Limited Statehood and Informal Economy

  • Ruth Hanau Santini
Part of the Reform and Transition in the Mediterranean book series (RTM)


The informal sector has traditionally accounted between a third and half of the national GDP, and since the 2011 uprising, given the slow growth experiences, this trend has further consolidated. In marginal areas of the country, in particular the southeast area bordering with Libya and interior regions bordering with Algeria, cross-border smuggling has represented a social and economic safety valve. Until 2010, this occurred under the benevolent eye of the regime, which simultaneously controlled it through local notables and security forces and profited from it, by letting smugglers bribe state officials, be they notables or security forces. It also allowed the regime to concentrate resources and investment in the so-called useful Tunisia, the coastal areas, further increasing socio-economic regional disparities. The political and economic discrimination of these regions has been an established practice since the creation of modern Tunisia in 1956 and increasingly so since the 1990s. Since the 2011 uprisings, the increasing number of non-state actors involved in this sector and the incapacity and/or unwillingness of the central authority to enforce and implement laws, both in terms of curbing this trade and also of implementing the constitutional provisions related to positive discrimination and investment in marginalized regions, have further cemented limited statehood vis-à-vis these geographical areas and this policy arena.


Smuggling Transnational Resistance Accumulation Tunisia Informal economy 


  1. Abdelali, R. (2006). Les émeutes fondatrices de la révolution tunisienne 1978–1984. Paris: Publibook.Google Scholar
  2. Achcar, G. (2013). The People Want. A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aleya-Sghaier, A. (2014). The Tunisian Revolution. The Revolution of Dignity. In R. R. Larémont (Ed.), Revolution, Revolt and Reform in North Africa (pp. 30–52). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Allal, A., & Bennafla, K. (2011). Les mouvements protestataires de Gafsa (Tunisie) et Sidi Ifni (Maroc) entre 2005 et 2009. Des mobilisations en faveur du réengagement de l’État ou contre l’ordre politique? Revue Tiers Monde, HS(5), 27–45.Google Scholar
  5. Ayeb, H. (2011). Géographie sociale et politique de la révolution tunisienne: la révolution de l’Alfa. Maghreb Machrek, 4(210), 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ayeb, H. (2016, April 23). Après Ben Guerdane: dépossessions, déstructurations et insécurité alimentaire dans le Sud-Est tunisien. Jadaliyya. Link:ès-ben-guerdane_-dépossessions-déstructurations
  7. Baudel, P. R. (1981). Gafsa comme enjeux. Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord (pp. 485–511). Paris: CNRS.Google Scholar
  8. Bellamine, Y. (2015, Janvier 22). A’ quand un projet de loi sur la décentralisation? Nawaat. Link:
  9. Bessis, J. (1974). Le Mouvement ouvrier tunisien: De ses origines à l’indépendance. Le Mouvement Social, (89), 85–108. doi: 10.2307/3807127
  10. Bletry, N. (2015, June 22). Ben Guerdane: Contrebande à la frontière entre la Tunisie et la Libye. La Croix. Link:
  11. Bono, I., Hibou, B., Meddeb, H., & Tozy, M. (Eds.). (2015). L’Etat d’injustice au Maghreb. Maroc et Tunisie. Paris: Khartala.Google Scholar
  12. Boubekeur, A. (2015). The Politics of Protest in Tunisia. Instrument in Parties’ Competition vs. Tool for Participation. Comment, Stiftung fur Wissenschaft und Politik, n.13. Link:
  13. Bourguiba, H. (1981). Discours. Tome XIX – 1968–1968. Tunis: Publications du Ministère de l’Information.Google Scholar
  14. Boursali, N. (2006, juin 25). Le complot de décembre 1962. Fallait-il les tuer? Réalités.Google Scholar
  15. Charmes, J., & Ben Cheikh, N. (2016, Mai). Protection sociale et économie informelle en Tunisie: défis de la transition vers l’économie formelle. Centre des Recherches et d’Etudes Sociales. Link:
  16. Charrad, M. (2001). States and Women’s Rights. The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Chater, K. (2003). La guérilla tunisienne (1952–1954). In J. C. Jauffret (Ed.), Des hommes et des femmes en guerre d’Algérie. Paris: Autrement.Google Scholar
  18. Chomiak, L. (2014). Architecture of Resistance in Tunisia. In L. Khatib & E. Lust (Eds.), Taking to the Streets. The Transformation of Arab Activism (pp. 22–52). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Chomiak, L. (2016, September 22). The Revolution in Tunisia Continues. Middle East Institute. Link:
  20. Daoud, A. (2011). La révolution tunisienne du janvier 2011: une lecture par les déséquilibres du territoire. EchoGéo [En ligne], Sur le Vif. Link:
  21. Elbaz, S. (2009, January). Contrebande et réseaux marchands informels en Tunisie (40 p). Paris: FASOPO.Google Scholar
  22. Erguez, R. (2016, Mars). Commencer par cerner l’informel pour préparer son cantonnement: un enjeu de politique publique. Joussour. Link:
  23. Ettayeb, M. (2006). La tribu dans l’historiographie tunisienne: l’exemple des Oulad Saïd. Cahiers du C.E.R.E.S. (pp. 123–132). Tunis: Centre d’études et de recherches économiques et sociales, Université de Tunis.Google Scholar
  24. Forum Tunisien pour les droits économiques et sociaux (FTDES). (2016, Novembre). Rapport de l’Observatoire Social Tunisien. Link:
  25. Fraser, N. (1995, July–August). From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a ‘Post-socialist’ Age. New Left Review, 1(212), 68–93.Google Scholar
