4.3%: this is the drop in industrial production over the last 12 months in August 2019. Too many charges, too many unions, too many laws, not enough infrastructure ... Maybe, but is it not rather the symptom of the end of the low-cost industrial model? It is urgent to move on to the next phase.
A dazzling industrial success, but that was 50 years ago!
The law of 1972 was a brilliant idea which allowed Tunisia to develop a real efficient industrial fabric in a very short time. In the 1970s and 1980s, Europe saw textile and manufacturing factories shut down one after another, leaving workers behind as factories moved to Tunisia's mild climate and low costs. As much as the effects of offshoring in Europe have been disastrous, on the contrary, they have allowed a boom in Tunisia, with jobs, skills, industrial machines, engineers and all the ecosystem that surrounds manufacturing activity. But that was 50 years ago. And 50 years is a long time ...
We have lost the battle of the low-cost...
Today, the finding is clear. We hear industrials complaining about taxes, wage charges, inadequate infrastructure, the political and security climate, and what not. But if you dig a little deeper, the textile manufacturers find that Asia has swallowed them up and has become unbeatable. Automotive suppliers know that Bulgarians and Moldovans have become cheaper than Tunisians, but no less good. The once flourishing and promising future appears to be darkening, and the industry is becoming poorer.
But we have not yet lost the war
We hear a lot that the future is in services and that the industry is over. Yes, the digitalisation of our world is well underway, and it is an incredible opportunity for Africa, and for Tunisia in particular. But digitalisation, new technologies and industry are not opposed.
By combining traditional industrial know-how with innovation and new technologies, we create added value as shown in the fields of robotics, Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things and many others. In Rwanda, for example, blockchain technology combined with IoT is used to identify and protect livestock, and it's incredibly effective.
It is time to change the paradigm. There is not an old, obsolete manufacturing world and a new digitalised world. There is a huge opportunity to combine strength and work together.
Let us imagine an other world
Imagine a world where the past meets the future, where analog meets digital, where ancient know-how meets technology. A world where in Nabeul, we know how to make magnificent ceramic vases, but also technical ceramics for mechanical bearings, for medical prostheses, for electronics ... A world where, in each field of industry, we know how to innovate , collaborate and use new technologies to move from the low-cost commodity industry to the high value-added industry.
It is possible, and it is within the reach of Tunisia, which has had industrial, scientific and technical know-how for a long time. With innovative approaches, the ambition to make original creations, we will succeed in creating synergies between manufacturing know-how and new technologies to create a new paradigm for the industry.
We can therefore allow ourselves to be positive, optimistic, and enterprising, regardless of any external circumstances over which we have little or no influence. We may not have a great culture of innovation in Tunisia, but it can be learned. We have a lot of ideas, resources and engineers for this.
And you, do you have the ambition for innovation? Sharing your ideas and experiences in the comments is greatly appreciated.