Promoting trade relations with sub-Saharan Africa

Project description

Title: Promotion of export activities to new markets in Sub-Saharan Africa (PEMA II)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Tunisia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Commerce and Export Development
Overall termn: 2021 to 2024


A decade on from the Arab Spring, Tunisia is experiencing high unemployment and low economic growth. The country is relying on economic initiatives to boost growth. It also wants to improve its global competitiveness: Tunisia’s relatively small domestic market makes its economy heavily dependent on exports of goods and services. However, exports are limited to just a few regions: in 2018, the Mediterranean region accounted for around three quarters of Tunisian exports, while sub-Saharan Africa accounted for only around three per cent.

At the same time, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa have experienced remarkable growth in recent years. The Tunisian Government is aware of the potential this represents and is keen to exploit it for its own economy. Tunisian companies have a clear competitive advantage in certain sectors, such as information and communication technologies, health care and agribusiness, and offer competitive products and services. Following Tunisia’s accession to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in January 2020, its exports have benefited from duty-free access to 15 African countries.

The entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2020 will further reduce barriers to trade over the coming years, potentially further advancing trade between Tunisia and the rest of the continent.


More small and medium-sized companies in Tunisia are exploiting the business potential of new markets in sub-Saharan Africa.


The project builds on the results of the first phase from 2018 to 2020 and continues to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Tunisia in tapping into markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

In cooperation with the Centre de Promotion des Exportations de la Tunisie (CEPEX), the project offers a range of services for companies. The focus is on corporate partnerships in consortia, tapping into new markets, digital approaches, mediation and the promotion of public-private dialogue. The project particularly promotes companies run by women, which have traditionally been under represented in the export sector.

The project has already supported four export consortia in developing a strategy for trade with sub-Saharan Africa. These consortia bring together a number of companies to collectively improve their position on foreign markets. The consortia are: the Tunisia Building Partners (construction), Taste Tunisia (agriculture and food sector), the Tunisia Health Alliance (health care), and Get'IT (information and communication).

To facilitate trade between Tunisia and sub-Saharan Africa, the project is cooperating with CEPEX to develop appropriate services and to improve companies’ access to African markets. The team sup-ports CEPEX in establishing a service offering for entrepreneurs, developing new digital services and organising exchange formats with African companies.

With the Ministry of Commerce and Export Development, the project team is improving information channels and creating public-private dialogue formats. The objective is to involve Tunisian SMEs in the negotiation and implementation of the Pan-African free trade area AfCFTA and COMESA. The project also aims to improve regional cooperation with other countries in order to create export opportunities for Tunisian companies.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the project has also been helping Tunisian export companies to survive the economic impact of the crisis.

Last update: May 2021