Given its proximity to Europe, Tunisia is at the heart of the Euro-Mediterranean logistics chain, a position it has leveraged to create a thriving electronics industry. Benefitting from a highly qualified, skilled and cost-competitive workforce, Tunisia has succeeded in attracting a large number of electronics companies to its shores, becoming an internationally recognised electronics production hub, notably in the aeronautics and automobile industries. Fortunately, electronics has been relatively sheltered from the labour unrest seen in other industrial segments, allowing it to continue to grow and attract investment. Today, the industry is focused on consolidation and cooperation among its key actors, who aim to make Tunisia the top destination in the region for electronics manufacturing.
Mechanics and electronics production accounted for 5% of GDP in 2018, with value added growing by around 1.5% per year. Data from the Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation (Agence de Promotion de l’Industrie et de l’Innovation, APII) indicates that there were a total of 339 electric and electronic equipment manufacturing companies as of July 2019. Of these, 225 were wholly export-oriented, and 75% of total electronic exports are shipped to the EU. Exports of mechanic and electronic products increased by 14% in 2018 to TD18.2bn ($6.3bn). The industry plays a vital role in job creation, employing 95,761 people in 2018 and representing 18% of all industrial jobs. Having created 15,620 new jobs in 2018 alone, the segment was the second-largest industrial employer that year, after clothing and textiles.
Like other key industrial sectors, electronics has garnered a lot of interest from foreign investors; 232 electronics firms had received foreign capital as of July 2019. France was the biggest such stakeholder, providing 81 companies with capital, followed by Italy with 66 and Germany with 38.
Investment in the industry rose by 18% in 2018 to TD817.9m ($284.1m) for 563 projects. This pace continued into May 2019, with investment ramping up 64.8% year-on-year to TD312.1m ($108.4m), pri- marily due to the construction of German PSZ electronic’s cable manufacturing unit in Bouhjar for TD52m ($18.1m), the extension of an aeronautics production hub for TD43.8m ($15.2m) and the expansion of a spring production facility for TD23m ($8m).
To further promote the Tunisian electronics industry on the international stage, the ELENTICA group was launched in May 2017. Comprising 41 companies, the cluster accounts for 11,000 employees and consolidated sales of around €1bn as of January 2019. Part of ELENTICA’s strategy is to create stronger links with scientific researchers through an accord signed in October 2018 in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. This pact is aimed at encouraging and facilitating scientific and technological collaboration, ultimately resulting in the creation of research centres within ELENTICA companies. Research will be focused on key growth areas, including renewable energy and smart grid solutions, the internet of things, smart cities, new health technologies, e-farming, Industry 4.0, lighting, and electric and hybrid cars.
The benefits of cooperation to accelerate developments in such areas are manifold, with innovations in certain fields having direct and immediate benefits for other sectors, notably renewable energy and e-farming. Tunisia’s energy deficit represents one-third of the overall trade deficit, which widened from TD15.6bn ($5.4bn) in 2017 to a record TD19bn ($6.6bn) a year later. Launched in 2016, the Renewable Energy Action Plan 2030 aims to increase the share of renewable energy – namely wind and solar – in electricity production from 4% in 2015 to 30%. Furthermore, the long-term strategy seeks to export electricity to Europe via underwater cable. Both represent significant opportunities for the electronics industry if it can manage to close the technological gap.
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