1st Hamburg Business Day Tunisia

  • April 8, 2011
  • 09:30 to 14:30
  • Hamburg Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“Tunisia as a crucial driving force for the openness of North Africa”

April 8th 2011
09.30 – 14.30h
Venue: Hamburg Chamber of Commerce & Industry

The current situation in the Arab world has attracted international concerns. While the turmoil still persists in many countries of this region, the situation in Tunisia has stabilized quickly. The prospects for a speedy transition to a democratic civil society for this country are seen as very favorable by international experts. What are the results of the new situation in Tunisia especially on its economic sectors?

The Hamburg Business Forum Tunisia is an opportunity where a number of experts, professionals and visionaries share their expertise and knowledge regarding these issues with an audience from the different parts of the EMA region.

Programme

09.30h Reception

10.00h Welcome Addresses

  • Heinz-Werner Dickmann, Deputy Managing Director of the Hamburg Trade Chamber
  • Welcome Address and Input: Enthusiasm in Tunisia – Change and it’s Impact, Taoufik Ben Amara, Former UN-Coordinator, Member of the EMA Advisory Board
  • Mohamed Imed Torjemane, Consul of the Republic of Tunisia in Hamburg

10.30h Tunisia and its Neighbours: A New Start for the EMA-Region? 

  • Economic Transformation Processes in Tunisia and North Africa, Dr. Klaus Hachmeier, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Berlin
  • New Perspectives for Tunisia and North Africa – Investment Opportunities and Industries of the Future, Martin Kalhöfer, Market Research, Head of Africa/Middle East Department, Germany Trade and Invest, Bonn
  • Will the Political Change Liberalize the Tunisian Banking Sector?, Tahar Sioud, Minister for Trade and Former Ambassador, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie S.A., Tunis
  • The Jasmine Revolution from an Entrepreneurial Point of View, Rüdiger Erb, Sales-Organisation European Logistics, Tradelane Manager Maghreb/Türkei, DACHSER GmbH & Co. KG, Kempten

Chair: Taoufik M. Ben Amara, Former UN-Coordinator

 Discussion

12:00h Lunch

13:00h Current Legal and Economic Framework         

  • The Arab Revolution from a Legal Point of View – New Opportunities, New Risks?, Dr. Stephan Jäger, Partner, Amereller Legal Consultant, Munich
  • Protection of German Investments in Tunisia and the Neighbouring Countries against Political Risks, Dr. Richard Happ, Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH, Hamburg
  • New Tunisia, New Opportunities for Success, Abdelaziz Chiha, Managing Director, Foreign Investment Promotion Agency, FIPA-Tunisia, Köln
  • Short- and Medium Term Starting Position for Foreign Direct Investment to Tunisia After the Uprising, Hamadi El-Aouni, Expert on Economic and Middle East Topics, Freie Universität Berlin, BerlinChair: Prof. Dr. Fathi Franzmathes, Head of the Institute for Commerce and Languages (IWS), Hamburg

           Discussion

14.30h Conclusion of the event with B2B meetings in the foyer

Since mass protests against high unemployment and for more political freedom broke out in Tunisia on 17 December 2010, the country’s political situation has changed. After the flight of Tunisian President Ben Ali into exile in Saudi Arabia, the Tunisian government declared a state of emergency and Fouad Mebazaa was appointed interim president. The transitional cabinet newly formed under his leadership now faces the task of preparing for new elections within six months.

Germany sees itself in every respect as a partner of Tunisia and would like to participate actively in building democratic structures. During his official state visit on 12 February 2011, Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle met with representatives from business and civil society, in addition to the incumbent Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. The German Federal Government sees opportunities for concrete economic cooperation, particularly in the energy sector. In addition, Tunisian products are to be given easier access to European markets.

