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Trip to Libya with the German-Arab Society

From January  14th to 19th 2000 I was participating in a delegation organised by the German-Arab Society. Áim of this trip was to establish an initial contact of German Business people to Libyan Authorities after a long period of low level and low key contacts. About 50 representatives of German companies with a wide range of different activities participated in this delegation.

It was headed by Jürgen Möllemann, President of the German-Arab Society, Dr. Peter Scholl Latour a prominent German journalist and Generalsekretär Harald M. Bock.

In preparation of this trip a personal profile of each participant was handed in, which had been edited into a brochure of the group. Unfortunately this brochure was only available at the date of departure. For future events it would be helpful to have such brochures available in time to distribute it among potential local business men in sufficiant quantity. Now we just have to wait and see if contacts are pouring in after plenty of brochures have been distributed during our stay in Tripoli.

It therefore was a bit disapointing that only a few private Libyan business men were able to join our meetings and gatherings. Those who did were quite confused as nobody informed them prior to our arrival. A handicap for people who travelled the first time to Libya without local contacts.

For people who knew the country before surely it was no problem, as one could step out to meet with ones own contacts.

That is why most of our discussion partners where representing public institutions.

We got an optimistic outlook into the Libyan economy and the next 5 year plan, which comes into effect in 2001 and projects investments worth US$ 35 Billion within 5 years. This capital for investment shall be raised annually for 3 Billion US$ by the state and 4 Billion US$ a year from the private sector.

The private economy is just waking up and is so far limited to areas such as general services, food and beverage, restaurants, transport, customs clearance , tourism, small trade and crafts.

Representing Brand Names and bigger companies remains a domain of the state controlled sector.

In Misurata a Freezone is planned according to internatiol standards, which should trigger a flow of private investment particularly from areas such as transport, trade and tourism.

The authorities like to talk about projects on a BOT(Build, Operate, Transfer) basis. There are first positive results in the field of cement in connection with the Great Man Made River - Project.

This project is tapping huge underground water reservoirs of drinking quality standard from the desert. The water is pumped in pipes up to a diameter of 4 m deep from the desert into coastal areas. This water will supply the urban and agricultural areas. Also the export of drinking water to neighbors is a possible issue. or the marketing of such a project a partner is wanted!

Italian companies have already started promising joint ventures in fish-farming.

The appearance of the city shows signs of the embargo. There is no construction activity worth mentioning and many buildings show the urgent need for maintanance.

There are good business opportunities for companies with the know-how in power supply, water treatment, spare parts for vehicles and trade of consumables.

There are clear signs from the Libyan side to find partners willing to invest, for which a promising and attractive frame is offered.

At the moment there seem to be strong relations to Italian, French and Asian companies. Involvement of German firms was rather limited the last 16 years.

Since this period we were the strongest German delegation and their were plenty of occasions when our hosts told us how much they would like to improve the mutual ties.

Also from the private sector there is a strong interest to intensify contacts again.

Good private contacts on location is a must for the success in any business and are essential for any undertaking in the country. Without these contacts nobody is able to penetrate the local structures.

There is reason for cautious optimism. Measured on the present level, business can only get better!

Of course a lot of companies will watch this market cautiously, waiting for positive signs of more daring investors.

Concrete information about projects in connection with the next 5 year plan was not available. Therefore it will take quite some time, before bigger projects can be realised.

We were referred to a conference in April, where the new 5 year plan and its projects will be introduced to the public.

Incentive will be given to investors in the field of Water Treatment, Waste- and Sewage Treatment, Tourism and Agriculture as well as other industrial areas. Longterm tax exemptions and free transfer of profits are further incentives.

Before an investment is approved, a feasibility study will be evaluated by Libyan experts to determine the prospects of a profitable project. Because it is in the mutual interest to achieve success and profits.

He who dares, wins!?

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