By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 21 November 2021:
The American Chamber of Commerce in Libya (AmCham Libya) hosted the first American business delegation to Libya in ten years. The delegation included representatives from Bechtel, Caterpillar, GE, Hill and Pratt and Whitney.
During the event’s opening speech, Economy Minister Mohamed Hwej apologized for arriving late saying it was traffic and Libya needed more roads.
Hwej insisted that Libya needed to build a state before it could improve security and then build an economy. He hopes that the next elections scheduled for December 24, 2021 will start this process.
He said Libya’s economy was still highly centralized and a rentier system that needed to be transformed and diversified.
Libya needed to establish a matrix and a master plan to prioritize and decide which sectors and services to start with.
Transit trade and special areas
He said Libya’s biggest asset is probably its geographical location and it needs to build a service economy and localize some European sectors. He considered transit trade as an important potential sector where Libya can become a major player. He pointed out that Dubai was selling in the billions to Africa and said Libya could play this role through a series of major port hubs. There could be two main transit routes via Benghazi, Kufra and Port Said, crossing the main Egyptian road. A second could be the Misrata – Tamenhent – Ghat route to Niger.
The minister said these could be linked to the four proposed new free zones of Zuwara, Zawia, Misrata and Sirte. Along with this, a series of airports are to be developed to create various transport hubs to help transform the country from an oil rentier state to a service economy. The petroleum sector would continue to develop into a value-added upstream and downstream sector helping to finance part of these plans.
He said Libya can also develop its renewable energy sectors as well as develop its mining industry. In the south, agriculture has great potential, he added. He hopes that these different sectors will create internal competition in the different counties and regions.
Need for foreign aid
But Minister Hwej said Libya would need foreign assistance to develop all these sectors and industries in partnership with developed states. He said Libya did not want to be an isolated island but rather wanted to connect with the rest of the world.
He predicted that in as little as 7 years Libya could increase its GDP with a growth rate of 20% from the current 20 billion to 200-250 billion with the help of around 7 million foreign workers.
He said it needed the will, vision and management – which it currently lacks to transform into a digital and knowledge economy.
Regarding old contracts, Hwej said he expects Libya to keep all its signed contracts, especially on strategic projects such as roads and railways, but that these could continue on a PPP basis.