The conclusion of the Barcelona Declaration in 1995 represented an important step in the development of multilateral structures between the EU and twelve countries in the Mediterranean region, including Tunisia. The decision to increase cooperation in financial, economic and cultural matters led to Tunisia’s integration into the European Free Trade Area in January 2008.

Tunisian economic policy is based on five-year strategic plans. The current plan (2007-2011) places the human being at the center of development and formulates objectives such as increasing economic growth and per capita income, reducing unemployment and poverty and improving Tunisia’s position on the Human Development Index. This requires an economic policy that promotes growth and employment and includes innovation, business start-ups, demand-oriented training and environmental and resource protection.

Despite political upheavals, Tunisia’s economic situation is considered stable, and by the middle of the decade the Tunisian economy had shown considerable growth. In 2007, the GDP increased by 6.3%. The global economic crisis has slowed Tunisia’s economic growth, but has not led to a sharp downturn. Even the impact of the difficult economic situation in Europe did not have the strongest impact on Tunisia’s export industry as feared. In 2009, GDP grew by 3.0%, with an increase of 3.7% forecast for 2010 and 4.8% for 2011.

The most important import goods are raw and semi-finished goods (39%), capital goods (21%), energy and lubricants (16%), 14% consumer goods (14%) and food (11%). 3] In the first 10 months of 2010, German exports to Tunisia rose by 36.7% to 1.34 billion euros compared with the same period last year.

The main export sectors are raw materials and semi-finished goods (36%), textiles and leather goods (26%), energy and lubricants (17%), electronics (16%), and minerals and phosphates (13%). Almost 80% of exports to the EU are industrial products. According to a 2008 study by Ernst & Young, Tunisia is the European Union’s main industrial export partner in the southern Mediterranean. Tunisia is also considered the most competitive country on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, attracting the most European industrial companies in the region over the last decade. Tunisia generates 50% of its GDP from exports and is therefore very open to foreign markets.

In April, the EMA’s Hamburg Business Day was entirely under the star of the Arab revolution, which has been moving the world since the beginning of the year, and the country responsible for its beginning and the chain reaction. Tunisia – the country that was number one in the news for weeks. The country that has been at the forefront of the Arab world in recent months and whose new perspectives now had to be discovered.

The current situation in Tunisia and all of North Africa naturally created special conditions for the Hamburg Business Day. Under the title “Tunisia as a decisive driving force for the opening of North Africa”, the current events in North Africa were looked at from a business perspective. What perspectives, what opportunities and risks result from the political change for the German economy and German-Tunisian relations?

In the historic building of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, current developments in Tunisia and North Africa were discussed with lively political and business participation, new business opportunities were discussed, investment recommendations were made and contacts were made. Works of art by a calligrapher from the region, Adam Saidani’s oud – a typical Arabic musical instrument – and traditional Tunisian pastries at the end of the event created a great supporting program.

Stimulating discussions, diverse lectures and experts from the fields of economics, politics and law ensured a lively atmosphere and a successful event.

The high Tunisian participation both on the podium and in the audience also enriched the Hamburg Business Day. These included the Consul of the Republic of Tunisia Mohamed Imed Torjemane and the Managing Director of the Office for the Promotion of Foreign Investment (FIPA) Abdelaziz Chiha.

Tahar Sioud, former Minister of Trade, Ambassador and Advisor to the European Union and current Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Central Bank of Tunisia, in particular, provided the 70 or so participants with an intensive insight into current developments and prospects in Tunisia.

The retired UN coordinator, Taoufik Ben Amara, probably spoke from the soul of many Tunisians, saying that as a proud Tunisian he was very happy to be able to experience the political spring of his home country in the autumn of his life.

The speakers were impressed by the change and the determination of the people. It was clearly the right time to talk about business, added Heinz-Werner Dickmann, Deputy Managing Director of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, in his speech.

