The northernmost African nation, the Republic of Tunisia shipped US$15.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -7.6% decline since 2014 but a 9.1% upturn from 2017 to 2018.
An examination of available 2017 data shows that 80% of products exported from Tunisia were bought by importers in: France (30.6% of the global total), Italy (16.5%), Germany (11.6%), Spain (3.8%), Algeria (3.3%), Libya (2.8%), United Kingdom (2.3%), United States (2.2%), Switzerland (2.2%), Netherlands (1.8%), Belgium (1.7%) and Morocco (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, 76.8% of Tunisia exports by value were delivered to European countries while 10.3% were sold to fellow African importers. Tunisia shipped another 5.3% worth of goods to Asia. Smaller percentages went to North America (2.6%), Latin America (0.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.1%) led Australia and New Zealand.
Given Tunisia’s population of 11.5 million people, its total $15.5 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $1,300 for every resident in the northern African country.
In macroeconomic terms, Tunisia’s total exported goods represent 10.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($144.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 10.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 12.2% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Tunisia’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Tunisia also provided $3.8 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2.6% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Tunisia’s unemployment rate was 15.3% as of March 2019 down from 15.4% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Tunisia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Tunisian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tunisia.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$4.1 billion (26.5% of total exports)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2.4 billion (15.2%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $1.1 billion (6.9%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $915.4 million (5.9%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $788 million (5.1%)
- Footwear: $644.2 million (4.2%)
- Vehicles: $579.1 million (3.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $519.1 million (3.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $503.1 million (3.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $396.7 million (2.6%)
By value, Tunisia’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (76.7%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Footwear was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 63.5% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales were animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes which rose 49.7%.
Tunisia’s shipments of knit or crochet clothing and accessories posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 47.8%.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Tunisia export categories was plastics and plastic articles thanks to its -14% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, insulated wire or cable represents Tunisia’s most valuable exported product at 12.5% of the country’s total. In second place were unknit and non-crocheted men’s suits and trousers (6%) trailed by olive oil (4.9%), crude petroleum oil (4.3%), unknit and non-crocheted women’s clothing (3.8%), automobile parts or accessories (3.4%), lower-voltage switches and fuses (3%) processed petroleum oils (2.4%), leather footwear (2.4%) then phone system devices including smartphones (2.3%).
The following types of Tunisian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): US$2.2 billion (Up by 68.1% since 2017)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.1 billion (Down by -4%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $812.8 million (Up by 66.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $638.6 million (Up by 159.6%)
- Footwear: $487.5 million (Up by 99.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $298.7 million (Up by 27.6%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $147.3 million (Down by -24.6%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $132.3 million (Up by 151.2%)
- Fish: $117.7 million (Up by 34.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $106.6 million (Up by 288.7%)
Tunisia has highly positive net exports in the international apparel trade. In turn, these cashflows indicate Tunisia’s strong competitive advantages under the clothing and accessories product categories whether or not knit or crocheted.
Overall Tunisia incurred a -$4.7 billion trade deficit for 2018, down by -27% from -$6.4 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Tunisia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Tunisia’s goods trail Tunisian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.8 billion (Down by -0.2% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.4 billion (Down by -0.9%)
- Cereals: -$687.2 million (Down by -6.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$666.6 million (Down by -12.1%)
- Iron, steel: -$652.7 million (Up by 8%)
- Vehicles: -$622.5 million (Down by -40.9%)
- Cotton: -$440.7 million (Down by -24.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$440.6 million (Down by -3.1%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$324.2 million (Up by 135.1%)
- Manmade staple fibers: -$301.8 million (Up by 22.3%)
Tunisia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–particularly refined petroleum oils and petroleum gases.
Tunisian Export Companies
Not one Tunisian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Tunisia. Selected examples are shown below:
- Evertek (telecommunications)
- Groupe Mabrouk (food, beverages)
- Industries Mécaniques Maghrébines (automobiles)
- Vermeg (technology & software)
- Wallyscar (car manufacturer)
Tunisia’s capital city is Tunis, a port located on the Mediterranean Sea.
See also South Africa’s Top 10 Exports, Top African Export Countries and Capital Facts for Tunis, Tunisia
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 4, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 8, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 4, 2018
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 4, 2018
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 8, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 8, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Tunisia. Accessed on June 4, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 8, 2019