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My Contact:
Mr. Chafik Awal
Trade Commissioner
Berges du Lac II, Tunis, Tunisia

Aerospace sector in Tunisia

Table of contents

Economic and commercial context in Tunisia

Tunisia is known as a democratic republic in the Arab world, combining tradition and modernity. Tunisia has a unique geographical position located at the crossroads of African and European markets, at the junction of the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean and only 140 km from Europe. This location makes Tunisia a regional hub for investment, international trade and production.

Tunisia is also located at the heart of the Euro-Mediterranean logistics chain, which makes it an ideal destination for those who decide to target the African market.

In recent years, Tunisia has made considerable efforts to liberate its economy and attract foreign direct investment in various economic fields. Since the early 1970s, large numbers of foreign companies started to establish in the market, making the country a popular offshore destination. Today, 3,700 foreign companies are active in Tunisia providing more than 480,165 jobs. With a business environment similar to that of several countries in southern Europe, Tunisia  enjoys attractive advantagesFootnote 1.

In  2019, foreign investments inflows reached 2.648 million TND (approximately 1 Billion USD1).

Tunisia is ranked the first country in North Africa in:

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Tunisia has opted for integration into the world economy. This integration has resulted in the gradual liberalization of its foreign trade and the establishment of free trade zones with several countries. Since 1995, Tunisia has become a privileged partner of the European Union (EU) market and has also started a diversification program with commercial partners such as:

 In addition, Tunisia joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in July 2018. Today, Tunisia shares trade agreements with 65 countries.

According to statistics issued by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS), Tunisian exports (in current prices) increased by 7% in 2019. This increase was possible due to the performance in the following industries:

Tunisian sales to the EU represent 80% of total exports, an increase of 7.7% from the previous year, creating a trade surplus.  Of particular significance was the increased sales in the following countries:

Imports also increased (in current prices) by a total of 5.4%, particularly in energy products (+ 19.6%) and capital goods (+ 9.5%).

Overview of the aeronautical industry in Tunisia

The aeronautical industry represents 3.8% of the GDP in Tunisia. The industry is comprised of 81 companies, which provides around 20,000 jobs of which 12,000 are aeronautical technicians trained in Tunisia. The industry also creates more than 1,000 direct jobs each year. In 2018, the value of exports reached more than US $ 534 million, representing about 5% of the country's exportsFootnote 2.

The sector exports nearly 80% of its production to the EU, with a record growth added value of over 30%. All of these aspects make the aeronautical industry a promising sector for Tunisia.

The main exported products are:

Imports are mainly production tools (machines) and raw materials such as:

A majority (+ 88%) of these activities are carried out by workers with competitive Tunisian skills and the same levels of qualification and training as Europeans. However, the salary of the Tunisian engineer is one-fifth the salary of engineers in southern Europe countries. This gives Tunisia the best costs of labor and the best quality of labor compared to direct competitors such as Morocco or Portugal2.  

Tunisia is considered to have the best operating costs in the aeronautical industry compared to the following six competing sites:

The impressive operating costs have attracted the attention of public authorities which are working to improve the governance of this sector through the creation of national aeronautical groupings. The mission of these groups is to improve production, productivity and quality conditions.

Tunisia has set the following objectives to be reached by 2025:

Tunisia is mainly a tourist country. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, passenger air transport ensured the travelling of more than 4 million tourists and Tunisian residents abroad. This represented 68% of total air activities and about 3.1% of national GDPFootnote 4 .

All airports and aviation activities are under the supervision and control of the Ministry of Transport, Logistics and Tourism.

Tunisia has 9 international airports. In addition, there are six aerodromes under the supervision of the Ministry of National Defense. This includes two aerodromes in Zaghouan and Borj El Amri which were operated by Tunisian civil aviation clubs and associations until 2011.

Airlines operating in Tunisia

TUNISAIR national airline company

TUNISAIR was created in 1948 and provides air transport for passengers and goods to more than 40 destinations. Currently, it operates a fleet of 29 aircraft distributed as follows:

Tunisair Express airline

Tunisair Express is a subsidiary of the company "Tunis Air". Founded in 1991, it provides domestic flights and has a fleet of 8 planes:

TUNISAVIA, private off-shore airline

TUNISAVIA was created in 1974, and specializes in the following activities:   

Currently, TUNISAVIA has a fleet of:

Nouvel Air Tunisie, private company

Nouvel Air Tunisie was founded in 1989. It provides charter air transport for passengers to more than 20 destinations in the world. It has a homogeneous fleet of 11 aircrafts of Airbus A320.

