Bahrain’s Gulf Finance House (GFH) has announced that contractors have been invited to prequalify for construction packages on the estimated $3bn Tunis Financial Harbour (TFH) project in Tunisia.

The news comes shortly after the Tunisian government allocated TD50m ($33m) to complete the major and strategic infrastructure works for access to the development, which will be located just north of Gammarth in northern Tunisia.

The masterplan for the development has been approved by the government, and will comprise several clusters, including: a financial district, a marina, retail developments, a golf course and international schools. The development will cover a total area of 5.2 million square metres.

The Tunis Financial Harbour will be North Africa’s first offshore financial centre and is expected to create approximately 16,000 new jobs across the financial, human resources and service sectors. The business district will include four clusters, including an investment banking and advisory centre, a corporate centre, insurance hub and an international financial exchange.

Construction work is expected to start on the development as soon as the infrastructure design has been approved by the government.

The project has suffered from a number of delays since the project was launched in 2007 as Gulf Finance House was heavily affected by the global financial crisis and the collapse of the region’s real estate market. An over-reliance on real estate projects and mismatched short-term funding and long-term assets resulted in the bank recording net losses of $728m in 2009 and $349m in 2010.

However, significant restructuring enabled the bank to record a net profit of $4.1m for the first nine months of 2011 and the bank’s chief investment officer, Hisham Alrayes, is confident the Tunisian scheme will now begin to move forward.

“Though this project has been somewhat delayed from the original project schedule, the wheels are once again moving on Tunis Financial Harbour and we are fully geared up to commence tendering for the project’s infrastructure work as soon as the Tunisian government gives us the go-ahead,” said Alrayes, in a statement.