As activity in the GCC’s private power market has slowed, developers have started to look outside the region for new opportunities. Already, it seems, North Africa could prove a popular choice with international companies that have traditionally focused on the Gulf.

Many have sought entry to the North African market as a way to diversify their investment portfolios. Tunisia’s recent launch of its planned Bizerte independent power project (IPP) will offer several international developers the opportunity to diversify outside the Gulf.

The country’s Energy & Industry Ministry prequalified five groups to bid for the project in January. The list of potential bidders includes Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, which has significant experience in Tunisia. Marubeni, together with the US’ PSEG Global and Sithe Energies, carried out the construction element of Tunisia’s first IPP at Rades in 2002.

The success of that project has boosted investor confidence and encouraged new entrants to vie for the Bizerte scheme.

Tunis is already planning to go ahead with another IPP project, at Cap Bon. It first floated the idea three years ago, but the project is finally picking up steam. The scheme, which will export power to Italy, has solicited a good response from the market, with 16 firms expressing their interest.

To keep them on board, the government will need to show that prolonged delays to its projects are a thing of the past.