GIP Tunisia: Financial Markets & Flight Simulators

GIP Tunisia is off to a fantastic start!  Our first 48 hours have been busy.  We have already attended five official meetings with Tunisian companies and businesses, toured a factory, tested out a flight simulator, and sipped mint tea while discussing critical social, economic and business issues with key Tunisian business leaders.  A quick recap of our first two days:

Day One began bright and early, at 7:15 am.  After a quick trip across town, our “delegation” (as we have taken to calling ourselves) arrived at the Hotel Paris for a meeting with the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce (TACC).  Panel speakers Fadhel Abdelketi (CEO Tunisie Valeurs & Chairman of the Tunis Stock Exchange) and Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami (AmCham President) discussed the current state of the financial markets in Tunisia, and the role of these markets in continuing efforts to bolster national growth and attract foreign investment.  Prompted by questions from CBS students, the speakers continually re-emphasized the desire for the government to set the conditions needed to increase international confidence in Tunisia.  All present expressed sincere hope that the Constitution, scheduled to be finished this week, will set the government on the path of stability and allow the financial markets to continue providing the Tunisian economy with the capital necessary for continued growth.

In the afternoon, we met with the African Development Bank (ADB).  The ADB’s mission is help development efforts on the continent, by making funding available to both private and public sector entities.  The discussion was led by Jakob Kolster (head of the North Africa Division), who emphasized the ADB’s commitment to promoting infrastructure improvements, skills and technology, and private sector development, among other issues.

Day One ended with a visit to AfricInvest, which is a P/E firm that looks to invest in SME’s, and to make them regional champions.  All speakers emphasized the attractiveness of African investments, citing an improving macro environment, an increase in intra-Africa trade, and sectors (such as healthcare and education) that are experiencing high growth.

Day Two kicked off with a visit to the COFAT factory, which is about one hour outside of Tunis.  Before touring the factory, our class enjoyed a presentation explaining the organization of the Elloumi Group, which owns COFAT.  The Elloumi Group owns 30 companies, and is one of Tunisia’s only multi-national companies.  The Group’s portfolio mainly focuses on the manufacture and distribution of parts, systems and appliances, and boasts such customers as 3M, Kellogg’s and Volvo.

Following the presentation, our class had the opportunity to tour the factory floor.  Our guides walked us through the path that a part takes at the COFAT factory: from receipt of the raw material, to assembly, and finally to QC and then outbound shipping.

We wrapped up Day Two with a visit to TunisAir, where we had the opportunity to hear from CEO Rabah Jerad.  He discussed TunisAir’s plans to continue expanding in to Africa, and to build a network across the continent that will facilitate entry of the airline in to the One World Alliance.  Perhaps the most exciting part of our visit to TunisAir occurred when we had the opportunity to tour the flight simulator that is used to train the pilots.  CBS at the very center of … pilot training!

The first two days have been filled with quite a bit of information, and I think that most of us are still trying to digest/make sense of the various facts and opinions that we have heard.  Many of us are extremely interested in the effects of the 2011 popular uprising, and cannot resist asking the panelists and business leaders for their opinions on the future of the business/economic environment in Tunisia.  Overwhelmingly, I have found these business leaders to be incredibly optimistic about the future of their country.  They are confident that the Constitution will be finished in the next few weeks, and that a stable, lasting government will be put in to place.  I look forward to confirmation that this important step has been taken, as it is absolutely required for the attraction of foreign investment, and the continued success of Tunisian companies.

Katie Horgan ‘14

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