  26. Frédéric, S. (1998). L’immobilité forcée: la sédentarisation des nomades dans le Sud tunisien. In V: Lassailly-Jacob (Ed.) Communautés déracinées dans les pays du Sud. Autrepart (Vol. 5, pp. 63–77.) ISBN 1278–3986.Google Scholar
  27. Gharbi, A. (2014, December 15). Les consignes de vote pour Marzouki et Caid Essebsi: entre soutien actif et positions ambigues. Huffington Post Maghreb. Available at:
  28. Gherib, B. (2017). Penser la transition avec Gramsci. Tunisie (2011–2014). Tunis: Editions Diwen.Google Scholar
  29. Hanau Santini, R., & Pontiggia, S. (2018). Informality and State-society Relations in Post-2011 Tunisia. In A. Polese, F. Strazzari, & A. Russo (Eds.), Transnational Perspectives and Governance of Informality. The Illegal, the Immoral, the Criminal. Palgrave.Google Scholar
  30. Heydemann, S. (2004). Networks of Privilege in the Middle East. The Politics of Economic Reform Revisited. London: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hinnebusch, R. (2015). Change and Continuity After the Arab Uprising: The Consequences of State Formation in Arab North African States. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 42(1), 12–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hinnebusch, R. (2015). Introduction: Understanding the Consequences of the Arab Uprisings – Starting Points and Divergent Trajectories. Democratization, 22(2), 205–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. International Crisis Group. (2014, October 21). Tunisia’s Borders (II): Terrorism and Regional Polarization (ICG, Briefing).Google Scholar
  34. Kalin, I. (2012, January 18). Democracy, Deep State and Crony Capitalism and in the Arab World. Today’s Zaman. Link:
  35. Khatib, L., & Lust, E. (Eds.). (2014). Taking to the Streets. The Transformation of Arab Activism (pp. 1–22). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Khlifi, O. (2005). L’assassinat de Salah Ben Youssef. Carthage: MC-Editions.Google Scholar
  37. Klaas, B. (2016, January 31). Tumult in Tunisia. Weathering the Economic and Political Storms. Foreign Affairs. Available at:
  38. Krasner, S. D. (1999). Sovereignty. Organized Hypocrisy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Labidi, L. (2008). From Sexual Submission to Voluntary Commitment: The Transformation of Family Ties in Contemporary Tunisia. In K. M. Yount & H. Rashad (Eds.), Family in the Middle East: Ideational Change in Egypt, Iran, and Tunisia. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Meddeb, H. (2011). L’ambivalence de la course à ‘el khobza’. Politique Africaine, 121(1), 35–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Meddeb, H. (2012). Courir ou mourir. Course à el khobza et domination au quotidien dans la Tunisie de Ben Ali (PhD. thesis). Paris: Institute of political studies.Google Scholar
  42. Meddeb, H. (2015). L’attente comme mode de gouvernement en Tunisie. In I. Bono, B. Hibou, H. Meddeb, & M. Tozy (Eds.), L’Etat d’injustice au Maghreb. Maroc et Tunisie (pp. 345–378). Paris: Khartala.Google Scholar
  43. Meddeb, H. (2016, May). Young People and the Smuggling in the Kasserine Region of Tunisia. Stories of Dispossession and the Dynamics of Exclusion. Report, International Alert. Link:
  44. Meddeb, H. (2017, January 13). Peripheral Vision: How Europe Can Preserve Tunisia’s Fragile Democracy (Policy Brief, ECFR). Link:
  45. Mejri, W. (2014, June 15). Terrorisme en Tunisie: carte interactive événements après le 14 janvier. Inkyfada. Link:
  46. Mejri, W., & Zriba, K. (2016, October 18). Kasserine: un milliard de dinars en suspense. Inkyfada. Link:
  47. Péraldi, M. (2001). Cabas et containers: activités marchandes informelles et réseaux migrants transfrontaliers. Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose.Google Scholar
  48. Péraldi, M. (2007). Aventuriers du nouveau capitalisme. Essai d’anthropologie de l’éthique mercantile. In J. F. Bayart (dir.), Voyages du développement. Emigration, commerce, exile. Paris: Karthala.Google Scholar
  49. Pontiggia, S. (2017). Il bacino maledetto. Disuguaglianza, marginalità e potere nella Tunisia postrivoluzionaria. Verona: Ombre Corte.Google Scholar
  50. Rijkers, B., Freund, C., & Nucifora, A. (2014). All in the Family. State Capture in Tunisia (Policy Research Working Paper, n. 6810). Washington, DC: World Bank. Link:
  51. Risse, T. (Ed.). (2013). Governance Without a State? Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Robbins, M. (2016, May 15). Tunisia: Five Years After the Revolution. Findings from the Arab Barometer. Democracy in Tunisia Report, Arab Barometer. Link:
  53. Rollinde, M. (1999). Les émeutes en Tunisie: un défi à l’État? In D. Le Saout & M. Rollinde (Eds.), Emeutes et mouvements sociaux au Maghreb. Paris: Karthala.Google Scholar
  54. Sandron, F. (1998). L’immobilité forcée: la sédentarisation des nomades dans le Sud tunisien. In V. Lassailly-Jacob (Ed.), Communautés déracinées dans les pays du Sud. Autrepart (Vol. 5, pp. 63–77.) ISBN 1278-3986.Google Scholar
  55. Smida, M. (2007). Histoire générale de la Tunisie, vol. III. « Les Temps Modernes (1247–1881). Tunis: Sud Éditions.Google Scholar
  56. World Bank (2014, May). The Unfinished Revolution. Bringing Opportunity, Good Jobs and Greater Wealth to All Tunisians. Development Policy Review.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Hanau Santini
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Naples - L’OrientaleNaplesItaly

Personalised recommendations