Another in our “Understanding Libya” series”


Engaging with Libya’s diverse commercial audience is paramount because it broadens market reach, drives innovation through varied perspectives, and enhances brand resonance with a globalised consumer base, thereby maximising opportunity, profitability and sustainability in an increasingly interconnected country. The international community tends to focus on the major cities of Tripoli Benghazi and Misrata but the commercial opportunities within other cities and principalities should not be ignored.



In Libya, the terms “municipalities” and “cities” denote different administrative and territorial units.

  1. Municipalities: After the events of 2011 and the subsequent changes in governance structures, Libya moved towards a decentralised administrative system. In this system, the country was divided into several municipalities. These municipalities are administrative divisions responsible for local governance, which include smaller towns, villages, and sometimes cities within their territory. They have their own local councils and administrative powers to handle day-to-day affairs, infrastructure development, local policing, and other responsibilities. Municipalities are essentially a collection of local communities grouped together for administrative and governance purposes.
  2. Cities in Libya are urban centres with a concentration of population, infrastructure, and economic activity. They can be part of a larger municipality, and in some cases, a city itself might be the central focus of a municipality, especially if it’s a major city. While cities are significant for their economic, cultural, and social functions, their governance and administration fall under the purview of the municipality they are part of.

Basically, municipalities are larger administrative units that may encompass multiple cities, towns, and villages, while cities are urban centres within these municipalities. The governance structure in Libya has undergone changes post-2011, and it’s essential to stay updated with the latest administrative developments when considering the country’s political and territorial divisions. 

Libya’s cities and municipalities have historically experienced varying degrees of autonomy, largely influenced by the country’s shifting political dynamics. The influence they have over their own commercial progression is intricately tied to the nation’s broader political and security dynamics.

Historically, economic development and commercial activities in Libyan cities and municipalities were influenced by centralised policies but now the commercial landscape has changed considerably.

In recent years the power vacuum and the subsequent political fragmentation meant that many cities and municipalities had to fend for themselves. This newfound autonomy allowed them to make decisions about local commercial activities, infrastructure development, and investment opportunities.

Some cities, especially those near oil resources or infrastructure, had an advantage in influencing their commercial progression. Control over these resources provided leverage in the national and international arena. For instance, cities or regions controlling oil ports could negotiate better terms for themselves, although this often came at the cost of national unity.

The influence of militias on commercial activities can’t be overstated. In many cities, powerful armed groups took control of commercial operations, either directly managing them or influencing municipal decisions related to them, on many occasions commercial progression was often secondary to the goals and interests of these groups.

Municipalities and cities interested in attracting foreign investment or pursuing international collaborations had to navigate a challenging environment, however many cities and municipalities successfully managed to navigate their own path to international engagement identifying both projects and financing to help build local infrastructure resources and services

Many cities and municipalities, in the absence of a strong central authority, set up local councils or governance structures to manage commercial activities. Many of these local structures had varying degrees of success, with many managing to stimulate commercial growth

Many Libyan cities and municipalities have, over the last several years, gained a degree of autonomy that could allow them to influence their commercial progression, whilst the broader context of political instability, militia control, and security challenges often constrained these efforts notable successes in participating in the oil and gas sector, infrastructure, industrial production, maritime services, aviation, mining and notable other sectors have been achieved.



Libya’s fragmentation is the result of a combination of historical, political, tribal, and external factors.

Before the Italian colonisation in the 20th century, Libya consisted of three distinct regions: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the south, each with its own unique identity. It was the Italians who unified these regions under a single administrative unit.

Upon gaining independence in 1951, Libya transitioned into a kingdom under King Idris. He aimed to unify the regions but maintained a federal system, recognising their historical differences, although his primary focus on Cyrenaica stirred resentments elsewhere.

This monarchy ended in 1969 with Muammar Gaddafi’s coup. Gaddafi governed with centralised authority, suppressing, but not resolving, regional and tribal tensions. His unconventional leadership approach and the ensuing personality cult weakened state institutions, making the country reliant on his rule.

The broader events in 2011 resulted in Gaddafi’s ousting, but the void left behind coupled with frail institutions ignited fierce power struggles among factions.

Complicating the internal scene, Libya’s rich tribal and ethnic landscape has meant that various tribes and groups, some with significant political and military clout, often pull in different directions. Externally, international actors backed different Libyan factions, intensifying the conflict.

Lastly, the Libyan economy’s heavy reliance on oil exports became a flashpoint, as control over these crucial resources and related infrastructure deepened divisions among rival groups.

To succeed in such diversification a successful national reconciliation process in Libya would involve bringing all factions and stakeholders to the table, paving the path for unity.

