Tunisia seeks to build “Silicon Valley” by 2020

A new Tunisian act that paves the way for entrepreneurs to establish startups but fears of losing ambitious plans in bureaucratic paths arouse.

A large fringe of Tunisian entrepreneurs and young people are waiting for parliament next week to approve the draft law on establishing start-up companies, on which the government is highly betting to make a boost in the investment sector to move growth forward.

The law aims at laying motivating foundations for the establishment of start-up companies based on the principle of innovation and the adoption of modern technologies, in addition to the achievement of high added value and greater competitiveness nationwide and worldwide. .

Officials believe that young people are able to be involved in this area while being aware that over the next few years the country can have a digital economy that produces wealth by supporting a simple business climate.

Sources close to “Al-Arab” said that the authorities seek to create an ideal environment in the business sector, especially in the field of technology to build a Silicon Valley, such as the one California, and the Silicon Oasis in Dubai.

The Tunisian technology market is one of the emerging and most developed markets in North Africa, with official data showing that 30 % of households are connected to the Internet, i.e. 800,000 households.

In a statement to “Al-Arab” Expert Anis El-Qasmi said that the government’s orientation to invest in the technology sector represents the core of an imminent economic revolution in the country, while emerging companies are the engine of this revolution.

El- Qasmi, owner of an emerging marketing company “Quotidien”, stressed that facilitating the university graduates’ chance to reflect their ideas on the ground would ultimately lead to a qualitative leap in Tunisia’s stumbling economy.

Although it seems difficult, some argue that Tunisia has a technology infrastructure conducive to investors, which may help materialize the government’s plans, provided they are invested properly.

The draft law sets very ambitious goals, though experts are skeptical. One of the objectives is to present Tunisia as a leader in Africa and the second in the Middle East and North Africa.

Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy Anour Maarouf said the law would “make Tunisia a reference in digital transformation and a technology pole in Africa.”

Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia Marouane El Abassi told parliament during a session to approve his appointment in his new post that the state is required to invest in the knowledge economy to promote growth and must cut with the classical ways to secure the financial incomes of the country.

The law includes 20 chapters defining this type of companies, contrary to the definition adopted for small and medium-sized companies or traditional companies. It also explains in detail the way it is established in addition to incentives and funding for entrepreneurs and their companies.

The Act provides mechanisms to help launch innovative projects through a “grant” for establishing companies.  It is also a cross-border law that allows expatriates to invest in Tunisia.

In order to be able to deal with foreign markets and to avoid complex management and tight central controls, entrepreneurs will be allowed to open bank accounts in hard currency.

The ceiling of the international electronic card will be raised from 10,000 dinars (4.1 thousand dollars) to 100,000 dinars (41,000 dollars) to help start-ups develop their activities abroad.

The Act includes rules to facilitate the management of emerging projects while assisting them in facilitating customs procedures for imports, exports, tax benefits, establishment, liquidation and distribution of shares.

The Act also helps establish a Tunisian free zone but in another country, and any employee with an innovative idea is granted a ​​temporary leave to establish his company and return to work if the project fails.

In line with Tunisia’s Smart 2020 vision, Tunisia has received new international support to stimulate the investment climate and encourage young entrepreneurs to build their own businesses.

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said during a working visit toTunisia last Wednesday that the European Union has allocated about 25 million Euros to fund one thousand startup companies in Tunisia.

Tunisia seeks to raise the contribution of the digital economy to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 30 % in the coming years, while currently does not exceed 2 %, according to official data.

Tunisia is equipped with international indicators that made it possible to reach an advanced position among university graduates, as well as being ranked as the first vibrant African city, according to a recent German report, enabling it to develop the business environment of emerging companies.

A recent study conducted by a German firm “Inpact” in seven countries including five Arab countries, showed that Tunisia is the best in the status of start-ups, followed by Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco.

Tunisia also topped the list of Arab and African countries for the second year in a row and was ranked 43rd in 2017 among the 50 most innovative countries in the 2018 ranking on the  Bloomberg Economic Index.

TunisianMonitorOnline –MNHN (Translated from Al-Arab, article written by Riadh Bouazza)

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