Mr. Ezzeddine Cherni
Berges du Lac II, Tunis, Tunisia
Market study: Information and communications technology
The information and communication technologies (ICT) sector is a priority sector in Tunisia both as a vector for development of other economic sectors but also as a dynamic sector of innovation open to the international market, export, foreign investment, partnership and subcontracting, particularly with African countries.
According to the National Institute of Statistics, the sector contributes 7.5% of the GDP and employs around 86,000 people (2018). It is made up of 2,120 private companies, 219 shared service centers, 8 development centers serving multinationals, a telephone density of 98.8 lines / 100 inhabitants and more than 4.1 million Internet users.
Tunisia today has three ICT-oriented technoparks, the largest “Technopark El Ghazala” as well as 18 cyberparks entirely dedicated to training and scientific and technological research. This is part of an ambitious plan by the authorities, “Tunisia Digital 2020” which aims to make the country an international benchmark in digital technology by developing a network of competitive and innovative companies.
According to the Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, the Tunisian telecommunications network is fully digital in transmission and offers different techniques and data transmission services: Videotext , X25 package, Frame Relay, ATM, ISDN, DSL, GPRS, as well as various specialized links and of course the Internet.
According to the Tunisian Internet Agency / ATI, the Internet network offers Nx2Mbits 34 Mbits access to several Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including seven private ones.
(Source: Etude de Digital Discovery Tunisie.
Tunisia has also implemented a series of measures aimed at modernizing the legal and regulatory framework for telecommunications:
- The creation of the National Telecommunications Authority / NTA to regulate interconnection, numbering and other matters, as well as to resolve disputes between operators
- The creation of the National Frequency Agency / NFA to manage the radio spectrum
The field of computing
IT in Tunisia has experienced growth in production, investment and scientific training and research potential. According to the National Computer Center / CNI , more than 750 IT companies are engaged in the distribution of IT and engineering products (2019). Most of the renowned international firms are present on the Tunisian market, for example SAGEM, ALCATEL, ORANGE, BULL, ERICSSON, OOREDOO and IBM.
IT Services and Engineering Companies (ITSEC)
The IT Services and Engineering Companies (ITSEC) assembles 200 companies, 120 of which are specialized in software development. These companies are primarily located (80%) in the greater Tunis area.
The size of the Tunisian market remains relatively small and undercapitalization limits development of IT services companies. These companies are strongly interested in foreign investment and partnership.
Main areas of intervention of IT services companies:
- Public sector: personnel management, budget management, taxes, customs, health services, social security, rental tax, electricity and water;
- Telecommunications sector: telecom operators and telecom services;
- Companies: human resources management, commercial management, financial management and business intelligence;
- Financial sector: banking and insurance;
- Horizontal sectors: e-commerce, e-gov and e-learning.
Strengths of the ICT sector
The ICT sector in Tunisia is a promising sector, capable of facing international competition and of taking advantage of greater access to the foreign market. The sector has export potential confirmed by know-how and a cost advantage on the international market.
The ICT sector has the following advantages:
• Low wages (compared to the countries of the European Union);
• Good training of Tunisian engineers, quality of human resources and infrastructure;
• The existence of IT technopoles and business incubators useful for the software industry;
• Favorable legislation.
Tunisia has a comparative advantage in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), that is to say, the outsourcing of the business process representing the low value-added activity of the off shoring, including mainly call centers.
Weaknesses of the ICT sector
Despite strengths of the sector, companies remain small, and face demands that come largely from public companies with large orders. Indeed, according to a World Bank report, most ICT companies in Tunisia are relatively young and small. About 80% of companies have less than 50 employees.
Source:World Bank, Tunisia's Global Integration: A Second Generation of Reforms to Boost Growth and Employment
- Small business size prevents companies from competing with multinationals which contributes to the fragility of the sector.
- Although the ICT sector is more oriented towards the local market (computerization of businesses and administration), tenders from public companies and the government have benefited foreign companies more than local companies, which are too small.
- Tunisian companies are subject to exchange controls.
- Low funding for research and development activities.
Opportunities in the market and approach strategy
Commercial opportunities exist in Tunisia due to an ambitious digital plan. The Tunisian market is a favorable destination for foreign ICT companies wanting to establish themselves and carry out privileged exchanges. Tunisia is ideally situated for accessing neighboring markets such as Algeria or Libya, as well as other African or Middle Eastern markets. Note that since 2017, about ten Canadian ICT companies have established themselves in Tunisia.
