion Centre (CEPEX), stressed how important it was for Tunisia to step up its efforts to boost inter-African trade at a time when the continent was making significant economic progress. In 2023, Tunisia's export revenues reached TND 62 billion, but the share of exports to sub-Saharan Africa represented only 3.5% of total exports. Compared to 2022, exports to Africa remained almost stable, with a slight decrease of 1%. This situation is prompting Tunisia to consider adopting new methods to further promote inter-African trade," he said, referring to the sub-Saharan strategy developed jointly by CEPEX and the Ministry of Trade, the memoranda of understanding signed by CEPEX with a number of African partners and the partnerships established with export promotion centres in certain sub-Saharan African countries. For his part, Mohamed Ben Abid, Director General for the Business Climate at the Ministry of the Economy and Planning, stressed that Tunisia is working to strengthen the presence of Tunisian companies on the African continent through the revision of the investment law currently underway, which includes a chapter on promoting the internationalisation of Tunisian companies, particularly SMEs. Other measures include the abolition of authorisations for economic activities and the revision of specifications, the facilitation of access to the Tunisian market and the preparation of a draft law on the knowledge economy and innovation, which is a regulatory framework for the creation of an ecosystem conducive to innovation. The aim is to promote the internationalisation of innovative SMEs and start-ups and the export of Tunisian know-ho w. Similarly, Samir Abdelhafidh, Secretary of State for SMEs at the Ministry of the Economy and Planning, said that the Tunisian state was committed to the internationalisation of companies and capturing markets of the African continent. He stressed the importance of working with European partners, particularly Germany and France, to overcome the obstacles to this endeavour. This strategic vision will enable Tunisian, German and French companies to work together to develop their presence on the sub-Saharan market," he said, highlighting the advantages that Tunisia offers to German and French companies, in particular the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) agreements. These agreements allow them to benefit from advantages in terms of access to the sub-Saharan market when exporting from Tunisia. Anne Guéguen, French Ambassador to Tunisia, underlined the importance of the Franco-German-Tunisian Triangulation to the African Continent , given the great potential of the continent with its 1.4 billion inhabitants. This is besides Tunisia's advantages in terms of geographical proximity to Europe, cultural adaptability, multilingualism and a powerful export manufacturing industry in the digital, agro-food, construction, pharmaceutical and automotive sectors, she pointed out. The ambassador went on to say that "France is home to 1,400 companies that form a dynamic network with the capacity to export and co-develop with Tunisian companies, opening the way to the African continent". She spoke of the "Qawafel" project, funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and implemented by Expertise France. A budget of pound 3.8 million has been allocated to help companies export, invest and set up in other countries on the continent by supporting a private, associative and public ecosystem in this internationalisation towards other African countries. Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse