Tunisia [Country Flag of Tunisia]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Tunisia]



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

Geographic coordinates: 34 00 N, 9 00 E

Map references: Africa

total: 163,610 sq km
land: 155,360 sq km
water: 8,250 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly larger than Georgia

Land boundaries:
total: 1,424 km
border countries: Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km

Coastline: 1,148 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south

Terrain: mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Shatt al Gharsah -17 m
highest point: Jabal ash Shanabi 1,544 m

Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt

Land use:
arable land: 19%
permanent crops: 13%
permanent pastures: 20%
forests and woodland: 4%
other: 44% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 3,850 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment—current issues: toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and presents human health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography—note: strategic location in central Mediterranean


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Population: 9,380,404 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 32% (male 1,526,743; female 1,433,503)
15-64 years: 63% (male 2,933,487; female 2,947,189)
65 years and over: 5% (male 275,411; female 264,071) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.43% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 20.07 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.06 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.73 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 32.64 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.1 years
male: 71.72 years
female: 74.58 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.44 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Tunisian(s)
adjective: Tunisian

Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Religions: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%

Languages: Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 66.7%
male: 78.6%
female: 54.6% (1995 est.)


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Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Tunisia
conventional short form: Tunisia
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
local short form: Tunis

Data code: TS

Government type: republic

National capital: Tunis

Administrative divisions: 23 governorates; Beja, Ben Arous, Bizerte, Gabes, Gafsa, Jendouba, Kairouan, Kasserine, Kebili, L'Ariana, Le Kef, Mahdia, Medenine, Monastir, Nabeul, Sfax, Sidi Bou Zid, Siliana, Sousse, Tataouine, Tozeur, Tunis, Zaghouan

Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)

National holiday: National Day, 20 March (1956)

Constitution: 1 June 1959; amended 12 July 1988

Legal system: based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session

Suffrage: 20 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987)
head of government: Prime Minister Hamed KAROUI (since 26 September 1989)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 20 March 1994 (next to be held NA 1999); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI reelected without opposition; percent of vote—Zine El Abidine BEN ALI 99%

Legislative branch: unicameral Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (163 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 20 March 1994 (next to be held NA 1999)
election results: percent of vote by party—RCD 97.7%, MDS 1.0%, others 1.3%; seats by party—RCD 144, MDS 10, others 9; note—the government changed the electoral code to guarantee that the opposition won seats

Judicial branch: Court of Cassation (Cour de Cassation)

Political parties and leaders: Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (RCD), President BEN ALI (official ruling party); Movement of Democratic Socialists (MDS); five other political parties are legal, including the Communist Party

Political pressure groups and leaders: the Islamic fundamentalist party, Al Nahda (Renaissance), is outlawed

International organization participation: ABEDA, ACCT, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, BSEC (observer), CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MIPONUH, NAM, OAS (observer), OAU, OIC, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Noureddine MEJDOUB
chancery: 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005
telephone: [1] (202) 862-1850

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robin L. RAPHEL
embassy: 144 Avenue de la Liberte, 1002 Tunis-Belvedere
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [216] (1) 782-566
FAX: [216] (1) 789-719

Flag description: red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam


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Economy—overview: Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, energy, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization of trade and commerce, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Real growth averaged 4.6% in 1992-96 and reached 5.6% in 1997, down from 6.9% in 1996, which benefited from a record cereal crop. Inflation has been moderate. Growth in tourism and increased trade have been key elements in this solid record. Tunisia's association agreement with the European Union entered into force on 1 March 1998, the first such accord between the EU and Mediterranean countries to be activated. Under the agreement Tunisia will gradually remove barriers to trade with the EU over the next decade. Further privatization, the attraction of increased foreign investment, and improvements in government efficiency are among the challenges for the future.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$56.5 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 5.6% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$6,100 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 14%
industry: 28%
services: 58% (1996 est.)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 4.6% (1997 est.)

Labor force:
total: 2.917 million (1993 est.)
by occupation: services 55%, industry 23%, agriculture 22% (1995 est.)
note: shortage of skilled labor

Unemployment rate: 15% (1997 est.)

revenues: $6.3 billion
expenditures: $6.8 billion, including capital expenditures to $1.5 billion (1997 est.)

Industries: petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, food, beverages

Industrial production growth rate: 3.5% (1995)

Electricity—capacity: 1.414 million kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 6.165 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 696 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: olives, dates, oranges, almonds, grain, sugar beets, grapes; poultry, beef, dairy products

total value: $5.6 billion (f.o.b., 1997 est.)
commodities: hydrocarbons, textiles, agricultural products, phosphates and chemicals
partners: EU 80%, North African countries 6%, Asia 4%, US 1% (1996)

total value: $7.4 billion (c.i.f., 1997 est.)
commodities: industrial goods and equipment 57%, hydrocarbons 13%, food 12%, consumer goods
partners: EU countries 80%, North African countries 5.5%, Asia 5.5%, US 5% (1996)

Debt—external: $10.6 billion (1997 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $221 million (1993)

Currency: 1 Tunisian dinar (TD) = 1,000 millimes

Exchange rates: Tunisian dinars (TD) per US$1—1.1612 (January 1998), 1.1059 (1997), 0.9734 (1996), 0.9458 (1995), 1.0116 (1994), 1.0037 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones: 560,000 (1996 est.)

Telephone system: the system is above the African average; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis
domestic: trunk facilities consist of open-wire lines, coaxial cable, and microwave radio relay
international: 5 submarine cables; satellite earth stations—1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat with back-up control station; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel

Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 8, shortwave 0

Radios: 1,693,527 (1991 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 19

Televisions: 1.4 million

Communications—note: Internet access is available through two private service providers licensed by the government


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total: 2,260 km
standard gauge: 492 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 1,758 km 1.000-m gauge
dual gauge: 10 km 1.000-m and 1.435-m gauges (1993 est.)

total: 23,100 km
paved: 18,226 km
unpaved: 4,874 km (1996 est.)

Pipelines: crude oil 797 km; petroleum products 86 km; natural gas 742 km

Ports and harbors: Bizerte, Gabes, La Goulette, Sfax, Sousse, Tunis, Zarzis

Merchant marine:
total: 20 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 157,475 GRT/165,922 DWT
ships by type: bulk 5, cargo 5, chemical tanker 2, liquefied gas tanker 1, oil tanker 1, roll-on/roll-off cargo 2, short-sea passenger 3, specialized tanker 1 (1997 est.)

Airports: 32 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 15
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 17
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 7 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, paramilitary forces

Military manpower—military age: 20 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 2,534,929 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 1,450,442 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 96,966 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $535 million (1995)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2.8% (1995)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: maritime boundary dispute with Libya; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration