How the EBRD and EU help Tunisia’s private sector boost competitiveness

By Bojana Gajic


Leading ice cream and dairy producer GIPA was one of the first companies that benefited from the Advice for Agribusiness programme.

On a hot summer day in Tunis the coffee bars and beaches are packed. The sunshine is one reason for the crowds but another is the unemployment rate, currently at around 15 per cent of Tunisia’s population.   

Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), meanwhile, account for some 56 per cent of the country’s employment and 40 per cent of its GDP. And the private sector can deliver not only more jobs and domestic trade but also potentially increase Tunisia’s exports to more developed, high value markets.

For this to happen, businesses need to have better access to finance and also to improve their competitiveness and productivity, thus meeting the more demanding standards of markets such as the European Union.

Together with the EU, the EBRD actively supports private sector SMEs in Tunisia in their efforts to reach such higher standards. The Bank’s EU-supported Advice for Agribusiness programme is part of this work. The EBRD supports local companies to improve their standards of corporate governance, sanitary and environmental standards, technical requirements and marketing standards etc.   

Patrice Bergamini, EU Ambassador to Tunisia, said: “The EU, together with its partner the EBRD, is committed to supporting Tunisian businesses in their endeavours to grow and become more competitive. The advisory programme also aims to support Tunisia in its economic transition and deepen EU-Tunisia economic integration further.” 

 

Small and medium size enterprises are the backbone of Tunisia’s economy, accounting for some 56 per cent of the country’s jobs.

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A thriving private sector

Leading ice cream and dairy producer GIPA was one of the first companies that benefited from the Advice for Agribusiness programme.

GIPA has three production sites and around 1,200 employees. GIPA’s workforce is equally comprised of men and women, both in production and management positions.

Over two years, the Advice for Agribusiness programme helped GIPA focus on a wide range of management and operational issues: from consulting on how to improve supply chain management and increasing production efficiency, to improving corporate governance and marketing. 

Progress is visible across the board and especially in logistics. In addition, with the help of a commercial specialist, the company improved its marketing procedures for new product launches.

Youssef Ghrib, GIPA CEO, said:  “The project has helped us develop our distribution system and supply chain. There were too many actors working separately, which was difficult to coordinate, especially during the busy summer season. With a new logistics system and procedures in place, we restructured our organisation and improved supply to our customers.” 

Support for local companies    

“In practice, the Advice for Agribusiness programme gives local companies the opportunity to engage international advisers to help them develop and implement strategies to improve their business operations and competitiveness. Such advice would usually be difficult and expensive to obtain but, thanks to EBRD donor support, local companies can benefit from international expertise at a much lower cost,” explained the EBRD’s Nemanja Grgic.

The programme is also active in Morocco and Egypt, again supported by the EU.

“What has directed GIPA’s upward path to success is our constant drive for innovation and improvement, as well as the quality of our people. This year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary and we are happy that our ice cream brands have been enjoyed by so many generations in Tunisia,” added Mr Ghrib.