Agriculture is set to play a key role in achieving the government’s objective of increasing employment for young people, particularly in rural areas. In 2018 around 47% of the Tunisian population was under 30 years old and the youth unemployment rate stood at 34.8%, according to the World Bank. However, a number of programmes have been created to encourage innovation and investment, while also overcoming financing and land issues, to boost employment in the sector.
The government established a number of business clusters as part of its 2007-16 Development Plan, including one focused on industrial food production in the coastal city of Bizerte. To encourage young entrepreneurs in the sector, the cluster established an agricultural technology start-up incubator in late 2013. The project has provided technical, legal, administrative, marketing and financial support to 20 start-ups between 2014 and 2018, along with personalised training to maximise success.
In March 2018 the Agriculture Investment Promotion Agency (Agence de Promotion des Investissements Agricoles, APIA) launched the TD5m ($1.7m) Agripreneur 2.0 programme with the GIZ. “The primary goal of the programme is to help young people finance the development of innovative new agricultural prototypes,” Abderrahmane Cheffai, president of APIA. “Additionally, the programme seeks to help young people develop business plans and access funding from private banks and investors.”
Between the launch of the project and January 2019, 3800 young people took part in the programme’s awareness campaign, while 13,000 received information regarding the use of ICT. Some 700 young people from rural areas presented their business proposals as part of Agripreneur 2.0, with 300 selected for the final stage of the incubator programme. Each participant received training on entrepreneurship, ICT, marketing and management. The projects selected for the final stage received funding to develop their prototype. While the programme was originally expected to be completed in June 2019, GIZ announced in January 2019 that it would be extended for another year.
Tunisia is also benefitting from international cooperation in upgrading its farming system. In March 2019 a number of government agencies formed an agreement with France’s Agency for the Development of International Cooperation in the Areas of Agriculture, Food and Rural Space. The Programme for the Revival of Investments and Modernisation of Agricultural Holdings (Programme de Relance des Investissements et de Modernisation des Exploitations Agricoles, PRIMEA), which is funded by a €76m package from the French Development Agency and the EU, aims to provide farmers with a support structure to help them adopt international best practices and make the necessary investments to run their farms more effectively. The implementation of PRIMEA is expected to increase the competitiveness of 60,000 Tunisian farms, boosting investment and employment.
Innovation and entrepreneurship in the sector are also being encouraged through a number of public competitions. In 2017 Tunisia participated for the first time in the Future Agro Challenge, a global competition undertaken in 137 countries every year. The project aims to support a new generation of young agricultural entrepreneurs to expand sustainable development. Winners of the competition are provided with mentorship programmes, investment and potential clients.
The Orange Social Venture Prize also supports rural innovation, with the agricultural start-up Seabex taking first place in Tunisia in June 2018. Seabex developed a platform using artificial intelligence to automate precision-farming techniques. It has the potential to better rationalise water, fertiliser and energy, while boosting production. The winning project raised TD10,000 ($3470) and benefitted from a personalised incubator programme provided by global telecoms firm Orange.
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