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Rivalry 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 convincing 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. Street protests that began in Tunis in December 2010 over high unemployment, corruption, widespread poverty, and high food prices escalated in January 2011, culminating in rioting that led to hundreds of deaths. On 14 January 2011, the same day BEN ALI dismissed the government, he fled the country, and by late January 2011, a "national unity government" was formed. Elections for the new Constituent Assembly were held in late October 2011, and in December, it elected human rights activist Moncef MARZOUKI as interim president. The Assembly began drafting a new constitution in February 2012 and, after several iterations and a months-long political crisis that stalled the transition, ratified the document in January 2014. Parliamentary and presidential elections for a permanent government were held at the end of 2014. Beji CAID ESSEBSI was elected as the first president under the country's new constitution.



Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya

Geographic coordinates

34.00° N, 9.00° E

Area 93/257

total: 163,610 sq km

land: 155,360 sq km

water: 8,250 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Georgia

Land boundaries

total: 1,495 km

border countries (2): Algeria 1,034 km, Libya 461 km


1,148 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 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


mean elevation:

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

Land use

agricultural land: 64.8%

arable land 18.3%; permanent crops 15.4%; permanent pasture 31.1%

forest: 6.6%

other: 28.6% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

3,970 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources

4.6 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 2.85 cu km/yr (14%/4%/82%)

per capita: 295.8 cu m/yr (2001)

Natural hazards


Environment - current issues

toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural freshwater resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

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

People and Society


noun: Tunisian(s)

adjective: Tunisian

Ethnic groups

Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%


Arabic (official, one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce), Berber (Tamazight)

note: despite having no official status, French plays a major role in the country and is spoken by about two-thirds of the population


Muslim (official; Sunni) 99.1%, other (includes Christian, Jewish, Shia Muslim, and Baha'i) 1%

Population 79/238

11,037,225 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 23.03% (male 1,309,910/female 1,232,149)

15-24 years: 15.53% (male 860,967/female 853,502)

25-54 years: 44.58% (male 2,388,056/female 2,532,035)

55-64 years: 8.82% (male 494,054/female 479,469)

65 years and over: 8.04% (male 435,737/female 451,346) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 44.8%

youth dependency ratio: 33.8%

elderly dependency ratio: 11%

potential support ratio: 9.1% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 31.9 years

male: 31.5 years

female: 32.3 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 126/233

0.89% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 113/224

16.64 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 166/225

5.98 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 161/222

-1.73 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 66.8% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.38% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

TUNIS (capital) 1.993 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 104/184

62 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 79/224

total: 22.35 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 25.71 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 18.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 93/224

total population: 75.89 years

male: 73.79 years

female: 78.14 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 122/224

1.99 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

62.5% (2011/12)

Health expenditures 80/191

7.1% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

1.22 physicians/1,000 population (2010)

Hospital bed density

2.1 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source


urban: 100% of population

rural: 93.2% of population

total: 97.7% of population


urban: 0% of population

rural: 6.8% of population

total: 2.3% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 97.4% of population

rural: 79.8% of population

total: 91.6% of population


urban: 2.6% of population

rural: 20.2% of population

total: 8.4% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.04% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

2,700 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

100 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 80/191

27.1% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 118/138

2.3% (2012)

Education expenditures 38/173

6.2% of GDP (2012)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 15 years

male: 14 years

female: 15 years (2010)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 10/134

total: 37.6%

male: 35.7%

female: 41.8% (2012 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Tunisia

conventional short form: Tunisia

local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah

local short form: Tunis

note: the country name derives from the capital city of Tunis

Government type



name: Tunis

geographic coordinates: 36.48° N, 10.11° E

time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

24 governorates (wilayat, singular - wilayah); Beja (Bajah), Ben Arous (Bin 'Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), Gabes (Qabis), Gafsa (Qafsah), Jendouba (Jundubah), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Al Qasrayn), Kebili (Qibili), Kef (Al Kaf), L'Ariana (Aryanah), Mahdia (Al Mahdiyah), Manouba (Manubah), Medenine (Madanin), Monastir (Al Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi Bouzid (Sidi Bu Zayd), Siliana (Silyanah), Sousse (Susah), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Tawzar), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwan)


