Tunisia Energy and Environment Facts

Natural resources and energy

Phosphate, oil and natural gas are Tunisia’s main natural resources. However, Tunisia is not self-sufficient with energy but imports oil and natural gas. Tunisia is one of the world’s largest phosphate producers.

98 percent of all electricity is produced from fossil fuels, primarily natural gas. But the goal is to gradually increase the use of renewable energy, so that such sources can account for a quarter of electricity generation by 2030.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Tunisia with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.

Oil exports have gradually dropped in importance, but in 2019 a number of new licenses for extraction were granted. Oil production does not fully account for half of the country’s domestic needs. The oil is extracted, for example, in the sea outside the city of Sfax and in El Borma in the south, where there are also gas resources. Oil production has steadily declined since the 1980s when it was at its peak. At the same time, it has been slow to get recovery in new oil and gas fields, not least because it has taken time to get Parliament’s approval for new projects. Using the Nawara gas field, under development in 2019, it is hoped that Tunisia’s gas imports will be able to reduce by 30 percent.

The country’s only oil refinery in Bizerte is not enough to meet the needs that exist. Another refinery is planned in the port city of La Skhira (al-Sukhayra), including Qatar as co-financier.

Significant shale gas deposits have been made in southern Tunisia but no recovery has yet begun.

  • Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, TS stands for Tunisia. Visit itypeusa for more information about Tunisia.

Tunisia receives a small proportion of the gas from Algeria passing through the country in the large Transmed pipeline to Italy.

Most of the phosphate that is mined is converted to fertilizer or phosphoric acid in the country.


Energy use per person

945 kilos of oil equivalent (2014)

Electricity consumption per person

1446 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions in total

28 830 thousand tonnes (2014)

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant

2.6 tonnes (2014)

The share of energy from renewable sources

12.6 percent (2015)



Protest Day becomes a holiday

December 17

President Kaïs Saïed visits Sidi Bouzid and promises, among other things, to try to arrange jobs (see November 29). On December 17, he will be marked as a national holiday in the future, he also announces. It was on this date that a desperate vegetable vendor set fire to himself in Sidi Bouzid 2010, which became the spark of the protests that spread across the Arab world in 2011. Tunisia previously celebrated January 14, the date when the revolution forced dictator Ben Ali to resign.

Prisoners are told their rights

December 10

Authorities are beginning to distribute instructions on what prisoners have for rights. The 120-page manual answers 255 questions of the type “Which disciplinary punishment can be awarded?” and “How often do prisoners get a shower?”. The script will be available to interns and staff in detention and prisons by March 2020 at the latest.


Crawling in Sidi Bouzid

November 29th

A young man sets fire to himself in Jelma in Sidi Bouzid, the region where the Arab Protest Spring 2011 gained momentum after a self-inflicted fire (see December 17, 2010). Even then, there is believed to be a difficult financial situation as the cause, and several days of clashes between police and protesters are the result.

Habib Jemli is asked to form government

November 15

The President assigns Habib Jemli to form government. He describes himself as politically independent, but has been proposed by Ennahda. Jemli is educated in the field of agriculture and has previously been Deputy Minister of the Unification Government led by Ennahda who ruled the country after the fall of the dictatorship in 2011. He has two months to assemble a minister. If he fails, the president may appoint another person.

Double claims from Ennahda

November 10

Ennahda, who became the biggest in the parliamentary elections and is often described as an Islamist-inspired party, claims that the task of forming a government should go to a representative of the party. The party also proposes that its founder Rached Ghannouchi be given the post of President. Negotiations between Ennahda and other parties are ongoing. On November 13, Ghannouchi becomes President following a settlement with Nabil Karoui’s party, Qalb Tounes, despite Karoui’s assurances during the election campaign that any cooperation with Islamists was not relevant.


New President installed

October 23

The newly elected President Kaïs Saïed holds office. Among other things, he promises to strive for respect for the rule of law and for leaders to behave so that they deserve people’s trust. Saïed, who has previously opposed amending the inheritance laws that, on religious grounds, give daughters less inheritance than sons, also says he should work to strengthen women’s rights.

