On the Start-up Act and local market solutions
How can the Start-up Act unlock Tunisia's entrepreneurship potential?
AMENI MANSOURI: The Start-up Act supports Tunisia's entrepreneurship environment by helping entrepreneurs overcome the hurdles they face on a daily basis. Most importantly, it helps to recruit senior knowledge in strategic areas. Taking into consideration all the taxation on a business, the budget allocated to recruit senior staff is normally not competitive enough to attract someone with experience. However, from the moment a business is included in the start-up programme, it is exempt from corporate and payroll taxes, and employer costs are borne by the state. This financial aid makes it possible to increase the salary a firm can offer a person with experience. As experienced IT professionals are hard to find in the market, this measure will help start-up companies more readily compete with large companies for talent, allowing their business to grow more quickly and sustainably.
Second, in terms of investment, it is now possible to receive money from abroad in cash, which will facilitate more rapid development. A start-up can open a foreign currency account, participate in foreign companies and even open subsidiaries abroad. This measure will enhance investor confidence in foreign currency repatriation and facilitate interaction with countries that specialise in IT operations.
Lastly, the International Technology Card normally grants holders TD10,000 ($3320), but this is not in line with the amount a start-up requires for marketing purposes. With the Start-up Act, the cap is increased to TD100,000 ($33,200) per year, facilitating the investment of larger amounts. Overall, the entire legal framework has been augmented to position Tunisia as an attractive place to grow a new business.
What role can incubators play in Tunisia?
MANSOURI: The development of incubators in the country is filled with opportunities. Work by support organisation Flat6Labs to help start-ups in their search for international partners is already being widely recognised. Flat6Labs facilitates access to investment, for instance, by sponsoring airline tickets to help firms meet with interested parties. In addition, their positive reputation gives confidence to financiers. The fact that a well-known incubator has entered Tunisia proves the country’s start-up potential.
Moreover, the Central Bank of Tunisia is considering some interesting initiatives for the development of local businesses, such as a process to more easily move currency in and out of the country. The bank is in direct discussion with the main incubators to hear the issues that the sector faces and work towards providing solutions.
How are online payment and delivery solutions being integrated into the market?
MANSOURI: There are a lot of challenges in the e-commerce segment but also a lot of opportunity. While it is possible to make online payments with local, international and e-Dinar cards, there is reluctance on the consumer side. Online payments were launched in April 2017, and the market is still being educated, thus it will take some time for this method to become widely accepted. Up to 97% of consumers in 2018 were paying on delivery for online purchases, and today that figure sits around 85%. This proves that the acceptance of and confidence in online payments is increasing.
Furthermore, the accounts receivable or customer-to-cash function of companies can be done with the help of a trusted third party. The intermediary company takes care of recovering the funds and transferring them to the vending platform. Such a solution will be launched nationally in the short term, but in the meantime, new payment services have been introduced to the market with the arrival of trusted international partners like Aramex. The competition is rising quickly, which indicates that the market is on the right path.
Regarding e-commerce delivery services, despite some resistance at the beginning, the Tunisian Post understands that the logistics industry should evolve with the rise of online shopping, and has therefore worked to find solutions to handle such operations. The entire logistics system is currently being revisited and is endowed with significant flexibility to allow for rapid integration. E-commerce is expected to grow exponentially as related services in the country develop.