SPECIAL REPORT: Libya seeks to tap the UAE and other Arab nations for investment as it seeks to position itself as an economic hub for Africa and Europe.
Libya cementing ties with UAE
Libya, one of the UAE's oldest Arab investment partners, wants to build on a 40-year relationship, as was shown only last week when the two nations signed a US$11 billion (Dh40.4bn) joint investment deal.
Libya is seeking investment from the UAE and other Arab countries as it works to position itself as an economic hub linking African resources to European markets.
To further its goal, two years ago the North African country embarked on a multi-year, $240bn infrastructure development programme, to include the construction of roads, airports, seaports, railways, schools and hospitals, Jamal Ellamushe, the Libyan minister of privatisation and investment, told a forum in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
"We are hoping UAE investors become partners in the transfer of technology between the UAE and Libya." Abdul Majid al Mansouri.
According to government sources, $66bn has been allocated to Libya's national development plan for this year to 2012 alone.
"The figures could be increased. We are thinking of making Libya a strategic centre for economy and trade in the region," Mr Ellamushe said.
"The embargo has finished now," he added, referring to long-running UN and US trade sanctions against Libya that were lifted in 2004. "We have a new era of construction, development and education. We are investing to have a base ready for attracting foreign capital."
Abdul Majid al Mansouri, the chairman and general manager of Libya's state-owned economic development advisory corporation, said Tripoli was preferentially seeking investment from the Arab world, beginning with the UAE.
"We have started with the UAE because of our friendly relationship," he said. "We are hoping UAE investors become partners in the transfer of technology between the UAE and Libya."
But increasing trade between Libya and the rest of the Arab world would not be enough to ensure the strong economic relationship that Tripoli is seeking. Instead, Libya has launched a sweeping privatisation initiative.
"What is needed is direct investment. What you need for investment is the know-how and the capital," Mr al Mansouri said.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Sirajeldean Elbadri, an official with the chairman's office of the Libyan general board of privatisation and investment, said the UAE was the first Arab state with which Tripoli was holding investment discussions because of a long history of reciprocal support between the two nations.
Libya needed help in almost every sector of its economy and was open to joint ventures in areas including transportation, logistics, construction, property, hospitality, tourism, medical services, education, manufacturing, agriculture and food-processing, Mr Ellamushe said.
"You manage a lot of ports. We hope that our UAE investors help us manage our current ports and with the construction of new ports.
"We are also talking about the construction and management of airports," he said.
"We also need infrastructure for vacations such as five-star hotels. We can start tomorrow if you give me a company that is able and a well-known name. We need a lot of training in the area of hotel management and catering. We also need chemicals, iron, steel, agricultural investment."
Even energy, the backbone of the current Libyan economy, was not off-limits to foreign investment, especially in areas that would expand the country's energy mix. Libya was in discussions with the UAE and Qatar to build an international centre for renewable energy, Mr Ellamushe said.
"We are very keen on this issue. Renewable energy is the energy of the future," he said. "The UAE and Qatar are also keen. We meet them at conferences."
The minister said Libya had already achieved much since sanctions were lifted. Four years ago, the country was importing wheat. But recently, since opening its agricultural sector to private investment, it has started exporting wheat to Europe.
"Earlier, we had some problems. We were not able to attract investment. But now we have a different approach, and some enemies of former years are now our friends," Mr Ellamushe said.