Tunisia: Building Entrepreneurship from the Bottom Up

AfricInvest hosted us in the Tunisian medina on the anniversary of the Tunisian revolution

During our first two official days in Tunisia we have had the opportunity to meet with a range of companies, including AfricInvest, BIAT, and IAEC. On Monday we were hosted by private equity firm AfricInvest to learn more about their localized model of investing across Africa. AfricInvest has a unique approach to operating in each country across North Africa and has adjusted its model to fit the needs of the various political and economic conditions of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. The majority of the team’s 70 investment officers are based in Tunis and rely on their specialized knowledge of each market in order to identify the best targets.

An introduction to Biat Foundation’s commitment to entrepreneurship

Students then had the opportunity to learn meet with executives at BIAT, Tunisia’s largest bank based on deposits. Board member Mohamed Elyes Ben Rayana discussed the economic implications of Tunisia’s transition to democracy, including the persistent presence of twin deficits (budget and current account). In order to invest in Tunisians as the builders of the future, Biat has launched an incubator and accelerator program to foster the entrepreneurial spirit across the nation. B@t labs serves as an incubator for early stage ventures, which includes a 4-month development process during which entrepreneurs gain access to resources needed to reach a proof of concept. Flat6labs then serves as an accelerator for more advanced venture that works to provide Tunisian entrepreneurs with seed funding and additional coaching after they have developed a minimum viable product.

biat labs
Walking through B@t labs incubator

We also had the opportunity to hear from three leaders at IACE, who work across sectors. Members of the panel represented:

  • Galion: a private manufacturing company that specializes in plastic packaging
  • Poulina: initially a poultry company that has grown to a conglomerate with businesses ranging from ceramics to data centers
  • Magasin General: a chain of supermarkets that continues to refine its model to meet the needs of Tunisian consumers

Each panelist discussed the individual opportunities and challenges of their sector, as well as how economic developments following the revolution have impacted their businesses.

Katie Tsantes (’19) is an MBA candidate at Columbia Business School

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