Landslide victory for Kaïs Saïed

October 13

Constitutional expert Kaïs Saïed wins the presidential election. According to polling polls, Saïed gets about three-quarters of the votes in the decisive round. A devastating majority of young voters prefer Saïed despite having conservative values, says the measurement institute Sigma. The fact that counterpart candidate Nabil Karoui is sometimes called “Tunisian Berlusconi” can give a clue as to the reasons, which are also expressed by interviewed voters: Saïed has given the impression of having higher morals. In the second round, turnout increased to 57 percent.

Court releases presidential candidate

October 9

With four days left for the decisive round in the presidential election, media mogul Nabil Karoui is released from custody. The release has been decided by the court, although the investigation of criminal offenses against Karoui continues. Immediately, preparations for a TV debate will begin before the election between Karoui, who finished second in the first round, and one Kaïs Saïed.

Split Parliament after elections

October 6

The Islamist party Ennahda becomes the largest party in parliament with 52 out of 217 seats, according to the preliminary results announced a few days after the election. The next largest party will be Qalb Tounes with 38 seats. To be able to govern, support for 109 seats is needed, and the newly elected parliament is expected to be divided after an election campaign characterized by bitter contradictions.

Election favorite waives campaign

October 5

Presidential candidate Kaïs Saïed sets the balance of his campaign ahead of the decisive round in the presidential election a week later. The constitutional expert says he does not want an unfair takeover against the counter-candidate Nabil Karoui, who is unable to campaign because he is being held captive (but is not convicted of a crime).

Discontent pyr in Islamist party

October 2

Rached Ghannouchi, long-standing leader of the Islamist party Ennahda (al- Nahda), has been following the presidential election first round – a disappointment for the party – had launched a campaign for the parliamentary elections (see September 19). Ghannouchi is now himself a candidate, for the first time, and the October 6 election gives him a seat. There is a raging dissatisfaction among the grass roots as a result of the party’s leadership choosing to cooperate in the government with middle parties since the dictatorship and the Ennahda party are in decline.

The presidential election will be decided on October 13

October 2

The second and decisive round of the presidential election will take place on October 13, the election commission announces. Representatives of media magnate Nabil Karoui, who is still being held on suspicion of money laundering and tax evasion, have tried in vain to get the election postponed. Karoui is set against the winner in the first round Kaïs Saïed (see September 15). Political leaders and others have advocated the release of Karoui for the election movement to take place in more fair forms, but his attempt to have the detention decision rescinded has been rejected in court.

Criticism against Karoui for lobbying contracts

October 1st

The news site Al-Monitor reveals that a lobbying company has been commissioned to disseminate a positive image of the media mogul and presidential candidate Nabil Karoui in, for example, the US and Russia. The contract with a Canadian company must have been signed shortly before Karoui was arrested. His party denies all contact with the company. Several political forces in Tunisia employ lobbyists, including the Islamist party Ennahda, but the contract that should have been written on Karoui’s behalf exceeds Tunisia’s rules for how much political campaigns can cost. The reveal is causing a storm on social media.

Youth movement challenges political elite

October 1st

“Don’t be afraid, we are not a party,” reads the text of T-shirts printed by the youth movement Aich Tounsi, which can be roughly translated “Live the Tunisian style”. But now the movement is running in the parliamentary elections on October 6, with a message aimed at corruption and privileges such as freedom of speech for MPs, and looks to succeed in engaging people without political experience. Founder Olfa Terras Rambourg is married to a banker who supported French President Macron when he succeeded in being selected as an alternative for people who are tired of the establishment.


Concern over British travel bankruptcy

September 23

Concern is growing after British travel group Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy. The travel giant returned to Tunisia in 2017 after a few years of stoppage as a result of terrorist threats and has since been the tourism industry’s largest foreign partner with over 100,000 bookings in 2018. Some hotel owners who have worked with Thomas Cook as the only customer complain that they have not been paid since June, but according to the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism, they will receive compensation through the British travel guarantee system. A noticeable decline is now being experienced in the industry in, among others, Hammamet, Sousse and Djerba, although subsidiaries of the travel group in other countries can survive and continue to sell trips to Tunisia.

