Country Profile

Tunisia Country Profile

Home of the ancient city of Carthage, present-day Tunisia has a long and distinguished history. Its location at the centre of North Africa, close to vital shipping routes in the Mediterranean, ensured it became a hub for control over the region for successive ruling elites, including the Berbers, Phoenicians, Romans, and Arab and Ottoman dynasties. In the late 19th century Tunisia became a French protectorate, a status it maintained until colonial rule ended in 1956, and the country achieved full independence. The post-independence republican period was dominated first by Habib Bourgiba, who ruled as president for three decades (1956-87), advancing secular ideals, in particular the emancipation of women. Bourgiba’s successor, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, assumed power in 1987, and established an authoritarian rule that would stay in place until a wave of anti-government protests forced him into exile in January 2011. The start of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution had a widespread impact, igniting the region-wide movement now known as the Arab Spring. Though at times rocky, Tunisia’s road to democracy has been generally deemed a success, and the country is often hailed as a beacon of hope in a turbulent region.

This chapter contains a viewpoint from President Béji Caïd Essebsi; and an interview with Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank.