Our first few days in Tunis have been action packed and the perfect mix of discovering the city by foot and beginning to understand the political and financial landscape through our meetings with AfricInvest, IACE, African Development Bank and our local Tunisian teammates.
We arrived at the hotel on Sunday and had the opportunity to visit the Tunis city center also known as the ancient city of Carthage (meaning “new city”) on the Eastern side of Lake Tunis. The city was first developed from a Phoneician colony during the first millennium BC and was later destroyed by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War in 14 BC and again redeveloped by the Roman Carthage which became the “Royal Empire” in Africa. Excavations on the lost city were performed mostly by French archaeologists in the 1920’s and attracted quite a bit of attention because of the evidence that was found of child sacrifice. Our tour guide (who will be with us for the week!) explained that many of the statue heads were missing because people had stolen them, and it was later discovered that many of them were actually found in the houses of royalty.
After our tour of the ancient city we headed to Sidi Bou Said – which could be mistaken for Mykonos or Santorini in most of the pictures we took. The city was absolutely beautiful and is known for being a town of artists that is all blue and white! The town is a labyrinth of winding streets, beautiful blue doors and hidden gardens with a background of the beautiful Mediterranean sun.
On day two we spent the morning with one of the biggest private equity firms in Africa called AfricInvest which has over $1.1Bn USD of capital deployed over 16 funds in Africa. We got to hear first from FIVE the fund that the PE firm is currently investing out of, the Venture Fund, and the Innovation Fund, as well as from three entrepreneurs who explained their journeys and challenges of starting new businesses in Africa. They explained the importance of having an open-ended fund which focuses on long tenured investments so that the businesses they were investing in felt continually supported. We were all quite proud to hear that AfricInvest had just hired a CBS student full time and that this would be there 5th CBS hire!
That evening we met up with our local Tunisian team members to finalize our pitch presentations and help them to prepare for the final presentations on Friday. For most of our Tunisian teammates winning this competition would mean it would be there first trip EVER out of Tunisia and to the United States which is the prize for winning! After a few hours of preparing for the pitch our team members welcomed us in their homes for a local Tunisian dinner with their families. Professor Jedidi had told us that we would really get to experience the warmth of the Tunisian culture and indeed we could not have felt more welcomed after an amazing meal and the families wanting to take many pictures with us as well as giving us gifts.
See attached for quite a few photos of our first few days on the ground in Tunis!
-Sarah Spear ‘18