Tunisia: Hopeful signs

Ennahda politicaians

Ennahda politicaians

As the Arab Spring unfolded we watched and hoped that things would work out well. Three years on and the situation now in Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere is tragic. So it was particularly heartening this week to come across a couple of positive stories from Tunisia.

The first was in the Guardian Weekly. As this autumn’s parliamentary and presidential elections draw near there does seem to be an overarching desire for constructive peaceful compromise and consensus building. This includes from Ennahda, the very interesting moderate Islamist party, whose leader Rachid Ghannouchi has intriguingly said “Islam was almost kidnapped by terrorism; we plan to liberate it”. Democracy is still very young and fragile in Tunisia, and they need to slowly build trust and practical experience of working together, problem solving and creating new opportunities.

TuNur Ltd is a South-North Partnership founded in 2011 between London based Nur Energie and Tunisian investors TOP group and Glory Clean Energy. They have very exciting plans to build a massive 2 GW concentrating solar power project in Tunisia, utilizing solar power towers and air cooling technologies. This week the news is that Low Carbon, a renewable energy investment company, has made a substantial investment in Nur Energie. CSPToday state that the Tunisian mega-project should be up and running and exporting Saharan solar electricity through a new high-voltage direct-current cable to Italy and on into the rest of Europe and even on to the UK market by 2018. Imperial Collage in London has looked at the feasibility of this and suggests it is achievable, and even that there are no significant bottlenecks to prevent Saharan solar reaching the UK. The TuNur and Nur Energie websites have lots of information and video clips. Looks like a great project to me. By building local supply chains to make many of the components they intend to create a lot of local employment, the lack of which after all was one of the principle factors behind the Arab Spring and the ousting of Ben Ali.

I wish Nur Energie, TuNur and the people of Tunisia well. If they can manage this year’s elections and this large scale solar investment well it could really be a beacon of hope for North Africa and the Middle East. In February 2013 I lamented the Spanish Governments withdrawal of support for CSP and speculated on where might be the new epicentre of this emergent and exciting industry. If this TuNur project goes ahead it’ll put Tunisia ahead of the game!

TuNur http://www.tunur.tn/

Nur Energie http://www.nurenergie.com/

Guardian on Tunisian politics http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/01/tunisia-government-ennahda-islamists-election