neighbourhoods regenerated
community facilities and industrial premises delivered
3 million
inhabitants with improved living conditions
Thanks to an ambitious nationwide programme, AFD and the European Union are supporting the regeneration of many forgotten neighbourhoods in Tunisia. As well as providing basic services, the scheme creates social ties by facilitating the emergence of social and cultural venues and actions run by local communities themselves. It also creates jobs, thanks to the construction of premises for industrial activities.

Over two thirds of Tunisians live in towns and cities, making this the most urbanised country in the Middle East and North Africa region. The urbanisation of the country over the last few decades has in many cases led to the emergence of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, characterised by limited or non-existent access to basic services.

For almost 40 years, the Agence de Réhabilitation et de Rénovation Urbaine (ARRU) has been implementing the Tunisian State's strategy of making living conditions in these neighbourhoods one of its priorities: an effective way of helping to reduce inequalities in the country. Under the PROVILLE programme launched in 2013 with AFD's backing, 155 neighbourhoods are currently being rehabilitated in Tunisia, to the direct benefit of almost 860,000 inhabitants.

As well as providing basic services, PROVILLE goes further than ARRU's earlier programmes in improving inhabitants' living conditions. The scheme includes the delivery of community facilities (sports grounds, community halls, parks and gardens and youth centres) and buildings for industrial activities. The facilities provided take account of the needs of the local population, which are identified by prior consultation. 

This logic of collaborating with inhabitants will be intensified in the second phase of the programme to be launched in early 2019, based most notably on an enhanced process of consultation with local voluntary bodies and municipal councils, the first to be democratically elected since the revolution of 2011.

Tunisie, Landoulsi
Tunisie, Chaima, Landoulsi
New customers for Chaima's sandwiches
Chaima Ben Aissa makes mlawis (pancakes made with semolina, flour and olive oil) in her stall in Khelidia, in the outer suburbs of Tunis. Here, customers stay outside and place their order over the counter at the entrance to the little sandwich bar. Mlawis are a cheap, filling snack and very popular with workers at lunchtime.

With perfect timing, a 1,000 m² industrial building has just been built on the other side of the road in this little neighbourhood surrounded by fields. One of the building's doors is actually right opposite Chaima's sandwich bar, and she "now hopes the factory will open very soon" to provide people with jobs and her with customers for her mlawis.

It has to be said that there is not much work in the area at present. Whatever company occupies the brand new building just delivered to the town by ARRU, it is bound to be the area's biggest employer. A bonanza for Chaima, mother of three primary age children who "alternates working here with her divorced sister". Chaima's husband is a casual labourer. "God willing," hopes Chaima, "the new customers will enable us to improve everyday life for the children and give them the chance to stay on at school".
Tunisie, Latifa, Landoulsi
Jobs at last for Latifa's son and husband
The chance to work near home: that's Latifa Tlili's main expectation: "Not necessarily for me, but at least for my husband and son". With the official unemployment rate standing at over 15%, Tunisia struggles to provide its people - young people in particular - with opportunities.

Latifa has lived in Fouchana, in the Ben Arous region, for 30 years, but it is only in the last two years that the construction of her house has progressed enough for her to leave her parents' house and move into her own home with her family. "I was pleased when I saw the building site open near where I live," remembers the young woman. "Pleased for my children and my husband, who don't have regular work". Since a few months ago, a new tarmac street lined with lampposts has led to an imposing new building intended to accommodate a clothing factory.

Her son Hamza, 22, was employed on the building site and now hopes to be hired to work in the factory. He would like to be able to let his mother leave her job working in another factory so that she can rest and undergo the demanding treatment she needs to fight her illness.
Tunisie, Mouldi, Landoulsi
A more comfortable house for Mouldi and Zohra in their old age
In the areas where ARRU operates, it systematically identifies the most modest households - 10% on average - with a view to carrying out refurbishment work in the homes themselves. Mouldi and Zohra Jemmi are now enjoying the comfort of a kitchen and an entirely renovated toilet in their little house in Siliana, a deprived town in the interior of the country.

Previously, this octogenarian couple was living in just one room. With the money they received from ARRU in 2016 and some money of their own, they were able to "extend the house by building a tiled kitchen and modernising the toilet". This is work that the couple, whose sole income is Mouldi's 320 dinar (100 euro) pension from his job as a school caretaker, could never have afforded themselves.

The living room has been enlarged and now has room for an old wooden bench and some items of plastic furniture gathered round a gas stove and a television, the household's only luxury, a gift from their children who long ago moved to Tunis and other cities for work.
Tunisie, Mohamed, Landoulsi
Mohamed Aziz, future lawyer or elite policeman
Mohamed Aziz Rebai started to practise taekwondo at the age of 4. Before he was old enough to take the bus on his own, he would go to training "on the back of his father's old Peugeot moped, up to three times a week not counting competitions". The sports hall in Essaida, the neighbourhood where he grew up, was only built in 2016 as part of an ARRU project, which also included road improvements and connection to the sewerage system. "Before, this was a desert for youngsters. Only a small proportion of them could afford to travel miles to practise a sport or any other activity", recalls the young prodigy.

