The Report: Misrata 2024

Recognised as Libya’s commercial capital due to centuries of trade and commerce and its strategic location, Misrata serves as a vital gateway for imports and exports, facilitating trade connections between the city, other parts of Libya and countries situated along the Mediterranean Sea.

Country Profile

Located on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa and bordering Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia, Libya has a rich history dating back to the Phoenician era. Though there has been an end to violent conflict following the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, political stalemate continues and the government is currently divided between Tripoli and Tobruk Nevertheless, in the last couple of years, the country has made substantial strides towards recovery in the private sector and the wider economy, although challenges remain. Despite global economic challenges and supply chain constraints, Libya’s shipping and manufacturing industries have the potential to play a significant role in diversifying the economy and creating new business opportunities.

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City Profile

The city and district of Misrata, Libya’s third-largest urban centre, is situated on the Mediterranean coast roughly 200km east of Tripoli and 800km west of Benghazi. As the single largest port of entry for goods arriving into the country, Misrata is viewed as the trade capital of Libya as well as the country’s business capital, particularly in terms of commodities trading between other cities in the Mediterranean. The engine of Misrata’s economic activity is the seaport in the Misurata Free Zone, which both manages and oversees its operations. Established in 1978, the port is Libya’s largest, handling some 385,000 containers in 2019 alone. The diverse nature of the goods travelling through its facilities – foodstuffs, livestock, and industrial and petrochemical products, among others – is expected to be an important component in Misrata’s economic diversification. This chapter contains interviews with Mahmoud Al Sougatri, Mayor of Misrata; Hussein Mohamed Altaher Issa, CEO, Aletah Group; and Fathi Amin Al Turki, Chairman, Misrata Chamber of Commerce.

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Financial Services

Due to the introduction of new players, innovative products and services and regulatory reforms, the banking sector in Libya and Misrata has undergone significant changes. The Central Bank of Libya (CBL) and the Libyan Foreign Bank – which is 100% owned by the CBL – oversee and regulate the industry, with the Bank of Commerce and Development, the National Commercial Bank and Sahara Bank among the most significant players. Lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and households is a critical area of focus for the banking sector in Libya and Misrata. Banks have introduced dedicated units to make it easier for SMEs to gain access to credit and develop a more supportive environment for business entities. By providing digital banking services that are easy to use and secure, the CBL is taking steps to transform Libya into a cashless economy to address the role of cash in people’s lives. Misrata has emerged as an important centre for Libya’s insurance and non-banking financial sectors, attracting local and international players. Despite the challenges, the insurance sector has continued to grow steadily in recent years. Misrata has also emerged as a centre for non-banking financial services in Libya. This sector includes various services such as microfinance, leasing and factoring, and it has been growing steadily over the past few years. This chapter contains an interview with Farouk Laabidi, General Manager, Assaray Trade & Investment Bank.

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Transport & Logistics

Despite headwinds ranging from ports and terminal closures and the risk of piracy and theft to Libya's political division, this critical sector is rebounding amid improved infrastructure and enhanced logistics capabilities, including the rehabilitation of roads and the expansion of airports. Additionally, in recent years several foreign companies have expressed interest in investing in the logistics industry, both in Misrata and country-wide, recognising the potential for growth and development. Given Misrata’s geostrategic location, transport and logistics are an integral part of the local economy, much of which is linked to the Misurata Free Zone and port located in the city. Expansion can be enhanced through increased investment in infrastructure, including roads, ports and airports, as well as improvements in operational efficiency and effectiveness. Regulatory reform and improved governance will be crucial to attracting foreign investment and promoting private sector participation in the logistics industry. This chapter contains an interview with Muhsen Sigutri, Chairman, Misurata Free Zone.

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Trade, Industry & Automotive

Trade has played a significant role in Libya’s economy since the early 2000s, although it faced significant challenges due to economic and trade sanctions imposed by Western governments prior to the revolution. There has been a modest resurgence in trade, particularly as stability has improved with trade partners keen to capitalise on Libya’s strategic location. Misrata’s transit trade endeavours align with Libya’s long-standing objective of diversifying its economy away from hydrocarbons. Libya’s industrial landscape has undergone a significant evolution starting in the 1990s, resulting in manufacturing’s share of the economy increasing considerably. Today, manufacturing is a key driver of the economy in Misrata, with subsectors such as construction materials, plastics, automotive and food processing contributing significantly. Major industrial sectors in the region include manufacturing, port and maritime activities, and oil and gas. Misrata has sought to diversify by attracting investment and fostering growth in targeted sectors. The establishment of the Misurata Free Zone in 2000 has been a major catalyst for industrial development, offering tax incentives and attracting both local and international companies. As capacity expands, continued development of transport networks and power supply will be important growth enablers, as will ensuring reliable access to finance and skilled labour. The automotive industry plays a significant role in the local economy, contributing to employment, trade and economic growth. The industry has experienced periodic disruptions in production and supply chains due to political instability and conflict. However, efforts are being made to revive and strengthen the segment, and stability has been gradually returning. This chapter contains interviews with Abdallah BenNaser, Chairman, Almadina Misurata Paints; Mohamed Al Faqih, Chairman, LISCO and Naohiro Masuda, Managing Director – CEO, Toyota Libya.

