• US-based World Bank extends $200m loan to Tunisia
  • It will fund $230m project to improve 146 kilometres of roads
  • Scheme is intended to connect deprived interior regions to economic centres

The Washington-based World Bank has extended a $200m loan to Tunisia to fund a $230m rural roads project.

Tunisia’s Ministry of Public Works, Housing & Land Planning will widen and improve three roads with a total length of 146 kilometres.

The roads are:

  • Sousse (east coast) to Kairouan (west) – 56km
  • Siliana (northwest) to El-Fahs (northeast) – 65km, widened from two to four lanes
  • Zaghouan to Jebel el-Oust (northeast) – 25km

The project will also strengthen Tunisia’s capacity to manage its road network.

The project is intended to provide jobs and improve connections by creating vital infrastructure.

It will also reduce the development disparities between the relatively prosperous coastal areas, which account for 85 per cent of GDP, according to the World Bank, and its deprived interior. The interior regions suffer from decades of underinvestment, leading to levels of unemployment well above the national rate of 15 per cent and widespread poverty. The poverty rate in Kairouan is 32 per cent, twice the national average, according to the World Bank.

About 80 per cent of goods are moved by road in Tunisia, but highways have only been built along the coast.

“Improving roads and reducing transport costs and time will bring immense benefits to lagging regions,” said Eileen Murray, World Bank country manager for Tunisia, in a press release. ”This project is part of the Bank’s strategy of support for government efforts to promote social and economic inclusion.”

The term of the loan is 34 years, with five and a half years’ grace period.

The World Bank has already provided 10 loans to Tunisia worth a total of $1bn.

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