20 March 1956 (from France)

National holiday

Independence Day, 20 March (1956); Revolution and Youth Day, 14 January (2011)


several previous; latest approved by Constituent Assembly 26 January 2014, signed by president on 27 January 2014 (2015)

Legal system

mixed legal system of civil law, based on the French civil code, and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Tunisia

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal except for active government security forces (including the police and the military), people with mental disabilities, people who have served more than three months in prison (criminal cases only), and people given a suspended sentence of more than six months

Executive branch

chief of state: President Beji CAID ESSEBSI (since 31 December 2014)

head of government: Prime Minister Habib ESSID (since 6 February 2015)

cabinet: selected by the prime minister and approved by the Constituent Assembly

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 23 November and 21 December 2014 (next to be held in 2019); following legislative elections, the prime minister is selected by the majority party or majority coalition and appointed by the president

election results: Beji CAID ESSEBSI elected president; percent of vote in runoff - Beji CAID ESSEBSI (Tunisia's Call) 55.7%, Moncef MARZOUKI (CPR) 44.3%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Chamber of the People's Deputies (217 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: initial election held on 26 October 2014 (next to be held in 2019)

election results: percent of vote by party - Tunisia's Call 39.6%, al-Nahda 31.8%, UPL 7.4%, Popular Front 6.9%, Afek Tounes 3.7%, CPR 1.8%, other 8.8%; seats by party - Tunisia's Call 86, al-Nahda 69, UPL 16, Popular Front 15, Afek Tounes 8, CPR 4, other 17, independent 2

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation (organized into 1 civil and 3 criminal chambers)

note: the new Tunisian constitution of January 2014 called for the creation of a constitutional court by the end of 2015; the court will consist of 12 members - 4 each appointed by the president, Supreme Judicial Council or SJC (an independent 4-part body consisting mainly of elected judges and the remainder specialized persons), and the Chamber of the People's Deputies (parliament); members will serve 9-year terms with one-third of the membership renewed every 3 years; in late 2015, the International Commission of Jurists called on Tunisia's parliament to revise the draft on the constitutional court to ensure compliance with international standards

judge selection and term of office: judges nominated by the SJC; judges appointed by presidential decree; judge tenure NA

subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal; administrative courts; Court of Audit; Housing Court; courts of first instance; lower district courts; military courts

Political parties and leaders

Afek Tounes [Emna MINF]

Congress for the Republic or CPR [Imed DAIMI]

Current of Love [Mohamed HAMDI] (formerly the Popular Petition party)

Democratic Alliance Party [Mohamed HAMDI]

Democratic Current [Mohamed ABBOU]

Ennahda Movement (The Renaissance) [Rachid GHANNOUCHI]

Free Patriotic Union or UPL (Union patriotique libre) [Slim RIAHI]

Movement of Socialist Democrats or MDS [Ahmed KHASKHOUSSI]

National Destourian Initiative or El Moubadra [Kamel MORJANE]

People's Movement [Zouheir MAGHZAOUI]

Popular Front (a coalition of 9 parties including Democractic Patriots' Movement, Workers' Party, Green Tunisia, Tunisian Ba'ath Movement, and Party of the Democractic Arab Vanguard)

Popular Petition (Aridha Chaabia) [Hachemi HAMDI]

Republican Party [Maya JRIBI]

The Initiative [Kamel MORJANE] (formerly the Constitutional Democratic Rally or RCD)

Tunisia's Call (Nidaa Tounes) [Mohamed ENNACEUR]

Tunisian Workers' Communist Party or PCOT [Hamma HAMMAMI]

Political pressure groups and leaders

18 October Group [collective leadership]

Tunisian League for Human Rights or LTDH [Mokhtar TRIFI]

