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Tunisia: The Tunisian Banking System




The Tunisian Banking System

Since the deregulation and liberalisation processes in the mid 1980s, the Tunisian financial sector has become additional market oriented and has become a center of prime importance for the economy.

Major banks have shown their confidence in the Tunisian banking system by opening up operations there, while Moody’ Investors Service has upgraded the foreign currency deposit ratings of Tunisian banks to Baa2 from Ba1 with stable outlook.

The banking system is centered on the

Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT)

and consists of:

14 Deposit Banks

8 Development Banks

8 Offshore Banks

2 Merchant Banks

9 Leasing companies

2 factoring companies

4 offices representing foreign banks

The Tunisian banking system has managed to establish a vast network of representations and agencies. There are currently 765 banking agencies spread amount over the country, averaging agency per 12,000 inhabitants (about the same average as in the developed nations).

The National currency of Tunisia is the Dinar

The word Dinar in Arabic ( Persian ( traces its traces its origins to the Roman currency the denarius.

Numerous nations still use Dinar as the name for their national currencies:

  • - Algeria
  • - Bahrain
  • - Iran
  • - Iraq
  • - Jordan
  • - Kuwait
  • - Libya
  • - Serbia
  • - Sudan
  • - Republic of Macedonia

The money market securities

Certificates of deposit

can be issued only by banks to bearer and issued at par for a minimum nominal amount representing a multiple of hundred thousand dinars and for a period of time equal to ten days at least and years at the majority. This duration must be a multiple of ten days. Ten months or ten years. These certificates cannot be paid in by anticipation or repurchased by the issuing establishment or bear any premium reimbursement. They have a fixed maturity.

Treasury bills

are evidence of indebtedness negotiable and issued at par for minimum nominal amount representing a multiple of fifty thousand dinars. Their duration is 10 days minimum and 5 years maximum. This duration must be a multiple of ten days. ten months or ten years. Treasury bills earn interest at a fixed rate freely determined at the time of issue and cannot comprise reimbursement premium. They must be domiciliated at a bank. The following bodies can issue these securities :

Companies who have a banking guarantee for issuing the aforesaid liquidity bills;

  • - Limited companies with a minimum paid up capital of million dinars. who have been operating for at least years. and set up balance sheets regularly approved by shareholders
  • - Enterprises governed by particular legal provisions.
  • - Listed companies on the stock exchange and those with a rating confered by an authorised rating agency can issue bills of liquidity with neither bank guarantee nor substitution line. Bank guarantee and substitution line are no longer required when issuers and subscribers are members of the same group.

Transferable Treasury bonds

are borrowing stocks issued by the national through adjudication to mobilize internal resources. These stocks are negotiable at amount banks intervening on the monetary market. The unit amount of each bond is fixed at thousand dinars and the interest rate relating to them is fixed according to offers made by banks during adjudication. These stocks are managed in current accounts and their maturity is made known to banks whenever there is adjudication. Maturity can vary from 13.26 or 52 weeks and to additional than a time(2. 3. 4. 5 or 7 years).

Three months Treasury bonds allowance uptake through call for tenders

The Central Bank of Tunisia completed its intervention means on the money market through the implementation in November 2001 of the first operation of Treasury bonds allowance uptake through monthly call for tenders.

This instrument aims at allowing the Central Bank set a 3 month interest rate which will contribute computing interest rates on the money market.

End of day allowance uptake from 1 to 7 days

Pursuant to circular to banks n° 2001-18 of 28 December 2001and in order to help banks better manager their liquidity, the Central Bank of Tunisia decided to authorize them to choose the term that suits them between 1 to 7 days for end to day allowance uptake starting from 2 January 2002

Until end 2001 banks could benefit only from end of day allowance uptake of 7 days.

Forecasted situation of economy balance for 2005

The Tunisian currency

The liberlization process of foreign exchange regulation that has started since 1987, led in December 1992 to the dinar current convertibility.

Since then, resident corporates can freely transfer the amounts of their imports of goods and services. They were aligned, on this level, to fully-exporting corporates which have gained, since 1972, from foreign exchange total freedom for operations pertaining to their production activities.

This process was accompanied, for capital transactions, with the freedom given:

  • - to resident corporates half or fully-exporting to invest abroad in order to back up their exporting effort
  • - to banks and corporates to borrow in foreign currencies for their activities needs within the limits of TD10 and TD3 million per year respectively
  • - to foreign investors to take portfolio participations accounting at least for 50% in listed or unlisted Tunisian corporates.
  • - Reforms and various measures undertaken in this framework will strengthen in the prospect of setting up the full convertibility of the dinar.

Residents’ accounts

Special accounts in foreign currency or convertible dinars

They can be opened freely by :

  • - Individuals of Tunisian nationality changing their usual place of residence from abroad to Tunisia
  • - Individuals of foreign nationality residing in Tunisia
  • - Tunisian diplomats and civil servants that are seconded abroad
  • - Resident individuals and legal entities for their untransferable assets regularly received abroad.

