AfDB-funded motorway link and other new projects are path to growth in south east Tunisia

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The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) most recently announced project in Tunisia will create jobs and promote growth in the neglected south east region of the country.  It is also part of a wider set of projects that will benefit the country as a whole.  The AfDB is also studying the best way of boosting growth and prosperity in the south eastern corner of the country.

On 21 June 2011, the AfDB approved a €137 million loan to the Tunisia Highways Corporation to fund the Médenine to Ras Jedir part of the motorway link between Gabes and Ras Jedir in the deep south east of the country.

The building of the road will bring much-needed work to the south-east corner of Tunisia, which has the country’s highest rate of poverty and unemployment.  The construction itself will create 2,000 jobs directly.  In addition, the forecast is that, once the road is built, another 30,000 jobs will be created, mainly in tourism and services.

Mr Abdourahamane Charaf-Eddine, an economist in the AfDB’s North Africa department, commented: 

“The Gabes-Médenine-Ras Jedir motorway project has the specific aims of improving the flow of goods and people between Gabes and the Tunisian-Libyan border and to provide better accessibility to key development sites in the south east.  
“It will highlight the economic potential of the south east of Tunisia and will promote increased trade and tourism between Libya and Tunisia.  This will promote regional development and help improve living conditions due to spinoff effects on agriculture, industry, tourism and artisan activity in the region”.

On a wider front, the Bank is providing up to USD 1 billion in financial support to Tunisia.  In May 2011, it announced USD 500 million in support.  That amount was matched by another USD 500 million from the World Bank at the same time.

The President of the AfDB, Mr Donald Kaberuka, said in June 2011 that there was an additional USD 500 million “in the pipeline”, which he hoped would be in place by the end of the year.

Tunisia’s economy was in good shape for the future, he said, but the country needed assistance as it had lost 40 percent in tourism revenue and 60 percent in foreign direct investment since the political events in January 2011.

In addition to the motorway project, there are other projects planned for the near future, said Mr Charaf-Eddine: “Other projects will be submitted to the Bank’s board over the coming months for funding approval.  Notably, they include a line of credit for small and medium-sized enterprises, a drinking water supply project for rural areas, and a proposed waste water treatment project with 50 treatment plants”.

He added that while those three projects were national in scope, the areas of Gabes, Médenine and Tataouine would be eligible for inclusion.

Previous national AfDB-funded projects had helped the region, he said, as well as specific regional operations, citing an agricultural and an energy project in Gabes, and a pipeline to El Borma in the Tataouine governorate.

The south east region has good potential for agriculture, industry and tourism and this new road section will help unlock that potential.

Already, the region benefits from tourism because of the island of Djerba, which is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

The AfDB, said Mr Charaf-Eddine, is commissioning a number of studies to pinpoint the kind of projects that would benefit the south eastern region.

“The Bank will be paying close attention to regional development to help reduce the inequalities that have been highlighted since the revolution”, he said.