Brrr… it was a cold first couple of days in Tunis. Most of us were underprepared for the climate. Thankfully with each passing day, it has become a degree (Celsius!) warmer.
After kicking things off at a beautiful restaurant the night before, we had an early start to visit SAH Lilas, a diaper and sanitary napkin manufacturing company. We saw the napkin/toilet paper/paper towel production process from raw materials to finished product, as if it were a live operations class. We sat for a formal presentation, where we learned about the start of the business. The founder is a woman, which is something the firm is particularly proud of since she is a self-made CEO of a publicly traded company. The pride of feminine liberalism is a continuing theme throughout our company visits and conversations with locals. During numerous meetings people have made a point to stress Tunisia’s support for women’s rights, especially in comparison to its neighboring countries and other Muslim nations. There is plenty of action to back up these words- every meeting we have attended thus far has had a female presenter or CEO.
While at Lilas, a classmate raised the question of how the company functions in other parts of the world with regards to the Tunisian Dinar. Tunisia has an unusual practice with its currency that prohibits its existence outside of Tunisia. Tourists need to exchange dinars back to their native currency prior to leaving the country. Companies that purchase equipment abroad need to make transactions through the central bank and the central bank pays the foreign company. Tunisia-based multinational companies have reserves held at the central bank, but do not partake in the practice of currency hedging. I imagine this only adds to the more apparent hurdles international firms consider when investing in Tunisia.