Tunisia’s former president Zine El Abidine ben Ali fled his country on Jan.14, 2011, in a dramatic end to his government that had been in power for 23 years.
Prior to the president’s escape, Tunisia experienced the first uprising that has come to be called “the Arab Spring” as revolts spread throughout the region.
Meanwhile, Bachir Mihoubi, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based international consulting firm FranCounsel Group, was traveling in his native Algeria, Tunisia’s North African neighbor.
Just the week before the revolution began in earnest in December 2010, Mr. Mihoubi had launched in Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, the first franchise trade show in conjunction with the Tunis Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Commerce Department.
“I must say that I was hopeful for Tunisia and I was hopeful that Algeria would also move toward a more democratic government,” he told Global Atlanta.
“I was optimistic about Tunisia because it has always been one of the more progressive countries in the region, and it ranks high in education, especially among the middle class and women.”
While many of the countries that experienced the “Arab Spring” are having difficulties recovering economically, Mr. Mihoubi is optimistic about Tunisia.
Even though the Commerce Department prohibits contractors and government personnel from going to Tunisia and other countries that experienced revolutions during the “Arab Spring,” Mr. Mihoubi, who currently is “an expert-in-residence” at the department, was undeterred and held this year’s conference in Paris March 20-25.
As in all of his franchise related workshops, Mr. Mihoubi’s message remains consistent: franchises create jobs, stimulate technology transfer and encourage a culture of franchising, which inspires local companies to create local franchise concepts.
Commerce Department officials have asked Mr. Mihoubi to conduct similar workshops in Iraq, Georgia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His next workshop is to be held in New York in June and is to involve executives from Pakistan, Georgia and Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Tunisian government no longer engages in the unscrupulous practices of the former government requiring family members of the president to own large portions of foreign enterprises.
It also allows repatriation of the franchisor’s royalty fees and in many cases doesn’t require government approval for a franchise to enter the country.
Additionally, the U.S. government has been encouraging Tunisian banks to lend to small- and medium-sized companies to open franchises.
A $50 million credit facility of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the international financing arm of the U.S. government, provides incentives for the Tunisian banks by enabling them to lower the collateral requirements of their loans.