The establishment of strong, transparent, and inclusive national institutions can mitigate the reliance on singular leaders and distribute power more equitably. Considering Libya’s pronounced regional differences, a decentralised governance system could prove beneficial, allowing individual regions autonomy while still adhering to a national framework.

The international community’s constructive involvement, through backing peace endeavours, aiding in reconstruction, and abstaining from meddling in internal affairs, is pivotal.

Economically, shifting away from an over-reliance on oil and exploring other sectors can decrease disputes over resource control.

In sum, Libya’s existing divisions present considerable challenges, but with concerted local and international initiatives, the nation has the potential to achieve stability and unity.

Embracing and effectively managing its diversity can transform it from a potential pitfall into a formidable asset.

“Whilst Libya’s fragmentation poses significant challenges, with the right domestic and international efforts, the country, its cities and municipalities can move towards unity and stability. Diversity, when managed effectively, can be a strength rather than a weakness”



Libya has been undergoing significant economic and political changes however, the country boasts substantial natural resources and untapped potential in various sectors that make it worthy of international engagement. Here are some major and minor commercial sectors in Libya:

Major Commercial Sectors:

  • Oil and Gas: Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. Despite the disruptions caused by internal conflicts, the oil and gas sector has historically been the backbone of the Libyan economy, accounting for a significant proportion of the country’s GDP and public revenues.
  • Construction and Infrastructure: Due to conflicts, much of Libya’s infrastructure has been damaged, and there is a significant need for reconstruction. This includes housing, roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools, which presents significant opportunities for international firms specialising in construction and infrastructure projects.
  • telecommunications sector: There’s potential for growth in the sector, especially in broadband and mobile services. Modern infrastructure and services are in demand.
  • Banking and Finance: With the stabilisation of the country, there’s a need for modern banking systems, electronic payment solutions, and financial services.
  • Tourism: Libya boasts ancient historical sites like Leptis Magna and Cyrene, along with its Mediterranean coastline. The tourism sector, once thriving, has the potential to be revitalised with stability and investment.

Minor Commercial Sectors:

  • Agriculture: Libya has significant agricultural potential, especially in the production of dates, olives, and grains. With proper investment, this sector can be modernized and expanded.
  • Solar Energy: Given its sunny climate, Libya has considerable potential for solar energy generation. Investing in renewable energy can diversify the nation’s energy sources.
  • Fisheries: The Mediterranean coast offers opportunities for fishing and aquaculture.
  • Manufacturing: There’s potential in light manufacturing, especially related to local resources like leather, textiles, and food processing.
  • Transport and Logistics: With its strategic location, Libya can serve as a hub for regional trade, requiring modern ports, logistics, and transport systems.
  • Mining and Minerals: Apart from oil and gas, Libya has mineral resources like gypsum, limestone, marble, and silica sand. The country’s potential in mining and mineral processing remains largely untapped.
  • Healthcare: The Libyan healthcare system requires improvements in both infrastructure and service delivery. There’s an opportunity for international healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical equipment suppliers.
  • Education and Training: As Libya transitions, there’s a demand for quality education at all levels, from primary schooling to higher education and vocational training. Institutions and organisations with expertise can help in building capacity.
  • Water and Desalination: Freshwater scarcity is a challenge in Libya. Investments in water infrastructure, desalination plants, and water conservation technologies can address this critical need.
  • Real Estate and Property Development: With a growing population and urbanisation trends, there’s a potential demand for residential, commercial, and mixed-use developments.
  • Information Technology: As the world becomes increasingly digital, Libya has a chance to leapfrog into the latest technologies. There’s room for growth in e-commerce, digital services, and software development.
  • Retail and Consumer Goods: As stability returns, there will be a resurgence in consumer demand. International retail brands, especially in fashion, electronics, and food and beverages, can find a market in Libya.
  • Automotive and Machinery: Vehicles, heavy machinery, and agricultural equipment are needed for the nation’s reconstruction and modernisation efforts.
  • Renewable Energy: Apart from solar energy, Libya’s coastal areas might offer potential for wind energy investments.
  • Environmental Services: Waste management, recycling, and environmental rehabilitation can be areas of focus, given the potential environmental challenges post-conflict.

Of course, the above is but a summary, it’s important to note that while these sectors offer potential, international engagement in Libya requires comprehensive understanding. It is also key to understand that many elements of the sectors above are often concentrated in different cities and municipalities.

When considering any investments or partnerships. Always consult with local experts and officials before making decisions. 

