WASHINGTON, June 14, 2019 – The World Bank Group announced two new investment projects in support of Tunisia’s goals of building a new economy that encourages entrepreneurs and generates more opportunities and making government more responsive to the needs of citizens through the digital transformation of key public services. With a combined total of US$175 million, the first project will fund expanded access to financing to promote the growth of innovative start-ups and small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), while the second will invest in the digitization of social security and education systems to improve service quality and ensure they are reaching the people that need them most.
The US$75 million Tunisia Innovative Startups and SMEs project was designed to support the Government’s ‘Startup Tunisia’ program which aims to catalyze the creation and growth of digital, innovative startups and SMEs, and boost economic and employment opportunities for Tunisia’s youth .
"This project represents concrete support for a new generation of entrepreneurs in post-revolution Tunisia," said Anouar Maarouf, Tunisia’s Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy. "This project is a promise from the Tunisian Government towards its young and innovative entrepreneurs to develop a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem in which their ideas and businesses can thrive and grow."
The project will finance equity and quasi-equity investments in innovative startups and SMEs, as well as support for concept development, investment readiness and technology adoption. The project will also help entrepreneurship ecosystem players, such as incubators and accelerators, to enhance and expand the outreach of their programs; including to women-led startups and SMEs and those in the interior regions.
"Like most countries across the region, Tunisia has an immense, untapped potential in its large number of educated and talented young people and women," said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. "With these two projects, Tunisia is making strides towards a new digital economy, where the youth find the space for their energy and creativity to drive growth, create jobs and build a new relationship between citizens and the state. These two projects reflect the long standing strategic and forward-looking engagement of the World Bank in Tunisia’s development."
The US$100 million Digital Transformation for User-Centric Public Services will support a GovTech approach to improving social protection and education, which puts citizens at the center of the reform process and combines innovations in public sector reform, change management and digital technologies. The aim is to ensure vulnerable populations, such as low-income groups, women in rural areas, illiterates and the disabled have access to these key services, and that systems enable greater citizen feedback to hold these services accountable.
The project will focus on improvements in four flagship service delivery areas: (i) social assistance programs, such as cash and benefit transfers, to improve access to social assistance for vulnerable groups; (ii) social protection, to improve pension and health insurance coverage; (iii) digital education management services, to improve enrolment, student/school monitoring and drop-out detection; and (iv) a digital learning management system to improve learning.
The Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Digital Economy will oversee the implementation of both projects. Project Management Units will be housed in the ministry charged with the execution of the projects as well as cross-government coordination with other, concerned ministries. The Innovative Startups and SMEs project will be implemented by the Caisse de Dépôts et Consignations (CDC) and will be coordinated closely with the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation. The PMUs, and implementing teams, will also coordinate closely with other development partners to ensure complementarity and synergy with ongoing and new investments in the sector.