TUNISIA - The Tunisian Energy Base.
With the domestic market having shifted from oil to natural gas at a rapid pace, the share of gas in Tunisia's energy mix is 46% - a level kept since 2006. Tunisia's energy base has grown in pace with its high GDP growth rates in recent years. Tunisia's total energy consumption amounts to about 0.48 quadrillion BTU, almost half the consumption of Libya, compared to more than 1.74 quadrillion BTU in Algeria which is the biggest energy consumer in North Africa.
Despite being poor in oil resources, Tunisia is a success story among Arab oil importing countries. It has a well-managed economy, a fairly stable but far from ideal political environment and reasonably good prospects linked to its 1995 association agreement with the European Union, the first such accord between the EU and a North African country.
Tunisia has been export-minded for more than 3,000 years, thanks to its 1,148-km coastline. Its liberal approach is rooted in its Phoenician history. Equality between the sexes began with Queen Dido of Tyre (Southern Lebanon) who came to this part of north Africa in 814 BC and founded the city-state of Carthage.
The country's reforming economy is growing rapidly, with GDP having risen by about 5% per annum in recent years. Its population in mid-2007 was estimated at 10.276m.
Tunisia is well placed to enhance its long-term energy self-sufficiency as there is a potential for new gas discoveries. One important discovery made in 1996, Hasdrubal, contains a large reserve of high quality gas. Gas from Algeria to Europe is piped through Tunisia and via the undersea TransMed pipeline to Italy. Tunisia gets more than 1m tons/year of oil equivalent (t/yoe) of Algerian gas as a transit fee.
With the country's economy diversified, the share of energy is less than 8% of Tunisia's GDP. In 2001, for example, energy and mining accounted for a mere 10.4% of the country's total GDP, whereas in neighbouring Algeria and Libya, the share of energy in GDP remains very high.
The energy sector accounts for more than 85% of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country, compared to just over 50% in 1996 and 84% in 1998. The investment was made mainly in petroleum exploration and development, with British Gas being the biggest foreign investor in Tunisia.