The country was led by the authoritarian government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from 1987 to 2011 before he fled during the Tunisian revolution. This was the first spark of the Arab Spring. It was lit by Mohamoud Bouazizi, a young man who set himself on fire as a result of the many frustrations he was daily enduring trying to make a living. Tunisia as other countries hit by these revolutions is still trying to establish herself afresh. Tunisia which now finds itself as an export-oriented country in the process of liberalizing and privatizing an economy that, while averaging 5% GDP growth since the early 1990s, has suffered from corruption benefiting the former president's family Tunisia has relations with both the European Union—with whom it has an association agreement—and the Arab world. Tunisia is also a member of the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League and the African Union. The country has established close relations with France in particular, through economic cooperation, industrial modernization, and privatisation programs. The government's approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict has also made it an intermediary in Middle Eastern diplomacy.
Tunisia, is the northernmost country in Africa. Tunisia is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its surface area is almost 165,000 square kilometres (64,000 sq mi)- the country has an estimated population of just over 10.4 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the north-east. Tunisia is the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder of the land consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of coastline.These two regions played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Punic city of Carthage, then as the Roman province of Africa, which was known as the "bread basket" of Rome. Later, Tunisia was occupied by Vandals during the 5th century AD, Byzantines in the 6th century, and Arabs in the 8th century. Under the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia was known as "Regency of Tunis". It passed under French protectorate in 1881. After obtaining independence in 1956 the country took the official name of the "Kingdom of Tunisia" at the end of the reign of Lamine Bey and the Husainid Dynasty. With the proclamation of the Tunisian Republic on July 25, 1957, the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became its first president.