Two men try to remove a torn photo of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the center of Tunis, Sunday, Jan. 16. 2011. Tunisia sped toward a new future after its iron-fisted leader fled, with an interim president sworn in and ordering the country's first multiparty government to be formed. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) *** Local Caption ***  ENA104_Tunisia_Riots.jpg
Two men try to remove a torn photo of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the centre of Tunis.

Troubled Tunisia in talks to form national government

TUNIS // Machine-gun fire rattled over the centre of the Tunisian capital yesterday evening as security forces struggled to maintain order two days after former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's sudden ousting put the country into political crisis.

Yesterday afternoon the country's prime minister, Mohamemd Ghannouchim met opposition party leaders and members of civil-society organisations for talks on forming a national unity government that will steer the country to presidential elections expected in six months.

Tunisians hope that those elections will help turn a page of history, bringing democratic rule to a country that has known only two leaders since independence from its former coloniser, France, in 1956.

For those elections to succeed, the government must first put an end to looting and reported shootings that have plagued the country since Friday, said one western diplomat.

A new president must in turn solve economic woes that set the stage for Mr Ben Ali's departure.

Steady growth in Tunisia and living standards often on par with western Europe have masked 14 per cent unemployment that is widely believed to reach double that number among young people and in rural areas.

A wave of protests over unemployment and corruption was triggered last month after authorities in the town of Sidi Bouzid confiscated the produce of a poor vegetable-seller, prompting him to set himself on fire outside the regional governor's office.

Last Friday those protests swelled to calls for Mr Ben Ali to step down immediately, with thousands gathered outside the interior ministry before police charged with tear-gas and batons to disperse them.

On Friday evening Mr Ben Ali abruptly fed the country and has taken refuge in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the presidency passed briefly to Mr Ghannoushi before Fouad Mebazaa, the former speaker of the lower house of parliament, was named interim president after a constitutional court ruled that Mr Ben Ali had definitively resigned.

Meanwhile, soldiers backed by tanks have deployed along Tunis's main promenade and at key intersections around the city, stopping and searching some cars.

It remains unclear who is behind the nightly violence that has left the capital scarred with burnt-out shops after nights crackling with sporadic gunshots. However, many locals speculate that hard-line supporters of Mr Ben Ali have played a role.

The Tunis city centre was locked down by security forces yesterday evening, with civilians confined to hotels as gunfire rattled in the street after unconfirmed reports of snipers in the area.

In some parts of the city and its suburbs, local residents armed with wooden staves, metal bars and knives have organised neighbourhood watches to fill the gap they say is left by overstretched army and police.

"I haven't opened my shop in three days, and I've stayed up every night keeping watch," said Kamel Ben Salah, a clothing merchant in the working-class quarter of Bab Souika. "We haven't had any violence, but we don't have any food either since delivery people are afraid to move around the city."

Nearby, hundreds of people were massed outside a bakery, banging on the shutters and clamouring for bread. A few lonely baguettes emerged from a window and hands shot up to snatch them.

"No bread for days, and no milk, bottled water, fruits, vegetables, or chicken either," said Khariya, a shared-taxi driver watching the scene from her balcony and who declined to give her surname. "We need security. And then we need a president willing to step down after one five-year term."

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

A Long Way Home by Peter Carey
Faber & Faber

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Company/date started: 2015

Founder/CEO: Rami Salman, Rishav Jalan, Ayush Chordia

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: Technology, Sales, Voice, Artificial Intelligence

Size: (employees/revenue) 10/ 100,000 downloads

Stage: 1 ($800,000)

Investors: Eight first-round investors including, Beco Capital, 500 Startups, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Hala Fadel, Odin Financial Services, Dubai Angel Investors, Womena, Arzan VC



Family: I have three siblings, one older brother (age 25) and two younger sisters, 20 and 13 

Favourite book: Asking for my favourite book has to be one of the hardest questions. However a current favourite would be Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier

Favourite place to travel to: Any walkable city. I also love nature and wildlife 

What do you love eating or cooking: I’m constantly in the kitchen. Ever since I changed the way I eat I enjoy choosing and creating what goes into my body. However, nothing can top home cooked food from my parents. 

Favorite place to go in the UAE: A quiet beach.

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

63 - Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA)

64 - Rory McIlroy (NIR)

66 - Jon Rahm (ESP)

67 - Tom Lewis (ENG), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)

68 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Marcus Kinhult (SWE)

69 - Justin Rose (ENG), Thomas Detry (BEL), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Danny Willett (ENG), Li Haotong (CHN), Matthias Schwab (AUT)

Paris Can Wait
Dir: Eleanor Coppola
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard
Two stars

Tips for job-seekers
  • Do not submit your application through the Easy Apply button on LinkedIn. Employers receive between 600 and 800 replies for each job advert on the platform. If you are the right fit for a job, connect to a relevant person in the company on LinkedIn and send them a direct message.
  • Make sure you are an exact fit for the job advertised. If you are an HR manager with five years’ experience in retail and the job requires a similar candidate with five years’ experience in consumer, you should apply. But if you have no experience in HR, do not apply for the job.

David Mackenzie, founder of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones Middle East

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices