In May 1975, according to census data it counted 5,588,209 residents distributed over a vast territory of 164,150 km 2(38,969 of which in discussion with Libya). Between 1956 and 1958 the great majority of the 255,324 Europeans (of which 180,440 French and 66,910 Italians) and of the 57,792 Israelites present in the country during the last year of the French protectorate left Tunisia. The foreign colony is thus reduced to a few tens of thousands of people only, of which 19,800 French (in 1973). The annual demographic increase rate is still high (24 ‰ in the 1970-75 period), although generally more contained than that of the other Maghreb countries which, such as Tunisia, did not favor birth control. The urban population represents more than 40% of the total and continues to be fed by the numerous young people who flock from the south to the cities of the coast.
A project dated January 1974 intended to bring about the union of Tunisia with Libya in an Islamic Arab Republic remained at the level of a declaration of principle, also due to the considerable obstacles of a constitutional and political nature that prevented its implementation.
Economic conditions. – The economy is dominated by the massive presence of the state implemented through the nationalization of foreign properties (1964), the establishment of compulsory agricultural cooperatives and the direct management of mining, transport, energy production and credit activities. These interventions, of socialist inspiration, had the task of replacing the technical contribution of the European capitals and cadres operating in Tunisia before independence. In 1977 agriculture contributed 15.6% to the formation of the gross national product.
In the area with traditional agriculture, the property is modest in size: horticulture and arboriculture prevail, while the production of cereals is very variable in relation to climatic conditions; where European colonization took place (Megerda plain in particular) cereal cultivation is governed according to rational techniques and production is therefore satisfactory. The farms left by the European settlers are now entrusted to cooperatives to which local owners have also been asked to join. The results have been appreciable from a social point of view, due to the greater absorption of labor, but which can be criticized in the context of a competitive economy. For Tunisia business, please check cheeroutdoor.com.
Among agricultural products, cereals continue to have a certain economic importance; wheat (5.7 million q produced in 1977) and barley (the million q) are the crop. The pride of Tunisia are the olive groves extended in the wide coastal strip that extends for more than 300 km from the Gulf of Hammamet to that of Gabès: Tunisia is among the top five world producers of olive oil (1,320,000 q in 1976) and ranks first among exporting countries. The annual production of wine from 1966 onwards has fluctuated around 1,000,000 hl. This is a modest quantity, which is sent for export without too much difficulty. The breeding, carried out in the traditional forms, maintains constant production levels. Fishing is expanding: in 1976 it supplied 42,651 t of product.
Industry contributes 25.7% to the formation of the gross national product. From 1966 onwards it marked an average annual increase of 5.6% mainly due to the manufacturing and electrical sectors. On the other hand, progress has been modest in the mining sector (phosphates and iron), which nevertheless remains one of the strengths of the industry. Hydrocarbons, present to a considerable extent in neighboring Algeria, represent Tunisia’s great hope. The quantities extracted so far are promising but not conspicuous (in 1978: 4,896,000 t of oil and 230 million m 3of natural gas). In the food sector, the oil mill (Sfax, Susa, El Moknine, etc.), the cannery (Susa, Tabarka and Mahdia), and the production of beer are important. Superphosphates are obtained from the plants of Tunis, Djelloud and Sfax. The alpha is made into paper pulp in Kasserine. The automotive industry (6972 vehicles assembled in 1978 and 189,600 tires produced) and the cement industry (882,000 t in 1978) are also developing. The main industrial and commercial center of the country is Tunis, an active port (La Goulette) for the embarkation of minerals, agricultural and industrial products (3,676,000 tons of goods handled in 1976), as well as the largest Tunisian port for passenger traffic. Important ports are also Sfax (3,574,000 t in 1976), an important commercial outlet for the central section of the country, and Bizerte (2,534.
The Tunisian trade balance is still far from breaking even: the most profitable trade area is that of the EEC, to which the country is associated. In 1976 exports (to Italy, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, etc.) paid only about 52% of imports (from France, the USA, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, etc.). In the same year the outlay for purchases abroad reached 656,700,000 dinars, against exports (of oil, olive oil, phosphates, fertilizers, wine, fruit, etc.) for only 338,300,000. Tourism (1,013,851 foreigners in 1975), remittances from emigrants and rights on Algerian hydrocarbons embarked at La Skhirra contribute to settling the balance of payments. Tunisia is a member of the UN, the OAU and the Arab League, from whose sessions she has been missing since 1968.