These accounts are freely credited in foreign currencies arising from income or proceeds of assets regularly earned abroad.

Professional accounts

  • - In convertible currencies
  • - They can be opened freely by resident exporters of goods and services for their activity requirements. These accounts are intended essentially to help their holders cover themselves against exchange risk.
  • - In convertible dinars

They are opened, on authorization of the Central bank of Tunisia, by any resident individual or legal entity having foreign currency resources.

Special accounts “export-profit” in convertible dinars

They are opened, on an authorization of the Central Bank of Tunisia, in the name of resident individuals who make profit in their own export activities of goods or services and/or are shareholders or partners in resident companies that make profit in export transactions of goods or services. They are freely debited for any transfer in foreign currency for matters of travelling abroad or acquiring “benefits” abroad other than real estate

Non-residents’ accounts

Foreign accounts in foreign currency or convertible dinars

They can be opened freely by resident individuals or legal entities whatever their nationality is. They are freely credited and debited in foreign currency

Non residents’ internal accounts “”

These accounts, the opening of which is free, are intended to the use by foreign individuals residing temporarily in Tunisia and earning an income in dinars.

Special accounts in dinars

They may be opened freely by non resident foreign enterprises that stroke bargain in Tunisia in order to place the share of these bargains payable in dinars intended to cover their local expenditures.

Suspense accounts

These are accounts in dinars that may be freely opened by non-residents of any nationality to place amount receipts falling to them in Tunisia while awaiting the Central Bank of Tunisia to decide whether to allocate these receipts to a capital account or their transfer.

Capital accounts

They are intended to receive assets in dinars of non-residents that do not have any transfer guarantee. Their opening is free for non-resident foreign individuals or legal entities. It is submitted to a prior approval of the Central Bank of Tunisia for Tunisian non-residents or their husband and wife.

Foreign exchange system in free zones

Businessmen in economic free zones, EFZ, can carryout their activities as residents or nonresidents. Investments in hard currency or in convertible Dinars in EFZ are freely made and must be declared to the free zone developer.

Entities established in EFZ by companies which headquarters are located abroad, are considered as non-residents.

Non-residents benefit from a capital transfer guarantee for investments made in hard currency and revenues deriving from it. The transfer guarantee covers the real net profits derived from stock clearance. Non-residents do not have to repatriate their export, services rendered and income earnings.

However they must make amount payments in Tunisia from a foreign account in hard currency or in convertible Dinars.

Payments inside free zones are made in hard currency or in convertible Dinars.

Any securities transfer between non-residents or stocks transfer between companies, is free.

Foreign trade


Regime and procedures:

  • - Amount imports are free except those concerning public order, hygiene, morality, fauna and flora protection and cultural heritage. Import of some products such as some types of cars, remains temporarily submitted to prior authorization.
  • - Imports are submitted to the obligation of payment by bank’ order through a chartered intermediary.
  • - Products under the regime of free foreign trade are imported through an import certificate accompanied with documents required by the regulation into force.
  • - Products excluded from the regime of free foreign trade are set by a inventory fixed by decree ; they are imported through an import authorization delivered by the Ministry of Trade.

totally-exporting enterprises of goods and services inclunding enterprises established in economic free zone may import freely, without foreign trade formalities, amount necessary products to their production subject to their customs declaration.


  • - Import settlement is freely executed by the chartered paying agent after the effective entry of goods justified by customs charging.
  • - Imports may give rise to down payments subject of the issue in favor of the importer of a down payment restitution guarantee on request by the supplier’ bank.
  • - The settlement of goods may be executed before their reception subject to justifying their direct and exclusive shipment to Tunisia.


Regime and procedures

  • - Amount exports are free except those provided for in a inventory fixed by decree.
  • - Exports of products benefiting from the regime of free foreign trade are made on presentation of a final invoice to customs.
  • - Exporters must pay the charged invoice by customs through a chartered intermediary at the new, eight days after the shipment of goods.
  • - Excluded products from the regime of free foreign trade are exported on presentation of an authorization delivered by the Ministry of Trade and paid through a chartered intermediary.


  • - Sales for cash (at the new 30 days from the date of shipment) may be paid by any means of settlement.
  • - Sales on credit providing for settlement periods up to 180 days starting from the date of shipment are executed freely when accompanied with a payment guarantee, an irrevocable letter of credit or stand by letter of credit, an endorsed draft or an insurance policy of credit at export.

Export receipts

  • - Export proceeds have to be repatriated in the 10 days that follow the due date.
  • - totally exporting non-resident enterprises, international trade non-resident enterprises inclunding non-resident enterprises established in economic free zones are neither bound to repatriate nor to assign their export receipts.
  • - Resident exporters may keep in their foreign currency professional accounts 100% of the proceeds of their exports.
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