Islamist Party supports Conservative candidate

September 19

The Islamist party Ennahda, whose candidate became third in the presidential election, declares that the party supports Kaïs Saïed for the decisive round of the elections. The authoring expert is known for advocating conservative values ​​on issues such as female inheritance law and homosexuality. The Islamist party, which has participated in government cooperation, is reportedly currently undergoing some sort of identity crisis. When Tunisians elected a constitutional assembly following the dictatorship fall in 2011, the party received 1.5 million votes, while only 434,000 (just under 13 percent of voters) voted for Ennahda’s candidate in this year’s presidential election. The date of the crucial round of elections has not been announced.

The dictator dies in exile

September 19

Tunisia’s former leader Zine al-Abidin Ben Ali dies in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, he was the first Arab leader driven away by the power of mass protests. After the Arab Spring, Ben Ali was tried in his absence and sentenced in several trials, including to 35 years in prison for embezzlement of public funds and later to life as responsible for demonstrators being put to death.

Presidential candidate remains in custody

September 18

Nabil Karoui, who has moved on to the second round of the presidential election, is forced to remain in custody. He has appealed the arrest decision, but a judge who has the case on his table says he has no power to make a decision on the matter. The media magnate Karoui is suspected of tax violations and money laundering (see September 1).

Voters rate established politicians

September 15th

The presidential election, the second since the dictatorship was overthrown in 2011, gives the TV mogul Nabil Karoui and the authoring expert Kaïs Saïed the most votes. Both stand outside the party establishment: Saïed, who gets 18.4 percent of the vote, is running for independence. Karoui, which reaches 15.6 percent support, has its own party organization, the Heart of Tunis (Qalb Tounes). A decisive round of elections must be held between these two, as neither candidate receives more than a copy of the votes in the election, but when is not decided. Fewer than half of the voters (45 percent) went to the polls.

Many candidates in the presidential election

1 September

The Election Commission states that 26 people have been approved as candidates for the early presidential election (see July 25, 2019), a significant slimming compared to the nearly 100 who reported interest. Among those approved are Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Acting Speaker Abdelfattah Mourou, Former Defense Minister Abdelkrim Zbidi and media magnate Nabil Karoui. The latter is allowed to participate despite being arrested on August 23, suspected of money laundering. The authorities have also banned Karoui’s station Nessma TV and two other TV channels from reporting on the election campaign, due to “illegal broadcasts” (see also May 27, 2019).


Chahed focuses on the electoral movement

22 August

Prime Minister Chahed announces that during the election campaign he will delegate his powers to Prime Minister Kamel Morjane, who also holds a prominent position in the Leve Tunisia party. Chahed says he wants to avoid conflicts of interest because he is running for president. In his regular post, Morjane is responsible for the public sector and for modernizing the administration.

The starting field shrinks in the presidential election

August 14th

Nearly three-quarters of the people who reported that they want to stand in the presidential election have been rejected, the election authority announces. All the most well-known candidates have been given the go-ahead. The failures can appeal, and final notice comes on August 31st. One of two women among the approved is Abir Moussi. She represents a party that emerged from the rubble of dictator Ben Ali’s power party.

Nearly 100 people want to become president

9th of August

When the time comes for registration of candidates for the presidential election on September 15, 98 are willing to apply, of which 42 are on the last day. Most notable are Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, former President Moncef Marzouki, Islamist Abdelfattah Mourou and media magnate Nabil Karoui. On August 31, the electoral authority will announce those who meet formal requirements (support of a certain number of voters via signatures or a certain number of elected politicians). On September 2, the election movement officially begins.

First gay candidate gets noble

August 8th

Mounir Baatour, a lawyer and leader of a liberal party, declares that he wants to become Tunisia’s first presidential candidate who is openly gay. He has already made himself known for a campaign that aims to make “sodomy”, homosexual relations, legal: the sentence can today be up to three years in prison. Even before Baatour announces that he is registering, 18 critical groups are gathering behind a rebellion claiming his candidacy is a danger. On August 14, the electoral authority is thumbing down for Baatour: he has not received the 10,000 signatures required to stand, the message says.

