Tunisia’s first coworking space opened three years ago. Today, new spaces are popping up in remote areas of the country. Kef is a small city in the northwest, nestled in the Atlas mountains that border Algeria. It is where Walid Hammami opened Cirta, a cultural and coworking space: “What Tunisia needs right now are open spaces for collaboration.”
Walid worked for the Ministry of Culture for ten years: “I grew more and more convinced that change cannot happen inside closed spaces. After the revolution, I noticed how people lost the ability to communicate, listen and understand each other,” he explains. The situation in Kef is particularly challenging: the city is plagued by skyrocketing unemployment rates. “Terrorist groups are waiting in the mountains to recruit the desperate youth from my city”.
For the wealthy, the poor, entrepreneurs and artists
“Cirta is a place to look each other in the eyes. I believe in co-thinking before coworking,” says Walid. He built the space in between a wealthy and a poor neighbourhood of Kef to stimulate dialogue. “Youth are finding their way to Cirta to develop their ideas, to help each other. Our community includes entrepreneurs, but also youth with artistic projects, like comedians, writers and musicians. In Cirta, they spend time together and exchange ideas.”
Cirta’s community is helping to create jobs. An example is a programme for youth who have spent time in prison. “Three young men came out of prison with very little chances of finding work, or a new place in society at all. We are training and supporting them to rebuild and reintegrate in society, instead of joining terrorist groups.”
Thousands of Tunisian oases
Cirta receives mentoring support from Cogite, the country’s first coworking space located in Tunis. Cogite was awarded world’s third best coworking space by Forbes in 2016. The space hosts more than 100 coworkers daily and 90 events every year.
Co-founder Houssem Aoudi explains the need for mentoring new spaces: “Cogite has become a green oasis in Tunisia. A place where like-minded can meet and build our country together. People don’t leave for Europe just because of better salaries. They leave because of our closed culture, because you can’t be free and join forces to build something good.”
“Cogite was the first oasis, but I imagine thousands of safe spaces throughout the country. All serving different sectors and communities like Cirta.”