The Address | Benghazi – Libya
TUNIS – In an attempt to contain contraband and smuggling, the Tunisian government approved the development of an economic free zone for commercial and logistical activities in Ben Gardane, near the Libyan border.
Officials said their motivation is to bolster trade and contain black market activity, which has debilitated the economy, especially since 2011.
The Tunisian government announced the 150-hectare project on the third anniversary of the Battle of Ben Gardane, a symbolic move meant to show that combating terrorism goes hand in hand with developing border regions.
“This project, which is to create 8,000 jobs directly and indirectly, is part of efforts to integrate informal economic activity into the formal economy,” said Tunisian Commerce Minister Omar al-Behi after the ceremonial laying of the free zone’s foundation stone.
The new free zone is only 10km from the Ras Jedir border crossing with Libya and 50km from the commercial port of Zarzis, in south-eastern Tunisia.
The first phase of the project is to begin in April. This would include the construction of infrastructure, including a power plant, a waste treatment plant, roads and the laying of drainage and sewage canals.
Tunisia seeks to bring in more than $500 million in annual revenue from its free zones, with that number estimated to double once the Ben Gardane project is operational.