Attractions of the sector
Foreign companies that have established in Tunisia have been able to broaden their business activities while adding value to their companies. Operating in Tunisia has enabled these companies to:
- Improve competitiveness and reduce operating costs
- Overcome a lack of human resources in ICT in their country of origin
- Maintain and strengthen jobs in the country of origin while making Tunisia a rear base (Source: International conference Investing in Tunisia, September 8, 2014.
Investment in innovative ICT projects
In June 2019, the World Bank Group approved two new investment projects totalling US $ 175 million for Tunisia. These operations aim to support Tunisia's objectives in the digital domain, namely the establishment of a new economy which encourages entrepreneurship and generates more employment opportunities, and the improvement of the response capacity authorities to meet the needs of citizens through the digitalization of essential public services.
- The first project will focus on increasing access to finance for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to promote their growth.
Support project for start-ups and innovative SMEs
Endowed with $ 75 million, was designed to support the government program Startup Tunisia which aims to catalyze creation and growth start-ups and digital and innovative SMEs, while stimulating economic and employment prospects for Tunisian youth. The project will finance equity or quasi-equity investments in innovative start-ups and SMEs, as well as support for concept development, improving investment receptiveness and the adoption of technology. It will also help actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem (incubators and business accelerators in particular) to improve and extend the scope of their programs, including in particular start-ups and SMEs run by women or located in the regions of the interior of the country in collaboration with foreign know-how.
- The second project will invest in the digitalization of social security and education systems in order to improve quality of services and to ensure that those who need them most can effectively access them.
Digital transformation project for user-centered services:
Amounting to $ 100 million, will support an approach to promote technologies applied to public administration (or GovTech) for the improvement of social protection systems and education. The project will finance improvements in four key areas: i) social assistance programs, such as cash transfers or allowances, ii) social security, in order to extend coverage of retirement pensions and health insurance; iii) the digitization of education management services and (iv) the improvement of digital resources to reinforce teaching and learning. Source: the World Bank Group.
Entering into Tunisia or increasing market share is a goal for many Canadian companies. Beyond the need to understand the Tunisian market and consumers, association with a local partner or transfer of technology is almost systematically required to break through. A local partnership can deliver several advantages: a better understanding of consumer needs, close monitoring of regulatory developments, access to networks of relationships in the commercial, industrial, academic or scientific environment...
Even if it is not compulsory, it is preferable to privilege the search for commercial partners. Local partnership is also a condition imposed by the Tunisian authorities in certain cases and for certain ICT projects and / or tenders. It can occur in two ways; by a joint venture with mixed capital or by a contractual joint venture.
Despite the presence on the market of most of the big names such as Siemens, Ericsson, Microsoft, Huawei, Sisco, HP and Owliance, Canadian products and services are well perceived in Tunisia. Canadian expertise has been recognized by ICT local customers. Canadian ICT companies can be active and expand applications to other sectors, such as healthcare, life sciences, education and aeronautics. This is likely to facilitate positioning on the Tunisian market.
Key public sector contacts
- National Agency for Electronic Certification (NAEC)
- National Agency of Frequencies (NAF)
- National Agency for Computer Security (NACS)
- Tunisian Internet Agency (TIA)
- Tunisie Telecom (TT)
- National Authority of Telecommunications (NAT)
- National Broadcasting Office (NBO)
- Center for Studies and Research on Telecommunications (CSRT)
- Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
- Official Journal of the Tunisian Republic (JORT)
- National Institute of Statistics (INS)
- Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts www.utica.org.tn
- El Ghazala TECHNOPARK
- TUNEPS (Tunisian System of Online Public Purchasing)
Trade fairs and exhibitions in the market
SIEL Expo (Tunis - March 2020)
International Exhibition of Electrical and Electronic Industries
Tunisia Digital Summit(4th. Edition, 25-26 March 2020)
SITIC AFRICA 2020(Tunis – 9-11 June 2020)
International Exhibition of Information and Communication Technologies in Africa email@example.com
SIB (Sfax – September 2020)
International Exhibition on Computer, communication and Multimedia
Trade fairs and shows in the adjacent territories
CEBIT / World trade fair for office automation, IT and telecommunications
(April 2020 Hanover, Germany)
Mobile World Congress Barcelona(Barcelona, Spain February 24-27, 2020)
The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) has offices in 160 cities around the world. It provides essential business information and access to an unrivalled network of international contacts. Each year, it helps thousands of Canadian SMEs overcome concrete barriers and identify export opportunities
Contacts in the market
Canadian Embassy in Tunisia,
Trade Commissionner Service
24 Rue de la Feuille d’Erable, Cité Les Pins,
Les Berges du Lac II, 1053 Tunis Tunisia
Phone: (011-216) 70-010-200
Fax: (011-216) 70-010-392 et 70-010-391
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