Syphax Airlines, private company

Syphax Airlines was founded in 2011 and provides air transport for passengers to more than 10 destinations. Syphax Airlines has a fleet of 4 aircrafts:

Express Air Cargo, private company

Express Air Cargo was founded in 2015. It exceptionally provides freight transport to more than 15 destinations in Europe and Africa. Its fleet consists of two Boeing 737.

Jasmin Airways, private airline

Jasmin Airways is a new airline that was created in 2019. It provides charter transport for passengers to 8 destinations, mainly in Europe. Its fleet is made up of two short and medium distance Embraer 170/175 aircrafts.

In Tunisia, there are hardly any private planes. However, three private flight training schools operate six training planes.

Tunisian airline companies maintain and purchase spare parts directly from aircraft manufacturers and companies for the maintenance of their fleets. Services in Tunisia for the two main engine repair components, aeronautical services and maintenance are:

Original equipment manufacturers established in Tunisia

The diversity and complementarity of aeronautical activities in Tunisia have enabled Tunisian and foreign companies active in the market to achieve productivity gains. This is due in particular to:

The major groups established in Tunisia’s aeronautics sector are:

The main customers of these companies are:

Other groups have positioned themselves and are experiencing strong growth such as:

Aeronautical ecosystems in Tunisia

A wide range of highly specialized aeronautics and space activities are carried out and mastered by subcontracting companies established in Tunisia. This has developed a complementary industrial ecosystem and given rise to a high-performance and competitive aeronautical sector value chain.

The breakdown of the aeronautical industry established in Tunisia, by specialization, is as follows:

These activities are carried out and divided into the following three areas.

Engineering

The main players in this field are:

Production

The leaders in this area are:

Services

The operators are:

In order to consolidate this aeronautical ecosystem, a Group of Tunisian Aeronautical and Space Industries (GITAS) was created in 2006. This group of companies varies in activities but has the following aspects in common:

Currently, GITAS has 51 companies spread over 4 geographic centers:

The objectives and main task of GITAS are:

GITAS participated with the Ministry of Professional Training and Employment, in the creation of a “Center of Excellence for Aeronautical Industry Professions (CEAIP)" located in the El Mégira aeronautical park. GITAS also collaborates with Tunisian engineering schools such as:

Several aeronautical and space oriented training modules have been provided by the member companies of GITAS.

The main activities of the members of GITAS cover the following areas:

Main support measures

Tunisia has initiated a policy of support and incentives for foreign investors through specialized government bodies, such as:

Institutional and financial support

The activity of the aeronautical industry is supported by the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Investment Support. Subsidies, bonuses and credits are granted to foreign investors who want to set up business in Tunisia, through support, development, training and support funds for investment in the sector. The Financini website (in French only) offers a large database of mechanisms and programs for financing and supporting new businesses. It allows any project promoter to find adequate funding, credible partners or investment opportunities. The platform also allows any registered person to connect and get advice from experts in the entrepreneurship ecosystem for free.

In addition, several public or private offshore banks and investment companies work in the field of economic development. These companies offer contractors lines of credit and financial packages with low preferential rates at different stages throughout their projects. They also offer financial support for export and import operations if there is an adequate program.

Tunisia offers the following incentives to foreign investors who choose to set up business in the market, tax and customs investment:

Investment support structures

Support in aeronautical and space training

Tunisia strives for responsive and multidisciplinary human resources which will allow them to provide a wide range of training programs.

Land platforms for setting up industrial projects

Tunisia is making considerable efforts to promote its advantages in the aeronautical sector with the creation of centers, parks and industrial zones of economic activities throughout the country. These are being created to offer foreign and Tunisian investors the best choice of location according to their priorities and national interests.  These assets include:

Fiscal advantages

In addition, for operation:

Labor Code

The texts and laws governing labor legislation in Tunisia are:

Three types of common law contracts exist:

Advice and business opportunities in the aeronautical value chain

The aeronautical industry in Tunisia is booming, recording an average added value of 30%. Exports of products and services have increased 9.5 times over the past decade Footnote 5

Tunisia benefits from a quality entrepreneurial environment that promotes productivity gains in the aeronautics industry and the establishment of Canadian companies in this sector. Several elements contribute to entrepreneurial environment such as:

Tunisia holds an important place in the aeronautics sector compared to other countries with its significant potential and favorable business environment. It offers several business opportunities for Canadian companies to explore new connections in the aeronautical value chain. Possibilities include targeting new markets in Arab, African (mainly the common market of East Africa and Southern Africa / COMESA), and EU countries in potential and profitable business opportunities such as:

Business opportunities in the Aerospace-Defense sector

In recent years, the Tunisian Ministry of National Defense has initiated a national military industrialization strategy including the motivations, priorities, frameworks, objectives and means.  This strategy will be implemented in terms of:

Through its role as a contributor to the development effort of the State, the Ministry of National Defense is mastering a new approach based on active participation in the development effort. The Ministry supports sustainable development projects and partnership projects with the private sector, particularly in the field of defense industries. This focus provides rationalization of public expenditure and supports the national effort in the field of employment, taking advantages of the qualifications and skills of young graduates in all fields and activities.

