UAE investment group revives Tunisia $5bn construction scheme

Tunis (AFP) – The Bukhatir Group of the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday the relaunch of a $5 billion real-estate project in Tunisia, expected to boost the North African country's struggling economy.

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Known as the "Tunis Sports City," the venture has been on hold for 15 years, due in large part to the 2008 global financial crisis and Tunisia's 2011 Arab Spring protests that toppled veteran autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The ambitious project will involve the construction of a golf course, sports academies, hotels and luxury villas in a lakeside northern suburb of the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

"All the accords with the Tunisian government have been concluded and construction will start soon," the head of the Bukhatir group in Tunisia, Afif Bejaoui, told reporters Thursday.

He said "the 2008 global financial crisis, the Tunisian revolution, terrorism issues" and political instability were among the factors that delayed the project.

The initiative is expected to bolster the economy, as the country grapples with high public debt, inflation and unemployment.

Years of political turmoil deepened with a power grab by President Kais Saied last July, when he suspended parliament and ousted the prime minister.

The coronavirus pandemic sent the economy into a deep recession in 2020 and while limited positive growth returned last year, unemployment tops 18 percent.

The real-estate project involves three phases, with the first due to be completed in 2026 and the final part by 2031.

"This mega-project is interesting both for the investor and for Tunisia," as a whole, Bejaoui said on Thursday.