“Many municipalities and cities are considered knowledgeable have the resources to promote engagement incentives for example resources for cement production and my name towards the south and west of the country. Steven production is predominantly based in Misrata, I will production is to the east and south focuses on the oil crescent. Where’s the economic centres may well live in the city is a large part of the decision-making process is at the local level are you on municipalities!”



The development of commerce and international engagement in Libya is influenced by a variety of local, national, and international actors. The Libyan Government, through various ministries such as the Ministry of Economy and Industry and the Ministry of Finance, plays a pivotal role in shaping economic policies, regulations, and international trade relations. Course there are many semi-official organisations to support this such as the Privatisation and Investment Bureau (PIB) Chambers of commerce and business leaders’ councils

Another major player in the Libyan economy is the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which holds significant influence over commerce, especially regarding energy trade.

The Central Bank of Libya, responsible for the country’s monetary policies and financial systems, also plays a crucial role in influencing both domestic and international commerce.

At the regional level, different regions and cities in Libya have local councils or municipalities that can influence commerce and may engage in international partnerships or sister-city relationships.

Internationally, entities such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have been deeply involved in Libya’s post-conflict reconstruction and economic development efforts. Their partnerships and influence can significantly shape the trajectory of commerce and international engagement in the country. Additionally, many foreign governments maintain bilateral relations with Libya, fostering trade, investment, and other forms of economic cooperation.

The private sector, comprising local entrepreneurs, businesses, chambers of commerce, and foreign investors, is also an essential component of commerce development. Civil society actors, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community groups, can play a role, particularly in grassroots development initiatives.

Libya’s commerce and international relationships can also be influenced by regional organisations, such as the African Union (AU) and the Arab League. Given the dynamic nature of the political landscape in Libya, these entities’ influence can shift over time. It’s crucial to stay abreast of political developments to understand the evolving roles of these various stakeholders in Libya’s commerce and international engagement.

“It is often assumed that economic progression has to be driven through the major cities but it is an unimportant fact to note is it very often the business trips to the municipalities and Cities that really push the development program further. Culture etiquette, engagement at the local level and hearts and minds are a key part of the Libyan partnership program”



Libya, with its rich natural resources, strategic location, and relatively educated populace, offers a myriad of commercial opportunities, though these are coupled with risks due to political instability, security challenges, and infrastructural needs. However, all these can and are being managed resulting in significant commercial engagements.

The oil and gas industry is at the forefront. Opportunities abound in exploration, production, refining, distribution, and infrastructure development. Given Libya’s reliance on foreign expertise in this sector, international businesses can find collaborative opportunities or provide essential services.

Add this to recent statement by the NOC and oil ministry with regard to internal and external investment, the invitation for global delegates to engage in commerce and the recent announcement for the development of private sector partnerships so as to develop Libya’s local companies to engage further and develop Home grown expertise and the indicators in this sector are incredibly positive.

Another significant area ripe for investment is infrastructure development. Years of conflict have left many parts of Libya in need of rehabilitation, spanning sectors like housing, roads, ports, airports, telecommunications, and water facilities.

Simultaneously, Libya’s desert climate positions it as an ideal location for solar energy projects. As efforts to diversify energy sources intensify, renewable energy stands out as a priority and Libya, like all other countries, has to engage in the energy transition.

Despite its challenges, Libya’s rich history, evident in sites like the ruins of Leptis Magna and the city of Cyrene, hints at the untapped potential of its tourism sector. As security conditions improve, tourism could surge, leading to a demand for associated services and infrastructure.

Agriculture is another domain with vast potential. Opportunities lie in projects related to olive oil production, date cultivation, and other crops suitable for the Mediterranean and desert climates. Similarly, the country’s Mediterranean coastline presents a chance to develop and modernize the fisheries sector, catering to both local consumption and exports.

The demand for education and training is palpable, with a pressing need for educational services and vocational training to cater to Libya’s young demographic. The healthcare sector, too, awaits improvements and investments, spanning hospitals, clinics, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment.

With modernisation on the horizon, the information technology and telecommunications sector is poised for growth. This encompasses IT services, software development, e-commerce, and telecommunication infrastructure enhancements.

Banking and financial service reforms could pave the way for foreign banks and financial institutions.

“Whilst Libya should always be approached through a spectrum of careful analysis, research, well-structured integration strategies and cost and time effective engagement plans, the engagement of proven validated local partners the cancel return on investment could be substantive” 



The short answer is yes but Libya cannot ignore the mistakes of the last several years and has to understand that the international community will quite rightly exercise caution.