Tunisian General Labor Union or UGTT [Hassine ABASSI]

International organization participation


Flag description

red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; resembles the Ottoman flag (red banner with white crescent and star) and recalls Tunisia's history as part of the Ottoman Empire; red represents the blood shed by martyrs in the struggle against oppression, white stands for peace; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam

note: the flag is based on that of Turkey, itself a successor state to the Ottoman Empire

National symbol(s)

encircled red star and crescent; national colors: red, white

National anthem

name: "Humat Al Hima" (Defenders of the Homeland)

lyrics/music: Mustafa Sadik AL-RAFII and Aboul-Qacem ECHEBBI/Mohamad Abdel WAHAB

note: adopted 1957, replaced 1958, restored 1987; Mohamad Abdel WAHAB also composed the music for the anthem of the United Arab Emirates


Economy - overview

Tunisia's diverse, market-oriented economy has long been cited as a success story in Africa and the Middle East, but it faces an array of challenges following the 2011 revolution. Following an ill-fated experiment with socialist economic policies in the 1960s, Tunisia embarked on a successful strategy focused on bolstering exports, foreign investment, and tourism, all of which have become central to the country's economy. Key exports now include textiles and apparel, food products, petroleum products, chemicals, and phosphates, with about 80% of exports bound for Tunisia's main economic partner, the European Union.

Tunisia's liberal strategy, coupled with investments in education and infrastructure, fueled decades of 4-5% annual GDP growth and improving living standards. Former President (1987-2011) Zine el Abidine BEN ALI continued these policies, but as his reign wore on cronyism and corruption stymied economic performance and unemployment rose among the country's growing ranks of university graduates. These grievances contributed to the January 2011 overthrow of BEN ALI, sending Tunisia's economy into a tailspin as tourism and investment declined sharply.

Since its establishment in late 2014, Tunisia’s new government has faced challenges reassuring businesses and investors, bringing budget and current account deficits under control, shoring up the country's financial system, bringing down high unemployment, and reducing economic disparities between the more developed coastal region and the impoverished interior. In 2015, successive terrorist attacks against the tourism sector and worker strikes in the phosphate sector, which combined account for nearly 15% of GDP, slowed growth to less than 1% of GDP.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 79/230

$127.2 billion (2015 est.)

$126 billion (2014 est.)

$123.1 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$44.27 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 181/225

1% (2015 est.)

2.3% (2014 est.)

2.3% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 128/230

$11,600 (2015 est.)

$11,500 (2014 est.)

$11,200 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 131/179

13% of GDP (2015 est.)

12.2% of GDP (2014 est.)

13.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 69.2%

government consumption: 19.3%

investment in fixed capital: 18.7%

investment in inventories: 1.7%

exports of goods and services: 40.9%

imports of goods and services: -49.8%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 9.9%

industry: 29%

services: 61.2% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds; beef, dairy products


petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate, iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages

Industrial production growth rate 168/202

-0.8% (2015 est.)

Labor force 92/233

4.044 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 14.8%

industry: 33.2%

services: 51.7% (2014 est.)

Unemployment rate 152/207

15.4% (2015 est.)

14.9% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

15.5% (2005 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 27% (2000)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 63/144

40 (2005 est.)

41.7 (1995 est.)


revenues: $10.87 billion

expenditures: $12.78 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 126/219

24.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 154/220

-4.3% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 73/176

52.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

50.5% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 171/226

4.7% (2015 est.)

4.9% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 66/156

5.75% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 118/184

7.31% (31 December 2014 est.)

6.76% (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of narrow money 72/192

$12.32 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$12.68 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 77/193

$31.32 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$30.9 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 71/191

$34.93 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$35.82 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 76/121

$8.887 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

$9.662 billion (31 December 2011)

$10.68 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 163/197

-$3.752 billion (2015 est.)

-$4.302 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 76/224

$14.74 billion (2015 est.)

$16.84 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment

Exports - partners

France 29.7%, Italy 17.1%, Germany 11.5%, Libya 5.4% (2014)

Imports 74/223

$19.42 billion (2015 est.)

