Tunisia wins $9 billion in pledges for ailing economy
Several countries promised nearly $9 billion in financial support for Tunisia on Tuesday at an investment conference aimed at reviving the country's struggling economy.
More than 2,000 prime ministers, CEOs and other participants from some 40 countries are attending the two-day "Tunisia 2020" conference that aims to put the North African nation "back on the investment map of the Mediterranean", officials said.
The government hopes the event can generate up to $30 billion for 145 projects – from infrastructure and agricultural projects to hi-tech schemes – over the next four years.
Investment Minister Fadhel Abdelkefi called on international investors to help "anchor [Tunisia] definitively in the ranks of democratic countries".
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani pledged $1.25 billion in financial support at the opening session.
He said the money would "support the Tunisian economy and strengthen its process of development".
The European Union announced a doubling of its financial support in 2017 to $318 million.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the French Development Agency (AFD) would invest "at least 250 million euros ($265 million) every year" in Tunisia.
"We will also implement operations to convert Tunisian debt into development projects," he said.
He praised Tunisia's "exemplary transition" following its 2011 revolution and said France had a "duty and a responsibility" to support it.
Valls, on a two-day visit to Tunisia, met President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Monday evening, whose government took office in August in place of an administration heavily criticised for its economic management.
Nearly six years after its Arab Spring revolution, Tunisia hopes the meeting will help it confront challenges including high unemployment, low growth and a tourism sector hammered by extremist attacks.
Islamic State attacks in Tunisia in 2015 have killed 59 foreign visitors and 13 Tunisians, dealing a devastating blow to the key tourism industry.
Strikes and social unrest have also hit strategic sectors including phosphate mining.
Around 15 percent of the workforce was unemployed in the spring of 2016 according to the World Bank – many of them young graduates, who have seen the hope of the Arab Spring dissipate.
Agencies contributed to this report