Tunisia - eCommerceTunisia - eCommerce
Tunisian credit cards are not convertible to hard currency and thus cannot be used for purchases made on foreign commercial internet sites. Debit and credit cards can be used for domestic internet payment for a few services, such as public utilities, telecommunication, and university registration.
The Tunisian postal service operates an electronic payment system called the e-dinar. Customers establish an account and replenish it by purchasing credit at a post office. Many public services in Tunisia can be paid using e-dinars.
Current Market Trends
Most Tunisian banks allow account holders to use bank-affiliated credit and debit cards to make domestic on-line purchases denominated in dinars. The Tunisian dinar is a non-convertible currency, however, so on-line purchases in foreign currency are not allowed, and few Tunisians make cross-border purchases via eCommerce. In recognition of this limitation, the Ministry of Communication, Technology, and Digital Economy launched a Digital Technology Charge Card in May 2015 for Tunisians with college degrees, which allows these card holders to make on-line purchases of software, mobile applications, web services, and publications in support of entrepreneurial activities. Individual users are limited to 1,000 dinars (about $467) in annual purchases. The program has been expanded to include Tunisian IT companies, which are allotted up to 10,000 dinars (about $4,670) annually to purchase on-line services, including server hosting and freelance programming services. As of May 2017, the Ministry of Communication, Technology, and Digital Economy recorded approximately 8,500 active users of this program, with 70% of users identified as individual college graduates and 30% identified as IT enterprises.
Domestic ecommerce (B2C)
Due to the general lack of credit cards and on-line payment systems, Tunisia’s domestic eCommerce markets are underdeveloped. Most Tunisian banks offer account holders bank-affiliated credit and debit cards which can be used on domestic websites only. General purpose eCommerce retail sites similar to Amazon do not exist in Tunisia, but rather individual retailers and service providers offer their own on-line checkout systems tailored to Tunisian credit and debit cards. According to media, the Central Bank generally opposes allowing other on-line payment systems, which it views as a threatening capital flight route from the country. The lack of government support for cross-border flows in eCommerce also retards further development of the domestic eCommerce market.
Given the Tunisian dinar’s status as a non-convertible currency, cross-border eCommerce purchases are not possible apart from specific allowances granted from the Tunisian Central Bank, which has historically opposed such transactions. Consequently, cross-border eCommerce purchases are negligible.
Due to the general lack of credit cards and on-line payment systems, Tunisia’s domestic B2B eCommerce markets are significantly underdeveloped.
Due to the general lack of credit cards and on-line payment systems, Tunisia’s eCommerce markets –- including those supporting eCommerce service providers –- are significantly underdeveloped.
eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights
Tunisia’s National Institute for Standardization and Industrial Property (INNORPI) recognizes and enforces foreign patents registered in Tunisia, including those directed to eCommerce. Tunisian law affords foreign businesses treatment equal to that afforded Tunisian nationals. Tunisia has also updated its legislation to meet the requirement of the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). For the “.TN” country-specific top level domain name, the Tunisian Internet Authority (ATI) responds to complaints of cybersquatting from trademark owners and will transfer domain registrations to complainants upon demonstration that the accused website is used to pass off counterfeit goods.
Popular ecommerce Sites
Due to the general lack of credit cards and on-line payment systems, Tunisian consumers do not typically use B2B, B2C, and B2G eCommerce platforms.
Tunisian law mandates that only certified financial institutions with banking licenses are allowed to manage financial transactions. Consequently, electronic payment platforms require participation from at least one Tunisian bank, and the current regulatory framework allows payments only between existing Tunisian bank accounts. For example, BIAT, a leading Tunisian bank, has launched a mobile payment system called Via Mobile which allows electronic payments, but only between account holders at the bank. In view of this limitation, no significant eCommerce platform has emerged in Tunisia, and online payments remain a rarity.
The mobile eCommerce ecosystem is virtually nonexistent in Tunisia due to the general lack of on-line payment systems. Several mobile phone network providers, e.g., Ooredoo and Tunisie Telecom, have created on-line accounts through which users can purchase data and phone services using domestic bank accounts and pre-paid mobile cards. Funds can also be moved from one user’s account to another within the same network. While these systems allow a form of on-line payment between users, the fact that funds can only be used to purchase data and phone services limits their utility.
Tunisia’s Digital Technology Charge Card program, launched by the Ministry of Communication, Technology, and Digital Economy in May 2015, allows users to purchase digital marketing services on-line. Business contacts note that this program has allowed them to purchase targeted “key word” advertising services directly from companies such as Google and Facebook. The program remains limited, however, as participating marketing companies within Tunisia quickly exceed their yearly allowances of 1,000 dinars per individual or 10,000 dinars per IT company. Permission to exceed this amount requires a formal request to the Ministry of Communication, Technology, and Digital Economy and final approval from the Tunisian Central Bank, which is rare.
Major Buying Holidays
There are no significant consumer “buying holidays” for eCommerce in Tunisia. During the month of Ramadan, Tunisian consumption increases by 25% across all consumer categories. Given the paucity of eCommerce, however, there is no discernible coincident rise in on-line purchases during this period.
Tunisia’s social media climate is open, voluminous, and lively. Facebook enjoys a dominant market position, with most Tunisian businesses and individuals maintaining an active on-line presence through the free platform to promote their goods and services and connect with customers rather than hosting their own websites. Twitter is popular amongst the intelligentsia and closely followed by political and media operatives. In March 2017, Facebook and Google reached a deal with leading Tunisian Internet provider TOPNET to host content on Tunisian servers, which will allow the companies to more quickly serve the growing content demands of Tunisia’s Internet users.
Tunisia eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce