The Tunisian culture and mentality were formed by a synthesis of the different Punic, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Arab, Muslim, Turkish and French cultures and by the influence of the successive dynasties that reigned the country. Tunisia has always been a melting pot of civilisations and the cultural heritage of its three thousand year history bears witness to a country that by its exposed geographic position in the Mediterranean region was located in the heart of the expansionary movements ’by the major civilisations of the Mare Nostrum.
The Tunisian mentality and culture owes much to the history of the country with its mestizo past where Mediterranean cultures succeeded one another. Due to this cultural heritage, Tunisians are generally sincere, modern, tolerant and open to the
outside world. The geographic position has also significantly contributed to forming a special Tunisian mentality. The country is additionally enriched by belonging to three cultural regions and diverse civilisations (Arab, African and Mediterranean). The Tunisian mentality is indeed very open-minded to others. Thus, in the course of the diverse historical stages, the country was able to successfully integrate the cultural characteristics manifested one after another in this region. This heritage in particular has the effect that the cultural creativity of the country blends Andalusian and Ottoman influences and that the
educational system is characterised by a duality of Arab and French language, which also affects the production of the Tunisian literature.
This cultural abundance in Tunisia that forms the Tunisian mind leads to a cosmopolitanism of the Tunisian mentality creating a rich and intense cultural life. Among the elements that dominate the cultural life, the French influence in Tunisia is undoubtedly one of the distinctions of Tunisia. Even today, France embodies a certain idea of modernity in a country where the elites have been obsessed with this ideal for several generations. The French colonisation has helped to strengthen state rule and an educational policy that, after seventy-five years of protectorate, gave the French culture an inevitable reference status in contemporary Tunisian culture. The philosophy of the enlightenment and the ideals of human rights in Tunisia have spread for nearly two centuries via the French language and have lead to the formation of the principles and methods of nationalist governments.
To this day, the administrative practice in Tunisia is mainly determined by a centralised culture established by the French protectorate. Nationalist leaders, who led the Tunisian struggle for independence, have preserved this cultural heritage because they were formed by this culture and because France was the most important international cooperation partner. Along with that, the economic exchange with Europe and mass tourism have contributed to the gradual opening of Tunisia and the country’s approach to Europe. Tunisia is without doubt one of the most open countries of the Maghreb. The social and economic policy in Tunisia has led to a closer alignment of Tunisian society to the Western model.
Nevertheless, the religion and the closeness of the Tunisian population to the Arab-Muslim roots remains an important factor in the Tunisian culture and mentality. In Tunisia, Islam preaches values such as tolerance, freedom and openness. Jewish synagogues in the country coexist with Christian churches and mosques. Jewish and Christian minorities can openly practice their faith. However, this Islam of tolerance and openness has been threatened in recent years by the rise of
radical Islamism in the Arab-Muslim world, which has stirred some response in Tunisia. This change concerns many Tunisians as it shakes the foundation of their society founded on religious tolerance and relatively secular legislation, two principles that are today attacked by radical Muslims who regard them as incompatible with Islam.
Fact is that the vast majority of Tunisians remain firmly attached to the actual Tunisian Islam based on tolerance and openness – the true essence of the Tunisian population as a whole.
In Tunisia, the mentality and culture of openness and moderation may therefore be recognised as achievements for foreign and particularly German investors. In the Arab and African world, Tunisia represents something special due to its history, its geographic position that is open to Europe, the status of Tunisian women and the mentality of openness and tolerance that characterises the Tunisian population. This cultural feature of Tunisia offers foreign partners appropriate and welcoming conditions.
Since the Tunisian revolution, the spirit of liberty of the Tunisian political powers has supported the creation of an authentic democratic system. Despite the difficulties linked to the post-revolutionary period, it is apparent that Tunisia – according to its culture of openness – is in an irreversible process of democratisation and respect for freedom of the press, freedom of expression and assembly according to the laws and universal human rights.
Convinced that the political transition is linked to the success of the economic transition, the Tunisian government does its utmost to stabilise the domestic economy so that it can go along the path towards growth.
The Tunisian economy already shows signs of recovery and is, according to the World Bank, gradually overcoming the recession. This finding was confirmed by the central bank governor, who stated that Tunisia has overcome the recession and has its indicators under control, in particular the budget deficit and the balance of payments deficit. This hope is confirmed, since both the national authorities and international organisations predict an increasing course of growth, which should, according to forecasts, reach 4.5 per cent in 2013.
When it comes to investments, the Tunisian government is expending tremendous effort to overcome difficulties, for example by investment incentives, so that Tunisia continues to be the most attractive and competitive destination in the region. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the government has created a new investment incentives law with the strategic objective of regional development and the creation of a diversified economy with respectively high value creation.
Based on proven international guidelines of transparency and good governance, the Tunisian authorities seek to improve the business climate and to attract more foreign direct investments.
Tunisia, which aims to further strengthen its openness to the world, has also adopted the OECD Declaration and Decisions on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. This adoption reflects the recognition by the organisation itself and its and member countries of the progress made by Tunisia’s investment policies. We also believe that in the future, Tunisia will be much better positioned to approach the proven international practices and the expected upswing created with this adoption will support the new ambitions and development prospects of the new Tunisia.
Tunisia now has more than 3,055 foreign companies employing 331,000 employees and an annual average of yearly FDI flows over the past five years of nearly 1.3 billion euros. The contribution of foreign investments for the implementation of Tunisia’s development objectives was significant both in terms of job creation and in terms of increased exports. Thus, the FDIs have significantly influenced the international competitiveness of Tunisia and led to an increase in productivity.
The author, born in 1958, after holding various positions in Bonn, Brussels and Tunis, has been the Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia since 2011. He studied languages for the diplomatic service in Tunis, Moscow and Geneva and started his professional career in 1982 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tunis.