Tunisia is an independent republic which lies on the on the Mediterranean coast of Africa between Algeria and Libya and forms part of the North African Region. Tunisia is the smallest country in Africa. The capital city is Tunis. Other major cities are Kairouan and Gabes and the ports of Bizerta and Sfax.

The official language is Arabic but French is widely spoken in business and commerce. English, German and Italian may also be used in some business sectors. Tunisia has a free market economy and an active stock exchange. The local currency is the Tunisian dinar (TND). (US$ / TND – current exchange rate).

The Tunisia oil industry is key to the economy of the country. In particular the upstream oil and gas industry is a major source of foreign exchange. The country has an oil refinery at Bizerte. In addition to its oil industry, Tunisia has an active chemicals industry, as well as being one of the larger markets in the African lubricants industry. The country’s mining industry is also a key sub-sector in its economy. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility, Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et du Gaz (STEG).

Transport facilities are well developed in Tunisia, with several sea ports along the coast. The largest port is La Goulette, located where the lake of Tunis opens into the gulf of Tunis. A railway link connects all the ports and with the Algerian rail network. More than half the road network is tarred, with ongoing upgrading and extending.

Although the agricultural industry in Tunisia has shrunk, it nevertheless employs one third of the population. Tunisia is one of the largest exporters of olive oil in the world.

Fish is another important export and follows the exportation of olive oil. Pollution is a threat to the industry. Manufacturing accounts for a fifth of the GDP and employs a fifth of the labour force. Textiles and leather goods account for a large proportion of manufacturing exports. Mechanical and electrical goods and chemicals are other growing industries.

The international time zone for Tunisia is GMT +1 and the international dialing code is +216. There are many international airlines which fly to Tunisia. Tunis Air is the national carrier. As at September 1995 visas are required by all visitors to Tunisia except nationals of western European countries, Japan Canada and the USA.

Shaun Bakamoso

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