Before 2011, his father tried - in vain - to get the authorities to build a sports hall in this neighbourhood situated 20 km from Tunis. "Then the revolution came and that gave us the chance to be heard". Today, some 200 youngsters ranging in age from 5 to 20, most of them girls, practise taekwondo and kickboxing in the 1,500 m² hall, paying a fee of 15 dinars (€3.50) a year.

Tunisian taekwondo champion from 2014 to 2016, Mohamed Aziz now intends to get his baccalaureate and "study law to become a lawyer or join the anti-terrorist forces". In the meantime, he plans to continue practising the sport he is passionate about, just a few steps from where he lives, and maybe even begin teaching at his local sports hall.
Tunisie, Sousse, Landoulsi
Revitalising the old town centres to enhance their appeal as tourist sites

In Tunisia, working class neighbourhoods are not only situated on the outskirts of urban areas, but also in their centres, in particular in the medinas that give the cities of the Maghreb their charm. These historic town centres are home to a relatively poor population as well as an architectural heritage that is constantly deteriorating due to a lack of upkeep.

With AFD's support, ARRU has conducted a pilot renovation scheme in four iconic medinas: Kairouan, Sfax, Sousse and Tunis. In Sousse, the sectors that have been renovated are recognisable at a glance. As well as the more recent paving, the other obvious difference is the absence of electric cables hanging above the streets.

"The electricity and telephone networks have been buried under the road. It's definitely easier on the eye," says a pleased Moez Naija, head of works at the town hall. Climbing plants and jasmine "planted and tended by the inhabitants" have now occupied the vacant overhead space. "We have also repainted the façades and restored all the doors that could be saved. Those that couldn't have been replaced," he adds.

The promising results of these operations have led to an even more ambitious plan being prepared for 2019 to regenerate the medinas and beyond. This scheme could include a part of the 19th and 20th century urban fabric with a cultural and heritage value. The aim is both to improve living conditions in these neighbourhoods and to enhance their tourist and economic appeal, for the benefit of local people and traders.

An end to the marginalisation of the interior regions

Since 2011 ARRU has to a large extent concentrated its efforts on Tunisia's southern, central and western regions. These are all regions that were left behind while the old regime prioritised the development of the capital and coastal areas. This led to a marginalisation that was certainly one of the factors in the revolutionary movement that began in 2011.

Today, it is about more than just providing roads, lighting, clean water and other basic services to the populations in these areas, it is really about creating a local and regional dynamic capable of providing more opportunities. Virtually all the neighbourhoods concerned by the current programme have benefited from at least one new community facility. In total, 51 neighbourhood sports grounds, 57 multi-use spaces and 32 industrial buildings are in the process of being delivered to municipalities. These have been planned and built in consultation and liaison with the local authorities. This process of local involvement indispensable to the success of this approach has been reinforced in the PROVILLE 2 programme, which launches at the beginning of 2019. 

"The needs are great and urgent," confirms Mongi Bel Mejaoued, Mayor of Bouarada (North of the country), population 21,000. And yet this town has already benefited from an ARRU project, a few years ago. This provided the town's Ibn Khaldoun neighbourhood with a small sports complex that the users take great care of. "This is a building that cost 800,000 dinars, which we could never have afforded, with our investment budget of about 500,000 dinars a year", explains the town councillor. This kind of facility not only gives young people something to do, but it also allows a whole range of small businesses to develop.

Expectations remain very high among the population in these regions. Still in Bouarada, Mongi is impatient for work to start in the Mellassine neighbourhood, where over a third of his town's population live. The area is subject to regular flooding and blackouts, due to inadequate stormwater drainage.

ARRU and AFD: over 25 years of partnership
Tunisie, ARRU, Landoulsi
© Amine Landoulsi / AFD


ARRU, which depends on the Tunisian Ministry of Equipment and Housing, has a well-established method of operating. "As soon as the planning of a programme begins, a system of coordination is set up between all the ministries, the local authorities and the public utilities concerned: water, electricity, gas, sewerage and telephone," explains Imed Ghanmi, head of the ARRU's projects in the Manouba region, "We also try to provide for new infrastructures that do not depend on us directly, for example by preparing a plot of land to build a school or a post office".

AFD, one of ARRU's longstanding partners, has been supporting the different urban development programmes since the agency first arrived in Tunisia in 1992, often via delegation of funds arrangements (European Union, European Investment Bank and World Bank in particular). This support for ARRU's urban improvement projects is completed by other AFD actions supporting certain providers of utilities, mainly water and sewerage, local authorities and transport services.

Over a 25-year period, AFD has contributed to the regeneration of 1,000 neighbourhoods, home to almost 3 million people. As new programmes have been developed, they have gradually been enriched, taking into account more needs and involving more actors. Alongside PROVILLE 1 and 2, for example, AFD is also launching a new urban incubator concept: the pépinière urbaine. The aim of this scheme is to support actions run by local communities to enhance living conditions in their neighbourhoods and strengthen social ties: playgrounds, parks and gardens, allotment, concerts, events and activities. In Tunisia, the future is being built with local people.

Logo, AFD, UE
This publication reflects only the positions of AFD; the European Union has no responsibility for its content.​​​​​