Tunisian leader touts investment opportunities

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Sunday invited Japan’s businesses to invest and play a major role in his country’s transition toward democracy and a free-market economy.

Speaking at a roundtable meeting with Japanese corporate executives, Marzouki, who became head of state in 2011 after Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution,” assured that his country’s reform drive is making strong progress.

“We will finish the process of writing our constitution and we will be holding a democratic election within the year,” Marzouki said through an interpreter.

He said Tunisia is aiming to “become a role model of change” in North Africa. Endemic corruption has been rooted out since the uprising that ousted longtime President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, and Japanese companies are welcome to participate in the ongoing reforms by investing in what will be a fair, free and clean economy, Marzouki said.

In regards to security, he assured that his government is working closely with law enforcement authorities to create a safe and stable environment for Tunisians as well as for overseas companies looking to set up shop in the country.

Those in attendance included representatives from electronics maker NEC Corp., Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, engineering firm JGC Corp. and travel agency JTB Corp.

While the terrorist strike in January in neighboring Algeria that left 10 JGC workers dead shocked Japanese companies doing business in Africa, the executives at the meeting said their firms still intend to play an active role in the region.

“We won’t back down because of terrorist attacks,” Yoshihiro Shigehisa, chairman emeritus of JGC, told Marzouki. Touching on the country’s potential, he vowed that “we are ready to cooperate and invest in Tunisia.”

Marzouki is in Japan for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development that kicked off Saturday in Yokohama.