Cities, Municipalities and regions most certainly possesses the potential to fund international engagement and projects through various strategic avenues. One of its most substantial financial assets is its vast oil reserves. By managing and selling its oil judiciously, Libya can generate the revenues needed to reinvest in international ventures. Additionally, creating a business-friendly environment, safeguarding investor rights, and offering attractive incentives can stimulate foreign direct investment, bringing in both capital and expertise.

Another viable strategy involves public-private partnerships. By collaborating with private entities, Libya can share both risks and rewards, achieving developmental goals without bearing the entirety of the costs. Furthermore, collaboration with international financial institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, or African Development Bank can avail Libya of loans or grants tailored for specific projects, though it’s paramount to ensure alignment with the nation’s priorities.

The Libyan Investment Authority, Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, also presents a funding opportunity. With prudent management and diversification of its assets, it can yield returns that can be channelled into international projects. Simultaneously, forging favourable trade agreements with strategic partners can amplify exports, improve terms for imports, and bolster revenue generation.

Tapping into the Libyan diaspora, which has a global presence, can be another revenue source. Issuing diaspora-targeted bonds can raise capital for designated projects while also reinforcing ties with Libyan communities overseas. Moreover, tourism, with its potential as an auxiliary revenue stream, can be amplified by focusing on safety, developing attractions, and enhancing infrastructure.

Soliciting developmental assistance from nations or entities offering such aid can finance projects, especially those in infrastructure, education, and health sectors. Meanwhile, domestic revenue can be bolstered by streamlining the tax system, expanding the tax base, and ensuring consistent tax compliance.

It’s essential to underline the importance of transparency, good governance, and robust anti-corruption measures in all these endeavours. Building a transparent framework can foster trust in international partners and potential investors, facilitating Libya’s efforts to fund international projects and engagements.

“The short answer is that while Libya has multiple sources of funding for projects, it is crucial that they meet the fundamental criteria of desire, integrity, transparency, and adherence to international fiscal policies and procedures”



Engaging commercially with Libya necessitates a well-thought-out strategic approach due to the nation’s distinct geopolitical landscape, economic conditions, and bureaucratic intricacies.

First and foremost, conducting thorough market research is imperative, encompassing a deep understanding of local consumer behavior, demand patterns, and key industry stakeholders. Given Libya’s history of political instability and security challenges, an exhaustive risk assessment becomes crucial for assessing the feasibility of any commercial endeavour.

Forging strong relationships with local businesses can be of immense value in navigating this terrain. Such partnerships often shed light on the market’s nuances, expedite regulatory approvals, and provide access to existing networks. At the same time, a comprehensive grasp of Libyan laws, regulations, and business customs is essential. This should extend to insights into investment laws, taxation structures, and import-export rules, with consultation from local legal authorities often proving beneficial.

Recognising and respecting Libyan cultural norms and business etiquettes is another cornerstone for success. The significance of building trust and fostering respectful relationships cannot be overstated in ensuring fruitful business collaborations. Concurrently, evaluating the state of the nation’s infrastructure is pivotal, especially considering the damages resulting from prolonged conflicts. This evaluation should cover the adequacy and condition of vital facilities like roads, telecommunications systems, ports, and utilities, but don’t forget each city municipality has its idiosyncrasies, its own views and very often subtle cultural changes, being aware of this is crucial.

Acquiring all necessary licenses and permits before commencing operations is another vital step, even though the process can often be mired in bureaucracy. A sound understanding of Libya’s banking and financial system is also crucial, encompassing nuances like currency controls, repatriation norms, and the dependability of banking entities.

Given the inherent uncertainties associated with the Libyan market, businesses should also prioritise contingency planning. This would involve preparing for unexpected eventualities, such as abrupt regulatory alterations, security concerns, or unforeseen market dynamics.

Lastly, a commitment to a long-term engagement ethos is vital for reaping substantial benefits from any commercial venture in Libya. This perspective acknowledges the time-intensive nature of building trust, overcoming challenges, and ultimately realizing significant returns on investment. Continuous monitoring of Libya’s political, economic, and social landscapes and adapting to these changing circumstances will further solidify commercial ties with the nation.

“Never ever underestimate the importance of local knowledge and connections. Successful engagement from afar is… pretty much impossible. The most difficult thing is…  the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”



Engaging with Libyan cities and municipalities offers international businesses access to multiple investment opportunities across a myriad of sectors as well as a potential gateway to African markets. Engagement can foster regional peace, advance democratic governance, and secure vital energy resources for global economies. Qs well as promoting regional stability and supporting the country’s progress towards a democratic and prosperous future.

Make no mistake, the commercial prospects in Libya are immense for those with the vision to engage and the foresight to strategize.