The 5-week long Tunisia project is coming to an end. It is Monday, and less than 5 working days are left. It has been an incredible journey for all 3 of us, both personally and professionally.

What have we learnt professionally while here?

All countries in the world face unemployment, and we are aware of the fact. However, what really causes unemployment? This is the topic that we rarely thoroughly analyze. However, it is very important to find the root causes of the problem in order to tackle it. While working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) we have had an opportunity to really dive into the issue of unemployment and study the real causes for so many people being jobless despite their skills and education.

For example, without studying the Tunisian eco-system, we would never realize that some areas are so remote with extremely weak infrastructure that information on job openings is simply not available to residents of those areas. As one Tunisian commented on the situation:

To find a job, you have to go on the Internet. This must be the one part of the country where there is no employment bureau. As for “Publinet Cybercafés”, there are only a few in the center of Médenine, and that is an hour’s journey, costing TND2. Imagine, for anyone who lives in the villages around here, they have to pay for transport to the center of town, wait for an hour, and then pay TND10 just to register at the employment bureau.

Learning the reasons for unemployment in Tunisia also gives an insight to what may be causing the issue in other emerging markets as well. Us having roots in Russia, Algeria and India, all three of us may take this experience back home and contribute to the development work within the country. Moreover, even though some of the causes are typical and thus only relevant for emerging economies, some issues may also be present in the developed world.

By developing the new edition of Souk At-tanmia, we have practically applied our knowledge and skills developed from Thunderbird to create a business model as well as financial projections. We have also seen how strategic planning can be used in practice for an impactful purpose.

Finally, the development of the Souk At-tanmia edition has really introduced us to operations of a development bank and taught us how to create a venture for providing both financial and non-financial support to entrepreneurs and small to medium sized companies all the way from the planning fase to execution and monitoring.

What did Tunisia give us personally?

Primarily, we have had the privilege to work with an incredible group of people. The AfDB team has been extremely welcoming, inclusive, respectful and caring. They have simply been a pleasure to both work with and spend time outside of the workplace.

One of the most amazing things about Tunisia has been the food. From Tunisian Couscous, Ojja and freshly grilled whole fish to African Choukouya, even the pickiest ones of us were happy at every single meal. Moreover, our outing experience has also been especially interesting at times. One of such experiences was Gianni’s – an Italian restaurant located in La Marsa, one of the nicest areas of Tunis.

We found Gianni’s by looking up nearby restaurants on Tripadvisor. The place had multiple excellent reviews, so we decided to try it out. When we arrived there, the place was extremely small – it had only 4 tables in total. Only one table was occupied and the person was a German expat, who as we later learnt, also found this restaurant using Tripadvisor.

As we entered, the waiter, who turned out to be the actual restaurant owner, asked us whether we had a reservation. We found that a little bit funny given that it was a Monday night – not a typical night for going out – and that most of the tables were available.

After we got seated, the restaurant owner came to our table, sat down next to us and started telling us in French what is on the menu. Claiming that he himself was “the menu” he kept going for about 20 minutes. The only sad thing was that only one of us really understood French. When asking him for a printed menu he told us it wouldn’t help us much as it was all in Italian. Despite for also slightly overcharging us, according to Tunisian standards, he turned out to be a talented cook, however. The pasta he served was delicious. 

Tunisia has been a cultural challenge for some of us, for a fact, especially for wine lovers. Very few places serve alcohol, and there are even areas in Tunis, such as Berges Du Lac, within which no restaurant may serve alcoholic beverages. Thus, the city has a big juice cocktail culture with most places having a large variety of different juices – a definitely healthy trend.   

Another challenge has been the taxi rides that have been our main means of transportation – a 15-minute ride would cost us about $2. However, in the mornings taxis are in extremely high demand, and at times it took us half an hour to secure one. Another interesting thing is that a taxi driver may simply reject to take you if the trip is too short, or if you are 4 people.

Being in Tunisia we have practically applied the global mindset that we have gained at Thunderbird and in today’s environment it is a very valuable experience for us as future global leaders. Moreover, from scenic mountains to spectacular beaches, Tunisia will surely be a place to remember. Now we have the final week to wrap up the project and explore and enjoy what this country has to offer.