The latest census shows that in March 1984 the population amounted to 6,966,173 units, while a United Nations estimate indicated 8,572,000 residents in 1993. (distributed over a territory of 154,530 km 2), equal to 55 residents / km 2. The average annual rate of population growth (1.9%) is slightly lower than in the past and decidedly lower than that of the other Maghreb countries. The average life expectancy at birth is 68.9 years. The high rate of illiteracy (34.7%) and the considerable density of the population in urban centers (52.8%) constitute heavy mortgages for a balanced development of the country. Tunisia is part of the OAU (Organization of African Unity), of the Arab League and, since February 17, 1989, of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), together with Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Libya.
Economic conditions. – The massive presence of the public hand in the economy and the scarce resources available to private initiative limit the country’s short-term development prospects. In the past (1978) there have been timid liberal openings, also aimed at gaining the trust of foreign investors, but bitterly opposed by the union and culminating in bloody riots, repressed with extreme energy. The hopes placed in the discovery of new oil resources, which emerged in the early 1980s, have not been reflected in reality. The economic recession, which plagued Europe at the same time, caused Tunisia to drastically reduce the influx of tourists, causing an immediate drop in income in hard currency.
In 1983 serious riots broke out in the streets caused by the increase in the price of bread. Two years later further negative repercussions were induced by the forced repatriation of about 23,000 Tunisian workers, of the 90,000 present in Libya, following one of the recurring political tensions in the Maghrebian chessboard. Austerity programs, based on increasing the tax burden for the wealthy classes and on cuts in the financing of industrial expansion plans, have been launched in an attempt to balance an economy that is mainly rich in arms.
Agriculture contributes 16% to the formation of the gross domestic product, manufacturing industry with 17% and mining with 6.7% (1992). Among the agricultural products cereals are important: 15.8 million q of wheat in 1992 and 5.7 million q of barley. Also important are the first fruits (5.5 million q of tomatoes) and fruit crops (apricots, plums, apples and pears). Good production of citrus fruits (980,000 q of oranges) and olives (6.3 million q), still the pride of Tunisia. From them we obtain a considerable quantity of oil (1,210,000 q), which places Tunisia in 4th place in the world ranking of the sector. The farm can count on 7.1 million sheep, 1.4 million goats, 659,000 cattle and 231,000 camels. Fishing provides 85,000 tonnes of product per year.
The main mineral resources are made up of phosphates (6.2 million t in 1990), which from the production area (Kalaat Djerda and Gafsa) are sent for embarkation through the railway that heads to the ports of Biserta and Sfax. Of modest interest are the deposits of iron ore (153,000 t in 1991), lead (800 t of metal contained in 1992) and zinc. Oil production (5 million tonnes in 1991) has not shown the expected progress in recent years, similarly to natural gas, practically at a standstill at the extraction levels of the past (304 million m 3). The manufacturing industries are mainly oriented towards the production of oil, cotton, sugar, beer and superphosphates. There is no shortage of lead metallurgy and iron and steel plants. An oil refinery is active in Bizerte. The modest production of electricity (5.5 billion kWh in 1991) testifies to a worrying delay in the development of the economy. The main industrial and commercial center of the country is Tunis, whose port, in addition to being the major port of call for passenger traffic, is the starting point for minerals and agricultural products sent for export. The port of Skhirra is connected to the oil pipelines from the al-Būrma and Douleb oil fields and from the Algerian wells.
The trade balance of Tunisia is still heavily in deficit: exports, for the most part directed to the countries of the European Union on the basis of free trade agreements, concern oil, fertilizers, olive oil, phosphates, etc.. Tourism (3,855,500 arrivals in 1994), favored by a well-developed communications network (29,000 km of roads and 1940 of railways), constitutes an essential source of income. Gross domestic product ($ 1,780 per capita in 1993) places Tunisia in a prominent position among other African countries.
Archaeology. – In recent decades, archaeological research in Tunisia has fully developed its potential both through the activity of the Institut national archeologie et d’art (today Institut national du patrimoine), and through an intense international collaboration promoted by ‘UNESCO in Carthage, where the Turin Excavation Center has recently begun the reinterpretation of the city plan. There have been numerous restoration interventions, from ancient sites such as Kerkouane, Bulla Regia, Duqqa, Utica, al-Ǧam, Sbeitla and Ḥaydra, to Arab-Islamic sites such as Kairouan, Monastir and Sūsa. The same number of archaeological museums has increased with the expansion, alongside the national museums of Carthage, Tunis, Bardo and Kairouan, the regional museums of Sfax, Nabeul, Sūsa, and the local museums of Utica, Bulla Regia, Maktar, Sbeitla, al-Mahdiyya, Moknine, Jerba, Tabarka and Kerkouane. At the same time, the Tunisian archaeological publishing itself experienced a significant increase with the publication of Reppal, the magazine of the Center d’étude de la civilization phénicienne-punique et des antiquités libyques. For Tunisia 2017, please check mathgeneral.com.
The discovery, 24 km north of Sīdī Zīn, of a lithic industry dating back to 100,000 years BC, and the highlighting and enhancement of numerous prehistoric sites on the north-west coast of the Tunisia and in the second half of the 1970s. he area of Capo Bon, with anthropization ranging from the 25th millennium to the 3rd millennium BC In al-Mekta, in the Maghreb, the characteristics of an art and a figurative rock culture of which it bears were analyzed starting from the 8th millennium and throughout the 7th millennium BC, a people defined as Protomediterranean. New attention was paid to the Neolithic period spread from the Jendouba region to that of Maktar, with the important necropolis of al-Radayf, south of the Tunisia, Atlas préhistorique is an indispensable work tool.
The interest in the Punic archeology of Tunisia has focused both in the reinterpretation of the Kerkouane site, a city returned to research in its phase of abandonment which took place in the mid-3rd century BC, and in the most significant discoveries of the international campaign of safeguard of Carthage (Byrsa and the Hannibal quarter, the Magonide quarter, the Punic ports), still in place and published in the CEDAC.
The Roman Tunisia has found new space thanks to the remembered international campaign that has brought to light an early Christian district south of Byrsa, as well as thanks to the renewed studies on mosaics, in particular those of the Sīdī Ġarīb baths. The Islamic period has renewed its interest especially in regard to the funerary steles of Kairouan, Tunis, Sūsa and Monastir, and coins with mints in Tunis, Bejaia, Biskra and Gafsa.