I recently attended a conference in Dubai focusing on investment opportunities in rebuilding and infrastructure in Libya. With the country set to hold elections on July 7th, the topic was definitely something that needed to be addressed on a regional and global level. However, Libya’s political and economic future remains uncertain until a new authority takes over and completes this transition of power.
The two-day event, Future Libya Development Forum 2012, was endorsed and supported by Dubai Chamber. I sat down with Atiq Juma Faraj Nasib, Senior Director of Commercial Services Sector at Dubai Chamber, who explained the Chamber’s intentions of working with the future government in Libya. The Dubai government has most recently been focusing more on Africa, sending and receiving delegations from various countries including Ethiopia and Tanzania. However, Atiq tells me that “Libya was identitied to be an area of priority in terms of opening up dialogue.” He says representatives from the Chamber have gone to Libya on fact-finding missions in order to see what the opportunities existed.
“In order of us to have a strong presence in Libya there needs to be an authority to talk to, we are hoping that by July 7th, this authority will be there and we can go ahead and put through our action plan. The mission is purely looking through business opportunities and to bring back relations to a much better place to where they were prior to the revolution. We went there to see what kinds of businesses we can help develop with the Libyans, and trade is one of them.”
Atiq says Dubai and the Chamber have a lot to offer Libya in terms of economic partnership and development. He pointed to the possibility of DP World to run the ports Libya, projects that could include Dnata helping to run airports in the country, as well as leading telecommunications companies in the UAE to extend their reach to Libya, as a number of them already have operations in Africa.”He also highlighted that Dubai could also offer its expertise and support in trade and construction projects, as those are areas of strong growth for the Emirate. I don’t think there will be big problems in achieving these goals. We hope that the transformation for the new goverment will be smooth. Libya has very intelligent people but the country is just coming out of a rough time where they haven’t had a chance before,” he says.
With a soaring jobless rate still plaguing the MENA region, many governments and corporations are looking at SMEs as the way forward. During the presentations at the conference, the private sector was highlighted as a potential area of growth for Libya post-elections. However, starting from scratch is no easy task, and Libya lacks such institutions for development of its economy. Atiq offered some advice in that area: ” If I was in Libya, I would first look for transfering knowledge of models of SME businesses that are here in Dubai, and work from that start. Agencies such as Dubai SME and others in the UAE have proven that they are a good platform for SMEs to start. SME banking facilities and training are also very important, and so is guidance and incubation. SMEs no doubt are the backbone of all economies, even here in Dubai.”
He added that Dubai Chamber will plan to work on an advisory level with the chambers of commerce in the North African country with future trade missions and would also host Libyan delegations in Dubai.