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Energy, Construction and Infrastructure

As a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and 48.4bn barrels of proven crude oil reserves – the most in Africa – and 1.5trn cu metres of proven natural gas reserves, Libya is a significant player in the regional and global hydrocarbons sector. The state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) is responsible for exploration and production. By increasing the involvement of IOCs such as TotalEnergies, Eni, ConocoPhillips, OMW, and Repsol, the NOC is seeking to boost production from current assets and finance repairs and upgrades to mid- and downstream infrastructure. The latter is set to expand in Misrata through a potential new hydrocarbons law and a series of regulatory reviews to enhance the industry’s management and structure. Libya’s urban population has been rising rapidly and with the population predicted to increase in the coming years, access to housing, food, clean drinking water and employment opportunities – as well as health care, education and transport – remain essential priorities. Companies from Egypt, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Turkey are the most likely participants in the reconstruction projects that are set to create job opportunities in a country that will need $134bn over the next 10 years to facilitate its reconstruction. Private investment is expected to drive these developments and account for 60% of project financing, with the remainder coming from the public sector. Driven by these trends, Misrata’s construction sector is poised for significant growth as Libya’s commercial and industrial centre. The infrastructure pillar of Ihya Libya Vision 2030 outlines key objectives that include evaluating existing infrastructure developments to ensure that they align with national priorities. To achieve this, the initiative will establish a national infrastructure fund and strategy, and develop a public-private partnership framework to secure financing that will be allocated based on a merit-based system. In the coming years construction and infrastructure will continue to play a crucial role in Misrata’s economic recovery. Ultimately, planned developments will facilitate the growth of local businesses and make the city more attractive to foreign investors, generating more opportunities for economic growth.

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ICT and Innovation

In an increasingly interconnected world, ICT has become indispensable. Libya’s demographic profile, with a median age of 26.1 as of 2020, creates a conducive environment for digitalisation. By leveraging digital technologies and communications networks, Misrata aims to take advantage of physical infrastructure like road connections, ports and industrial capacity to drive economic growth across sectors. This is visible in the transition of the Misurata Free Zone to fully electronic operational management. The government has recognised the importance of ICT in driving economic growth, enhancing service delivery and improving the quality of life of residents, with policies that outline the vision for digital transformation. They are a foundation for fostering innovation, improving efficiency, and promoting transparency and accountability This chapter contains an interview with Majdi Ashibani, Chairman, Libyan Academy.

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Agriculture and Food Industry

While Misrata has traditionally relied on industries such as manufacturing and trade, the agriculture sector and food segment have been quietly gaining momentum in recent years. Misrata’s relatively favourable climate and fertile land have fostered the growth of various crops, including olives, citrus fruits and grains, while proximity to the city’s trade infrastructure has assisted with access and distribution to domestic markets. These agricultural endeavours have an important bearing on Libya’s economy, employing approximately 5% of the labour force and constituting nearly 9% of GDP as of 2019. The sector has provided a crucial avenue for diversification beyond traditional industries by creating employment opportunities, fostering entrepreneurship and attracting investment. The implementation of desert-based irrigation and digital farming techniques is bolstering the production of critical crops and increasing recognition of the sector’s untapped potential. This chapter contains an interview with Mohamed Al Za’louk, Chairman, Bladi Al Khair Company.

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Education & Health

While there are numerous primary and secondary institutions dispersed throughout Misrata, higher education is concentrated at Misurata University. Significant efforts have been made to overhaul the education sector to make up for limits previously placed on the curriculum and disruptions to schooling, especially for children and youth. The Ministry of Education came to an agreement with the minister of national education, preschool and sport in Morocco to enhance learning opportunities in the two countries. It encompasses various collaborative initiatives, including exchanging information and expertise in the preparation and training of educational, administrative and technical personnel. Integrating ICT and English-language instruction into the education sector will be pivotal to ensuring the global competitiveness of Misrata and the country’s labour force. The health care sector in Libya is on an upward trajectory following the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic. With Libya and Misrata having implemented policies to deal with challenges related to the pandemic, private enterprises have the potential to play an essential role in the development of the sector going forwards. With the support of domestic and international entities, new infrastructure and funding mechanisms are being developed to support care provision. As stability returns to the country, particularly in Misrata, there are indications that the private sector has begun to see the current shortfalls in the health care market as an opportunity for investment, which has the potential to attract international capital to Libya. Furthermore, the implementation of a comprehensive health insurance project across multiple municipalities could strengthen the sector while increasing the viability of private medical care facilities. This chapter contains an interview with Abdulhamit Karanfil, Chairman, Libyan Turkish Hospital.

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The Guide

The Guide contains listings of some of the leading hotels and resorts in Misrata and contacts for important government offices and services. It also contains useful tips and information for first-time or regular and business and leisure visitors alike.

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