Business opportunities are :

Aeronautical events

On March 4 to 8, 2020 Tunisia hosted  the 1st edition of the “International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition” (IADE Tunisia). This event was held in Africa at the Djerba-Zarzis International Airport (south of the country) and was the largest aeronautical and defense meeting.

The show brought together more than 200 Tunisian and foreign exhibitors, about 100 official international delegations and more than 35,000 visitors. It is part of the Tunisian strategy for the development of the aeronautical and defense sectors, and that of the African continent.  The show was exclusively open to professionals who had access to:

The show presented a wide range of investment and development opportunities in Africa, consolidating the latest innovations of aeronautics and defense manufacturers and equipment suppliers. The IADE show takes place every two years.

Tunisian aeronautical manufacturers also attend international exhibitions such as the “Paris Air Show”, the “Farnborough Airshow” in London and the “Dubai Airshow”.

Key Contacts

Global Affairs Canada
Chafik Awal, Trade Commissioner
Canadian Embassy Tunisia
Tel: (+216) 70 010 360 - Fax: (+216) 70 010 392
Email: Chafik.Awal@international.gc.ca

Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Investment Support
Address: Place du gouvernement, La Kasbah1006 Tunis
Tel: (+216) 71 571 888/ Fax: (+216) 71 568 424 / 71 569 599
Email: brc@finances.tn

Ministry of Transport - General Directorate of Civil Aviation
Address : 3 Rue Borjine 1073 – Montplaisir, Tunis
Tel : (+216) 71 905-026 - Fax: (+216) 71 901-559
Email: boc@transport.state.tn

General Directorate for Investment, Development and International Cooperation
Address: Avenue Cheikh Mohamed Fadhel Ben Achour, Tunis 1082
Tel: (+216) 70.556.600 - (+216) 70.556.600 - Fax: (+216) 71.799.069|
Email: boc.mdici@tunisia.gov.tn

Tunisian Agency for Technical Cooperation (TATC)
Address: Rue Saleh Eddine Amami, B.P. N° 34 -1080 Tunis Cedex
Tel: (+216) 71 704 220 - Fax: (+216) 71 703 010
Email: atct@mdci.gov.tn 

Industry and Innovation Promotion Agency (IIPA)
Address : 63, rue de Syrie, 1002 Tunis Belvédère - Tunisia
Tel : (+216) 71 792 144 - Fax: (+216) 71 782 482
Email: apii@apii.tn

Tunisian Agency for Professional training (TAPT)
Address : 21 rue de Libye lafayette1002 Tunis, Tunisia
Tel:(+216) 71 832 404 - Fax:(+216) 71 832 462
Email: atfp@email.ati.tn

Export Promotion Center (CEPEX) 
Address : Centre Urbain Nord - BP 2251080 Tunis, Tunisia
Tel: (+216) 71 130 320 - Fax:(+216) 71 235 409
Email: rapidcontact@tunisiaexport.tn

GITAS (Tunisian Aeronautical and Space Industries Group)
Address : Immeuble Nour, Appartement A3-2, Rue du Corail, Les Jardins du Lac, Les Berges du Lac 2, Tunis 1053 Tunisia
Tel /Fax: (+216) 71 190 421
Email: contact@gitas.org

Appendix 1 - Risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the start of the pandemic, the Tunisian government announced a set of exceptional measures to support economic institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises as well as the liberal professions which have been affected by the decision of total containment.

However, despite the importance of the measures taken, the spread of Covid-19 has resulted in the loss of nearly 165,000 jobs. A reduction in the growth of the local economy during the year 2020 is estimated at around 7%, according to the report "World Economic Outlook, October 2020" published by the International Monetary Fund. In addition, the Foreign Investments Promotion Agency (FIPA) also confirmed a drop of about 26.4% in international direct investments during the first nine months of 2020, which is a sign of the country's vulnerability to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tunisian aeronautical subsidiary was also affected, the country being a subcontractor in this sector, was indirectly affected by the cancellations of orders as well as the decrease in the activities of the majority of the airlines. Indeed, the two major world manufacturers (AIRBUS and BOEING) have reduced their production rates with unprecedented reduction plans leading to a decrease in the demand for spare parts. With the paralysis of traffic, airlines have tried all means to save money and preserve their cash. The aerospace industry, which counted on tens of thousands of aircraft to be delivered over the next 20 years, has downsized.

Regarding military aviation, it is unlikely that projects will be affected given that the budgets allocated before the pandemic remain a priority for national defense.

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