But one must remember that this was only the impetus. The construction site is enormous, Tunisia is expecting enormous tasks and challenges such as the creation of a constitution, the emergence of political parties and the organization of free elections. Not much has yet been achieved, said Dr. Stephan Jäger. Many problems, such as corruption, have been accumulating for years, so eliminating them is a long process and one must be aware of possible failure

For the future it is now a matter of reassuring investors, to stimulate the economy, to create jobs. For a positive change and restructuring, a vision, a strategy, a plan for the future is needed, involving all parties involved, emphasizes Hamadi El-Aouni, economic and Middle East expert of the Free University of Berlin.

As far as the financial system is concerned, Tunisia needs a much more efficient banking sector and a financial system that will support the country in its development, adds Tahar Sioud, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Central Bank of Tunisia. However, the political change will also trigger the opening of the banking sector. The opening, the liberalization of trade and the democratic transitions would always bring their share of initial uncertainties and hesitations, but in the end would generally always have positive effects on the economy.

Despite the major challenges that Tunisia still faces, the business climate is good and motivation is high. German companies should take advantage of the current optimistic mood of optimism, they are very welcome in Tunisia, Heinz-Werner Dickmann encouraged the participants.

But the appeal to foreign countries also included not simply going back to business as usual. There could be no further business, he said, and the handling of the numerous tasks required adaptation on the part of companies.

Not only the consideration of whether to make an investment should be taken into account, but also which investment, Dr. Jäger emphasized. Where do investments bring what? How can one really help?

Hamadi El-Aouni, who presented seven projects that he believes are worthwhile investments, provides some examples. Among other things, he called for training in line with needs, and Germany could also help with its experience. The largest and most fascinating is probably the project of the century, Tunis, which is intended to replace the overcrowded city of Tunis as the political capital. These projects could create numerous jobs for decades to come.

But the appeal to foreign countries is not limited to the economy. Tahar Sioud called on the European countries to change their perception of the entire region and implement a new concept of neighborhood that is not just about energy sources and market access.

The economic situation before the revolution had been good, as studies on competitiveness, ratings and a high growth rate confirm. In general, Tunisia has also met the Maastricht criteria, which some European countries can only dream of at the moment. After the revolution, it is now necessary to ensure that economic growth also reaches the Tunisian population, adds Martin Kalhöfer of the GTAI.

There are many locational factors in favor of investing in Tunisia. The country offers advantages such as just-in-time production due to its proximity to Europe, it provides access to 1.5 billion consumers through free trade or preferential agreements. The level of education has risen, the costs in all areas are an advantage over Germany, and the infrastructure has been expanded.

Due to the highly diversified industry, there are many industries with promising prospects. Thanks to modernization, technological advances, human resources development – there is a very high level of highly qualified academics – areas with high added value are also considered promising markets. Alternative energies, especially solar technology, as well as the automotive industry, logistics and transport infrastructure are also mentioned as attractive sectors.

However, some of these factors also fell in the course of the economic day in connection with necessary changes. Hamadi El-Aouni described both the infrastructure and the educational system as deficient and expandable in his lively presentation. Rüdiger Erb from DACHSER GmbH & Co. KG summed it up at the end of the first block: “The stone has been set in motion, now we have to make sure that it does not get stuck anywhere”.

So should one invest or not? Of course investments also involve risks. A political upheaval brings instability and an uncertain future, which also has an impact on the economic climate. How secure or uncertain are investments or contracts? From a legal point of view, Dr. Happ answered the question of whether or not to postpone investments with a clear No! There are protection agreements between Germany and almost all Arab countries that provide adequate protection for German investments in Tunisia and neighboring countries against political risks. One should not be deterred by the current conditions but, according to Dr. Happ, continue to invest in North Africa.

By and large, the view into the future is characterized by optimism. The opportunities are there, the turnaround must be seen as an opportunity.

Tunisia expects a long process of change, but the first step has been taken. Europe can and should make its contribution. “It is a historic opportunity for foreign societies,” said Jäger. Let us hope for the future that this opportunity will be seized.

 

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