Islamist becomes a candidate in the elections

August 7th

The Islamist party Ennahda (al-Nahda) is running with its own candidate in the presidential election: Abdelfattah Mourou. He has been Acting President of Parliament since the death of President Essebsi in July, when the President-elect took over the President’s duties until the election. The party won the first election after the fall of the dictatorship in 2011 and is again the largest in parliament (after splitting into the party formation that won the 2014 election), but has not had any presidential candidate before. Assessors believe that Mourou has a chance of achieving a strong election result, especially if the secular forces distribute their support to different candidates.


The head of government is lining up

31 July

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed will stand in the presidential election, said a spokesman for the Leve Tunisia party (Tahya Tounes). By August 9, candidates must have registered, according to the Election Commission, which sets the Election Day to September 15. Some would have agreed to hold presidential elections at the same time as the parliamentary elections, October 6. The date for any second round of elections has not been nailed, but it must be carried out by November 3, according to the election authority.

The president dies – elections are premature

July 25

President Béji Caïd Essebsi dies, 92 years old. He was the world’s oldest sitting president, elected in 2014 during the transition to democratic state after the fall of the dictatorship in 2011. The next presidential election, which was previously announced until November this year, is scheduled for September 15. Parliament Speaker Mohamed Ennaceur takes over the president’s powers for a maximum of 90 days.

Stop for facial veil in government offices

July 5

Face veil, niqab, worn by some Muslim women, is banned in state premises. The decision was made by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who refers to security concerns. The veil and other external expressions of piety were rejected during the Ben Ali dictatorship, but since the 2011 revolution, niqab has begun to occur again.

Migrants in disaster at sea

July 4th

At least 80 migrants are feared to have drowned in a shipwreck off the town of Zarzi near the Libyan border. The few survivors, who are from Mali, say that the ship set sail from Zuwara in Libya, a common port of departure for migrants hoping to reach Europe. Tunisia’s Coast Guard has rescued the survivors after alarms from fishermen (see May 10). Hechmi Lakhrech, a hospital director in Gabès, later states – when the hospital’s ward is overcrowded – that Tunisian institutions have increased their efforts to save DNA samples from fatalities, as it may be the only way for relatives to know about the deaths.


Double attack in Tunis

June 27

Two suicide attacks are carried out in central Tunis. The Islamic State (IS) is taking on the death, which kills a police officer and injures eight people.

Religion at retreat

June 24th

One-third of Tunisians are not believers, according to a recent poll in which more and more Arabs describe themselves as non-religious. The interview survey was conducted for the BBC 2018–2019 by the research network Arab Barometer, which is based at the University of Princeton. More than 25,000 interviewees in ten countries and in the Palestinian territories were asked. On average, the proportion of non-religious has increased from 8 to 13 percent. In Tunisia, the proportion of non-believers was highest. Compared to 2013, it is especially in North Africa – in all the countries of the Mediterranean – that religious beliefs have weakened.


TV mogul wants to become president

May 27th

Nabil Karoui, founder of the controversial TV company Nessma, says in his own channel that he plans to run in the November presidential election. He has also put together a group that will put together a list for the October parliamentary elections. Both politicians and the country’s media agency accuse Karoui of using Nessma for his own purposes. He has also made himself known through high-profile campaigns for charity.

False accounts with political content

May 17

Facebook has shut down an Israeli company that, according to the IT giant, has created hundreds of fake accounts aimed primarily at African audiences. Tunisia is one of the countries in the target group. The content of the fake accounts has been political, among other things, the senders have presented information that is reported to be leaked news. Five of the six affected countries in Africa have had elections in recent years and Tunisia will hold elections this year.

The dictator’s brother-in-law is free to the castle

May 12

France releases former dictator Ben Alis’s bail against bail, while a Tunisian request for extradition is pending. Belhassen Trabelsi is sentenced to long prison sentences for financial crime in Tunisia, including money laundering. He is not allowed to leave France for the time being and must report regularly to French authorities. Trabelsi, who left Tunisia when a protest wave in 2011 forced Ben Ali out of power, claims that he himself financed his business empire (including hotels and an airline) legally. He has been denied asylum in Canada.

