By Michel Cousins.
Tunis, June 1, 2021:
On June 7 and 8, the Italo-Libyan Business Development Association (ILBDA) will organize a major networking event in Tunis. His “1st Economic Forum for Libya ”aims to open the doors to companies wishing to participate in the reconstruction of Libya and, to the extent possible, to pave the way for commercial, financial or technical partnerships between Libyan, Italian and Tunisian entities wishing to s ” involve in projects in Libya. .
At the end of May, according to ILBDA, some 90 companies are expected to participate, as well as 40 organizations and representatives from 15 Libyan municipalities.
Founded in 2017, IBLDA’s primary objective, according to its president Sandro Fratini, is “to give new impetus to business relations and exchanges between Italy and Libya”.
The ties are long-standing and of major importance to both countries, but they have come through difficult times over the past decade. Until the 2011 revolution, Libya was Italy’s fifth largest supplier (almost entirely of oil and gas) and its largest market in Africa. Italy was also a major investor in the country – the third largest investor in Europe. More than 100 Italian companies were present in Libya.
The disruptions and conflicts that have arisen since 2011 have caused significant fluctuations in the value of bilateral trade in recent years. In 2017 and 2018, Italy was Libya’s largest trading partner, but it slipped behind China and Turkey in 2019, both in terms of volume of exports and imports. But despite Turkey’s continued challenge, there remains a strong urge among Libyans to “buy Italian”, whether it is an industrial project or fashion products.
This is what ILBDA and the forum seek to build on. Business relations, trade, the reconstruction of Libya and new projects are now at the center of Italian-Libyan relations. This was seen during the business promotion conference organized by the Italian Foreign Ministry on the occasion of the visit to Rome on May 31 of Prime Minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba and his high-level delegation, and the visit and conference in Rome will have given additional impetus to the ILBDA event on June 7th. But even before that, after the launch in March of the government of national unity led by Aldabaiba, there were two visits to Tripoli by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, one by Prime Minister Mario Draghi and one to Rome from the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Najla Al. -Mangouste; all saw calls for greater Italian commercial and industrial engagement in the modernization of Libya.
On the Libyan side, there is a particular interest in discussing with Italian companies in the medical and hospital sectors in order to rebuild the Libyan health system. Fratini also sees significant potential for Italian input with regard to new technologies in Libya, in particular companies specializing in digital innovation.
Questions were asked as to why the forum is being held in Tunis and not in Tripoli, given the growing stability that has accompanied the change of government in Libya. Fratini stresses, however, that not only does Tunis remain the main transit route between Italy and Libya, there is also a potential economic and commercial synergy between the three countries, based on Italian know-how, skills and costs of Tunisian workforce and Libyan requirements. and investment capacity.
“For the moment, Tunis remains an obligatory stopover pending the reopening of Italian flights to Libya. For logistical reasons, under the current circumstances, it is easier to organize meetings in Tunisia. Neither Libyans nor Italians need an entry visa.
As for synergy, the Tunisian-Libyan side stood out last week with the Libyan Tunisian Economic Forum which was held in the Libyan capital from May 23 to 25 and brought together more than 1,200 Tunisian participants.
According to Ashraf Tulty, co-founder and vice-president of ILBDA, the forum will not only examine potential ideas for economic partnership and foreign investment, the discussions are also intended to “complement analyzes of current financial changes with new ideas and suggestions at scale. cooperation between the three Mediterranean countries ”. Particular attention, he said, will be given to the role that business leaders and civil society can play in ensuring prosperity and political stability. Libyan mayors, he added, will provide an overview of the needs of their municipalities and the chances of cooperation between the public and private sectors.
The 1st Economic Forum for Libya: “Together we will go further” will be held at the Laico hotel in Tunis on June 7 and 8.