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July 17, 2018

First Graduates From Tunisian Science University Supported by JICA Are Now Working as Engineers

In Tunisia, the first graduates from a science university whose establishment was supported by JICA are now playing active roles at private companies.

The college is "Ecole Nationale des Sciences et Technologies Avancées Borj Cedria" (ENSTAB). The unemployment rate among college-educated Tunisians is over 30 percent, but among the first class of 65 graduates from ENSTAB, 80 percent have been hired. They are already industry-ready engineers in their fields.

photoThe graduation ceremony for the first class of ENSTAB students in December 2017

ENSTAB is in the Borj Cedria Science & Technology Park (BCTP), whose creation was supported by JICA using the Japanese ODA loan scheme to establish a base for linking directly high-quality research to business through industry-university partnerships. Students make active use of the cutting-edge facilities in the technology park. In Tunisia, where high youth unemployment was one of the causes of the Arab Spring in 2011, there are high expectations for JICA's initiatives to promote industry-university partnerships aimed at human-resource development and job creation.

IT startups in Tunisia employ students in the first class

photoRim Ben Hmida, right, takes a photo with her professor at the ENSTAB graduation ceremony.

ENSTAB is a specialized university mainly focused on the fields of energy, clean technology and industrial science. For ENSTAB, JICA provided assistance with constructing the university buildings and procuring research equipment to support preparing facility capable of advanced research. By studying in this environment, the ENSTAB students could acquire practical techniques, and they are finding employment in top-level companies in various fields.

One of the graduates, Rim Ben Hmida, is working as a quality control technician at a company in Tunisia affiliated with Zodiac Aerospace, a French manufacturer of aircraft equipment. She said she learned about supply-chain management and other subjects which are useful in her current work.

photoMohamed Aziz Atitallah at his company

"My goal is to be involved in research that can promote Tunisia's technological strength," said Mohamed Aziz Atitallah. He's now working on the development of a physical distribution management system that uses artificial intelligence at a Tunisian IT startup. Atitallah shows his enthusiasm about using the industrial-systems knowledge he acquired at ENSTAB to become a specialist in data analysis, a field that is increasingly in demand.

Industry-university partnerships advance at the technology park

photoEcole Nationale des Sciences et Technologies Avancées Borj Cedria (ENSTAB), which is located inside Borj Cedria Science & Technology Park

ENSTAB ranks near the top among Tunisian universities alongside universities with long histories. One of the reasons given for ENSTAB's stellar reputation is its location in BCTP, the creation of which JICA began supporting in 2005, and the fact that students can utilize its advanced research facilities. BCTP has concluded partnerships with the Tunisian economic organization, the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Craft (UTICA) to promote partnerships between research institutes and private companies. Students' internships and joint research with companies are expected to further increase.

For BCTP, which emphasizes the three fields of water and the environment, biotechnology and renewable energy, JICA supported the construction of a university town (for advanced learning institutions including ENSTAB) and a research park (including a library and common facilities), as well as the procurement of research equipment. JICA has also supported Tunisian students studying in Japan to acquire doctorates in science and technology fields.

Supporting improved competitiveness through human resource development and industrial development

"Tunisia has a high unemployment rate, and the high rate among young people in particular is a source of social instability. I'm glad that JICA's support can be one step toward solving that problem," said Toshifumi Egusa, chief representative of the JICA Tunisia Office.

In addition to developing human resources with advanced skills, JICA is also training consultants who can assist companies and universities with “Kaizen,” a Japanese method of improving quality and productivity at workplaces in the manufacturing industry.

photoAt the laboratory in BCTP, research is moving forward with the goal of discovering functional ingredients of various kinds.

Also, to increase the adding of value in agriculture, which is a major industry in Tunisia, JICA is supporting through industry-academia partnerships the development of functional foods and medicinal cosmetics made using olives, of which Tunisia is one of the leading producers, and this region's unique herbs, spices and other medicinal plants.

With support from the University of Tsukuba, Kyoto University and Kyushu University, six research institutions, including a laboratory inside BCTP, have concluded joint research agreements with medical products companies within Tunisia. As research moves forward to develop products with various benefits such as skin whitening, hair growth, the prevention of cancer and lifestyle diseases and the creation of new industries, tie-ups with Japanese companies are expected.

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