About Libya

The Country

In Brief
Area:1,759,540 sq km
Population:6,002,347 (July 2013 est.)
Population Growth:0.8% (2012 est.)
Urban Population78%
GDP per capita$15,900 (2010 est.)
Currency1 US$ = 1.245 Libyan Dinar (LYD)

Libya Overview

Libya underwent a revolution in 2011 which led to the overthrowing of Muammar Gaddafi who had been in power for over 40 years.

Libya remained largely undeveloped during Gaddafi’s reign, which included extensive periods of international sanctions and regime-imposed isolation. As a result, Libya is something of an outlier country that has experienced very little penetration of the outside world’s technological, commercial and institutional development over the last half century.

Libya is a largely homogenous Sunni Muslim Arab society with small ethnic minorities that include the Berbers, the Tuaregs and the Tebou. The National Transitional Council managed the post-revolution situation in Libya successfully at this decisive period in Libya’s history backed by significant support from the international community.


Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa and it shares borders with Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan. A 1770km Mediterranean coastline, several highlands and the Sahara Desert which is scattered with oases are the most prominent of Libya’s natural features.

Background Economics

Oil exports began in 1961 and rose rapidly during the 1960s to more than 3 million barrels per day by 1969, making it one of the dominant members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries at the time. Libya’s oil capacity has been constrained by lack of investment during the Gaddafi years and as a result output fell substantially. Libyan crude oil is much sought after due to its high quality and proximity to Europe. The sector has in recent years attracted some foreign capital and technology, and production rose to 1.65 million barrels per day in 2010.

Libya is well-endowed with oil and gas reserves, and the country has great potential to increase oil and gas production in the future. With relatively modest domestic demand, it also has the potential to increase exports of both fuels well into the future. Libya’s current level of recoverable crude oil reserves is 46.4 billion barrels and natural gas reserves are 54.7 trillion cubic feet. Estimates of yet undiscovered, recoverable reserves are significant and reserve estimates have tended to rise over time through greater knowledge from increased exploration and development.

The IMF estimates that Libya depends on the hydrocarbon sector for around 96% of government revenues and 65% of GDP. Libya’s great energy wealth gives its small population one of the highest GDP per capita ratios in Africa. However, little of this income has benefited the general population to date. Libya has been a state-driven economy, with the inefficiencies and bureaucracy that characterize the public sector. This is also reflected in the fact that the vast majority of employment in Libya is provided through the public sector. For sustainable long-term growth it is crucial that Libya diversifies economic output and encourages growth of the private sector.

The non-oil manufacturing and construction sectors have expanded from processing mostly agricultural products to include the production of some petrochemicals, iron, steel, and aluminum. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food. In recent years the Great Manmade River Project, a massive water pipeline that transports water from deep in the Sahara to the coast has provided significant water supplies for agriculture and urban consumption. Libya has potential to expand desalinization to meet growing water demands.

Ongoing efforts to restructure and modernize the Central Bank of Libya are underway. Capital and financial markets however still play a very limited role in the economy. There are no markets for government or private debt and the foreign exchange market is small. There is a small stock market in Tripoli. The total market capitalization of firms on the stock exchange was approximately US$1.3 billion at the end of 2010. According to the World Bank, unemployment especially among the young remains very high.

External accounts surplus was estimated to be 20% of GDP in 2010 and net foreign assets of the Central Bank and the Libyan Investment Authority (sovereign wealth fund) were estimated to have reached $150 billion at the end of 2010, equivalent to 160% of GDP.

Key Highlights

The following underlying fundamentals point to future opportunities in the new Libya:

  • The 17th largest state in the world by land mass (1,759,540 sq km or 679,362 sq miles), with a considerable need to implement infrastructural developments.
  • Net foreign assets of the Central Bank and the Libyan Investment Authority (sovereign wealth fund) were estimated to have reached $150 billion at the end of 2010, equivalent to 160% of GDP.
  • There have been plans to privatize wide sectors of Libyan industry including banks, manufacturing operations and mobile phone companies, in some instances through partial initial public offerings. However, little progress has been made to date.
  • Strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea, at the centre of Arab World and North Africa, in GMT+2. Bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia.
  • Population of approximately 6 million.
  • About 78% of the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the three largest cities Tripoli (1.8 million), Benghazi and Misrata.
  • At 46.4 billion barrels, Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and at 54.7 trillion cubic feet, the fourth largest proven gas reserves in Africa.
  • High quality, superlight-sweet crude oil means Libyan oil is in great demand.
  • Experienced and educated Libyan diaspora community that is eager and ready to conduct business in Libya.
  • Multinational corporations have a strong and well documented appetite to do business in Libya.


Oil & Gas, Infrastructure Comparison