Appeal against coral looters

May 10

A large batch (671 kilos) of red corals is seized and ten people are arrested. The seizure is the largest so far in Tunisia, where there are legal restrictions on how much coral can be picked up. (In neighboring Algeria, it is completely prohibited.) Most of the corals picked up from reefs in the Mediterranean are believed to end up in the European market. Two of the arrested are Spaniards who work for an international company, believed to be engaged in smuggling alongside their legal activities.

Life saving is left on fishermen

May 10

A Tunisian trawler rescues 16 migrants from the Mediterranean. 60 others are feared to have drowned. Since the European rescue and patrol vessels have almost stopped patrolling the waters north of Libya, Tunisian fishermen are increasingly picking up migrants on duty. If fishermen take migrant boats in tow to the Italian port, they risk being arrested themselves as refugee smugglers and seized their own boats. Tunisian authorities are also reported to have started to say no to landing in Tunisian ports.


Authority closes etheric media

April 25

The Haica Ethernet Agency stops broadcasting for three companies – Nessma TV, Zitouna TV and a religious radio channel – which, according to Haica, broadcast without permission. Nessma’s leadership claims that the decision is politically conditional and holds Prime Minister Youssef Chahed accountable.


Weapon expert from the UN Criminal Prosecutor

March 26

UN expert Moncef Kartas is arrested when he lands in Tunisia to investigate violations of the UN arms embargo on Libya. Kartas, who is both a Tunisian and a German citizen, is accused of espionage. The UN states that it has diplomatic immunity and international researchers demand that it be released. The expert group that Kartas is part of has concluded that both weapons and ammunition have made their way to Libya despite the UN arms embargo. On May 21, Moncef Kartas is released on bail and returns to his home in Germany, but the legal case continues.

Long list of proposals from the dictators’ reviewer

March 26

A Truth Commission commissioned to investigate the Tunisian dictatorship’s abuses presents its conclusions. The Commission advocates greater independence for the courts, witness protection, anti-corruption efforts within the state and – not least – transparency in the work of security services and security forces so that they cannot be used against dissent. The group also wants to see an official apology from the country’s president to all victims of oppression since 1955 (one year before independence). The dictator Ben Ali was driven by protests during the Arab Spring of 2011.

Infant death directs the light to the crisis of care

11th of March

The minister responsible for health issues resigns as a result of an alarm about infant deaths at a hospital in Tunis. On March 15 it is announced that a total of 22 children have died at the State University Hospital Rabta since March 6, and in 15 cases it is concluded that the infections the children died from were caused by bacteria that they came into contact with in the hospital. Problems in health care, including lack of medicines, are a strong reason for popular dissatisfaction. They should also be seen in the light of the fact that the level of care in Tunisia has usually been regarded as high.

Double elections this fall

6 March

Tunisia will hold both parliamentary and presidential elections this fall. The parliamentary elections will take place on October 6. The date of the presidential election is not set until November 10, but it later landed on November 17, not to coincide with the celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. If no presidential candidate wins already in the first round, a second round is held two weeks later. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, which broke out in Tunisia, the country’s democratization has been set as an example, although the process is laborious. However, the constitutional court that can have a decisive role if the election results are questioned has not yet been formed.


Lifetime of attacks against tourists

February 9

Seven jihadists are sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorist acts against the tourism industry. During the two attacks, first against the Bardo Museum in Tunis and three months later on a beach near Sousse, about 60 people lost their lives (see 18 March 2015 and 25 June 2015). The Islamic State (IS) has taken on the death. Several people are sentenced to shorter sentences and 27 acquitted. The judges will be appealed.

Public servants are promised higher salaries

February 7

The UGTT trade union blows planned strike action after hearing from the government for, among other things, demands for increased wages. According to the agreement, public employees should receive salary increases of an average of SEK 500.


Defenders form a secular party

January 27

Defenders from the ruling party Nida Tounes announce that they will form a new political movement, Tahya Tounes (Leve Tunisia). The party is led by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who has long been on edge with his former party mates (see September 15, 2018). Tahya Tounes party program is similar to that of President Essebsi’s secular Nida Tounes. Presidential and parliamentary elections are expected to take place during the autumn.

Tunisia Energy and Environment Facts

About the author