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Introduction

Entrepreneurship is growing immensely across the world. In fact, many economies witnessed a shift from the managed economy towards the entrepreneurial economy. When the unemployment rate is high and the economy is stagnating, entrepreneurship is vital for economic development. This is because entrepreneurs can stimulate economic growth by generating new jobs, creating new technologies, and increasing productivity. Entrepreneurship is viewed as a vehicle for achieving competitiveness in the global markets. Since the revolution, Tunisia has been suffering from high unemployment rates that led to brain drain. The exodus of skilled labour hinders the country’s development. Therefore, Tunisia placed an emphasis on entrepreneurial innovation. As entrepreneurship flourished, Tunisia has the potential to become a hub for entrepreneurs in the Maghreb region.

The Startup Act: A prerequisite for successful entrepreneurship

In Tunisia, the Startup Act, a groundbreaking legal framework, began as a bottom-up strategy in 2016 and was implemented in 2018. The parliament passed this law as part of the government‘s wider “Digital Tunisia 2020” plan. The Startup Act was initiated by a joint effort between the government, private sector and civil society.  It aims to foster socio-economic development, expand technological infrastructure, and encourage the launch and development of Tunisian startups, especially in the high-tech sector. This makes Tunisia more globally competitive in the area of innovative entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the Startup Act aims to streamline the process of creating and liquidating a business. It also aims to expand financial access for innovative startups with growth potential. In addition, it aims to increase economic growth and employment for young people in particular. Last but not least, it is aimed at advancing the internationalization of the Tunisian enterprises and easing customs procedures for imports.

The Startup Act provides various perks for different players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. First, entrepreneurs can benefit from a grant provided to the co-founder and shareholder to pay one year’s living expenses, state funding for patent licensing procedures and fees at national and global scales, and leave for one year to focus on the launch and growth of their startup. Second, startup opportunities include a platform to register for startup status, the right to open a foreign currency account, and relief from corporate taxes. Finally, investors can benefit from the tax-deductible startup investment.

The Startup Act has made a big move that shed light on the Tunisian startup ecosystem and its specific needs. It also inspired other ecosystems to achieve similar local initiatives for example some proposals suggest lawmakers to set up incentives that promote investment in startups, such as the fiscal package, proposed by the official representative of the private sector, GCEM in Morocco.

The thriving entrepreneurship in Tunisia

Entrepreneurship is widely spread among Tunisian youth. The growing interest in entrepreneurship led to the emergence of a large number of startups. Thus, it encouraged entrepreneurs to develop their skills in terms of building a viable project and a strong business plan in order to boost innovation. In fact, the innovation ecosystem is drawing the attention of international startups and it has attracted several startup branches.  This demonstrates the potential of the Tunisian ecosystem. As entrepreneurship thrived in Tunisia, a platform called Entrepreneurs of Tunisia was created to track, gather and present data relating to the Tunisian entrepreneurial actors. In 2019, the World Economic Forum selected 6 Tunisian startups that shape the fourth industrial revolution. These startups are BioFire, Dabchy, Epilert, Evocraft, Grabingo and Wattnow.

With nearly 30 tech hubs, Tunisia is considered as a dynamic location for startups in Africa. The capital Tunis was chosen as the location for the African’s Union‘s planned Digital African Excellence Center in 2017. Tunisia is a member of the Smart Africa Alliance in charge of the African startup ecosystem development.  In fact, Startup Africa Summit: Afric’Up is a Tunisian initiative for the benefit of African startups. It is regarded as the largest event related to entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa.

Entrepreneurship in the time of Covid-19:  An opportunity for startups

In the presence of COVID-19, entrepreneurs face a different situation that it is not only a massive health crisis impacting millions of people all over the world. It is also causing an ongoing global economic slowdown. Even though the pandemic impacted the entrepreneurial economy, some entrepreneurs have been opportunistic as they pivoted their businesses to the emerging needs. This shows that times of crisis can lead to an increase in entrepreneurial activity; therefore startups remain as a key driver of economic growth. In fact, some innovative startups have responded rapidly and flexibly to Covid-19. They have been essential in the shift towards remote jobs, online education, e-commerce and health services.  One of the successful Tunisian startups that thrived during the pandemic is the Tunisian bike taxi startup IntiGo that has temporarily became a delivery service.  It launched two delivery services that include grocery delivering and concierge service.

In response to the threat posed by the pandemic, some young entrepreneurs launched a couple of initiatives to help their communities and provide assistance to the hospital staff. The textile firm Tahfouna produced face masks for health staff, and the cosmetic brand M’Liz created a sanitizer gel at a low price.

Conclusion

The Maghreb region is located at the crossroads of vigorous markets, largely marked by a highly educated population. Tunisia has the potential to become a leading hub that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation across the region.

References

Hinrichsen, S. (2020, November 2). Exploring the Rising Tunisian Start-up Ecosystem. Retrieved from (Link)

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