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June 6, 2014

Toward Achieving Inclusive Growth in Tunisia: Youth Employment and Regional Development

photoShinichi Yamanaka, director-general of JICA's Middle East and Europe Department, center, makes opening remarks at the seminar.

JICA and the Brookings Institution launched a joint collaboration research program entitled “Achieving Inclusive Growth in MENA after the Arab Spring” in 2012. In this framework, two working papers on Tunisia have been produced: one on youth employment and economic transition, and the other on regional development and disparities (1). With the purpose of discussing these development issues and the role of development partners with academia and local practitioners in Tunisia, JICA co-organized a seminar with the Brookings Institution and the University of Manouba in Tunis on May 20, 2014.

At the start of the seminar, opening remarks were made by Shinichi Yamanaka, director-general, Middle East and Europe Department of JICA; Hafez Ghanem, senior fellow of the Brookings Institution; Maher Gassab, director of ESC, the University of Manouba; and Jouhayna Grib, vice president of the University of Manouba. In his remarks, Yamanaka said that under its vision of “inclusive and dynamic development,” JICA has been supporting Tunisia’s efforts in regional development and youth employment through grants, technical cooperation and ODA loans. Support for youth employment includes, among other things, human resource development in the tourism sector and a two-step loan project for small- and medium-scale enterprises for their quality and productivity improvement. For balanced growth and regional development, JICA has supported water supplies and road construction in rural areas, and bridge construction and railway electrification in urban areas (2).
“JICA will remain committed to supporting Tunisia’s endeavors toward inclusive and dynamic development, and I hope this workshop will allow us to make further progress on this agenda,” Yamanaka said.

photoHafez Ghanem, senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, right, makes his presentation during the session of the seminar.

Following the opening remarks, panelists discussed how to build a new development model in Tunisia. The panelists agreed that private companies in Tunisia need to become more competitive by encouraging innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit, and such effort will require social dialogue among a diverse range of parties including academia, economic development practitioners, labor organizations and employers’ organizations. It was also said that in order to promote inclusiveness and growth together, more stable and formal jobs are needed and thus measures should be taken regarding the informal sector. The panelists also suggested the necessity of establishing a global market that will create jobs and demand for more skilled labor.

In the next sessions, youth employment and regional development issues were discussed. The unemployment rate is higher in the inland than in other areas in Tunisia. To reduce the unemployment rate, panelists proposed vocational education and training reform as well as industry-academia collaboration, which will enable youth to meet the expectations of the job market. In order to address regional disparities in other sectors including health service, transportation and education, panelists agreed on the importance of local governance.

photoAtsushi Asano, chief representative, JICA Tunisia Office, second from right, speaks at the session on the role of development partners.

In the last session, representatives from development agencies including JICA, the International Monetary Fund, the EU, the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation, Tunisian professors, and a consultant for UTICA, a labor union organization in Tunisia, discussed the role of development partners in promoting inclusive growth in Tunisia. Atsushi Asano, chief representative of the JICA Tunisia office, suggested the need for donor coordination, which was acknowledged by representatives of other development agencies. Some panelists commented that the situation in Tunisia after the revolution has become favorable to development partners, allowing more transparency and enabling different dialogues.

Throughout the seminar, the panelists and participants held active discussions on the importance of inclusive growth and how to promote it in Tunisia. JICA will continue discussion and cooperation with various players in Tunisia through implementation of various projects and joint research activities on youth employment and regional development, in order to contribute to inclusive growth in Tunisia

2: JICA’s activities in Tunisia


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