$23.4 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, foodstuffs

Imports - partners

France 19.9%, Italy 19.5%, Germany 7.6%, China 5.5%, Spain 5.4%, Turkey 4.1% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 85/170

$7.225 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$7.395 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 76/206

$27.66 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$26.83 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 64/120

$36.39 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$35.46 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 90/105

$285 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$285 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

Tunisian dinars (TND) per US dollar -

1.95 (2015 est.)

1.7 (2014 est.)

1.7 (2013 est.)

1.56 (2012 est.)

1.41 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 81/220

16.09 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 80/219

13.31 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 69/218

426 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports 79/219

384 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 81/214

4.203 million kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 66/214

95.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 193/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 141/214

1.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 78/212

2.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 54/214

55,050 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 43/214

56,060 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 68/214

22,120 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 53/215

425 million bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 85/214

35,860 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 81/212

86,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 74/214

18,740 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 68/213

65,450 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 56/216

1.879 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 63/215

4.079 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 195/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 47/214

2.2 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 58/212

65.13 billion cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 82/212

20.27 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 78/219

total subscriptions: 950,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 68/217

total: 14.3 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 131 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: above the African average and continuing to be upgraded; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis; telephone network is completely digitized; Internet access available throughout the country

domestic: in an effort to jumpstart expansion of the fixed-line network, the government has awarded a concession to build and operate a VSAT network with international connectivity; rural areas are served by wireless local loops; competition between the two mobile-cellular service providers has resulted in lower activation and usage charges and a strong surge in subscribership; a third mobile, fixed, and ISP operator was licensed in 2009 and began offering services in 2010; expansion of mobile-cellular services to include multimedia messaging and e-mail and Internet to mobile phone services has also lead to a surge in subscribership; overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity has reached about 125 telephones per 100 persons

international: country code - 216; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel; 2 international gateway digital switches (2011)

Broadcast media

broadcast media is mainly government-controlled; the state-run Tunisian Radio and Television Establishment (ERTT) operates 2 national TV networks, several national radio networks, and a number of regional radio stations; 1 TV and 3 radio stations are privately owned and report domestic news stories directly from the official Tunisian news agency; the state retains control of broadcast facilities and transmitters through L'Office National de la Telediffusion; Tunisians also have access to Egyptian, pan-Arab, and European satellite TV channels (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 7, FM 38, shortwave 2 (2007)

Television broadcast stations

26 (plus 76 repeaters) (1995)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 180/232

576 (2012)

Internet users 65/217

total: 5 million

percent of population: 45.5% (2014 est.)


Airports 118/236

29 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 15

over 3,047 m: 4

2,438 to 3,047 m: 6

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 14

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 5

under 914 m: 8 (2013)


condensate 68 km; gas 3,111 km; oil 1,381 km; refined products 453 km (2013)

Railways 69/136

total: 2,173 km (1,991 in use)

standard gauge: 471 km 1.435-m gauge

dual gauge: 8 km 1.435-1.000-m gauge

narrow gauge: 1,694 km 1.000-m gauge (65 km electrified) (2014)

Roadways 112/223

total: 19,418 km

paved: 14,756 km (includes 357 km of expressways)

unpaved: 4,662 km (2010)

Merchant marine 116/156

total: 9

by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 2, passenger/cargo 4, roll on/roll off 2 (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Bizerte, Gabes, Rades, Sfax, Skhira

Military and Security

Military branches

Tunisian Armed Forces (Forces Armees Tunisiens, FAT): Tunisian Army (includes Tunisian Air Defense Force), Tunisian Navy, Republic of Tunisia Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jamahiriyah At'Tunisia) (2012)

Military service age and obligation

20-23 years of age for compulsory service, 1-year service obligation; 18-23 years of age for voluntary service; Tunisian nationality required (2012)

Military expenditures 57/132

1.55% of GDP (2012)

1.34% of GDP (2011)

1.55% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international