learn how to miss the revolution? – Younger Africa

After the health crisis, the use of digital and its very strong adoption among the population offers a growing prospect to private investors in Tunisia, in terms of e-commerce. Indicators of the electronic payment platform Monétique-Tunisie (clictopay) as well as Tunisian post officese-dinars) show that in 2020 this growth also affected the number of trade sites (+ 17% during one year), the volume of transactions (+ 67%) and their value (+ 28% to 347 million dinars in 2020, about 104 million).

According to the National Consumer Institute (INC) and the Trade Union of E-Commerce and Distance Sales (Sevad), out of an average sample of about 1,000 people, 74% have already made online transactions through Tunisian sites, 31% through social media networks and 44 % through foreign sites. However, several reports warn of the development of a parallel market through unregistered sales pages or social media pages.

Payment restrictions

However, this growth is taking place despite an outdated institutional and regulatory framework that urgently needs to be modernized to give the necessary impetus to e-commerce in Tunisia.

According to the 1976 Code of Exchange, which is still in force, and its implementing texts, all operations or undertakings resulting in a foreign currency transfer are subject to the prior approval of the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT). Restrictions on international payments due to Tunisian foreign exchange regulations and the non-convertibility of the dinar therefore prevent Tunisians from making transactions on international e-commerce sites such as eBay, Amazon or AliExpress.

Most websites only offer cash on delivery

However, it should be noted that there are some exceptions. Since 1992, they have concerned residents or non-residents who have an account in convertible dinars and, more recently, holders of an “international technology card” issued by the Tunisian government and available through BCT circulars taken under the Start-up Act. from April 2018

Most online sales websites currently offer cash on delivery only, accounting for nearly 70% of the total value of transactions, according to INC and Sevada. In this context, the development of services such as cliptopay and e-dinars should be encouraged. But the generalization of electronic payments in Tunisia goes through the outcome of negotiations that PayPal started with BCT in 2016, but also through the diversification of means of payment. However, unlike some neighboring countries, these negotiations are still in their infancy.

Cross-border blockades

In Tunisia, trafficking is regulated by an old decree-law of August 1961, which prohibits trafficking in foreign nationals.

The August 2000 Law on Exchanges and Electronic Commerce and its implementing texts do not recognize cross-border trade. They require that companies wishing to carry out this type of activity in Tunisia be of Tunisian nationality, have their registered office in Tunisia and do not pursue any other professional activity. It also envisages obtaining prior authorization from the National Agency for Electronic Certification (Tuntrust) to perform the activities of electronic certification service providers. Foreign online sales sites that want to perform this type of activity in Tunisia must necessarily go through a local intermediary.

The Tunisian economy must not miss this revolution

The inertia of public authorities in this area is partly due to the alarming deficit in foreign trade and the worrying decline in foreign exchange reserves. However, it risks leading to a significant loss of income for the state of Tunisia, a decline in the competitiveness of the national economy and the level of expertise, in a country that – paradoxically! – has more than the average engineer in Africa. It is therefore essential that Tunisia seize the opportunity of the legal and digital change necessary for its modernization. The Tunisian economy must not miss this revolution.

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