Facts about Tunisia

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TunisiaRivalry 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. BEN ALI is currently serving his fourth consecutive five-year term as president; the next elections are scheduled for October 2009. Tunisia has long taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.

Geography of Tunisia

Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya
34 00 N, 9 00 E
total: 163,610 sq km
water: 8,250 sq km
land: 155,360 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries:
total: 1,424 km
border countries: Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km
1,148 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south
mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Shatt al Gharsah -17 m
highest point: Jebel ech Chambi 1,544 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
Environment current issues:
toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Geography - note:
strategic location in central Mediterranean; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration

Population of Tunisia

10,383,577 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 24.6% (male 1,293,235/female 1,212,994)
15-64 years: 68.6% (male 3,504,283/female 3,478,268)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 327,521/female 358,713)
Median age:
27.8 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
23.84 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.12 years
male: 73.4 years
female: 76.96 years
Fertility rate:
1.74 children born/woman
noun: Tunisian(s)
adjective: Tunisian
Ethnic groups:
Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74.3%
male: 83.4%
female: 65.3%


Country name:
conventional long form: Tunisian Republic
conventional short form: Tunisia
local short form: Tunis
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
24 governorates
20 March 1956 (from France)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 20 March (1956)
1 June 1959; amended 1988, 2002
Legal system:
based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session
20 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Zine el Abidine BEN ALI
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed GHANNOUCHI
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); prime minister appointed by the president
Legislative branch:
bicameral system consists of the Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (189 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Advisors (126 seats; 85 members elected by municipal counselors, deputies, mayors, and professional associations and trade unions; 41 members are presidential appointees; members serve six-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation


Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Progressive social policies also have helped raise living conditions in Tunisia relative to the region. Real growth, which averaged almost 5% over the past decade, reached 6.3% in 2007 because of development in non-textile manufacturing, a recovery in agricultural production, and strong growth in the services sector. However, Tunisia will need to reach even higher growth levels to create sufficient employment opportunities for an already large number of unemployed as well as the growing population of university graduates. Broader privatization, further liberalization of the investment code to increase foreign investment, improvements in government efficiency, and reduction of the trade deficit are among the challenges ahead.

$76.07 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 13.2%
industry: 31.8%
services: 55%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
3.41 million
note: shortage of skilled labor
Labor force - by occupation:
services 55%, industry 23%, agriculture 22%
revenues: $7.322 billion
expenditures: $8.304 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 99.5%
hydro: 0.5%
other: 0%
petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages
olives, olive oil, grain, dairy products, tomatoes, citrus fruit, beef, sugar beets, dates, almonds
textiles, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, agricultural products, hydrocarbons
Export partners:
France 31.1%, Italy 20.9%, Germany 9.7%, Spain 5.5%, Libya 4.2%
textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, food
Import partners:
France 24.7%, Italy 22.1%, Germany 9.2%, Spain 5.3%
Tunisian dinar (TND)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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