Getting back to business in Libya

As politicians and diplomats strive for a return to normality in Libya, potential avenues for Swiss business are being sketched out.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done before business with Libya can go back to how it was under Moammar Gaddafi’s rule or even expand.

Some first steps have included Switzerland re-opening its embassy in Tripoli over the weekend. This followed Switzerland setting up a liaison office in Benghazi in July.

Yet the fighting continues – particularly around Sirte, the hometown of Gaddafi.

“The political situation is still not fully stable yet. We have to normalise diplomatic and economic relations with Libya – this will take some more time,” Jan Atteslander, head of international affairs at the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse), told

When things do settle down, there may be some opportunities for Swiss companies to aid in the reconstruction of Libya. Atteslander sees “anything related to infrastructure” as a key sector, along with medical and pharmaceutical products as well as machinery.

As Libya’s new ambassador to Switzerland told recently, his nation would like to see Swiss companies contributing to its reconstruction.

“Preparations are underway with regard to a precise reconstruction plan. The experts working on this plan may need to rely on well-known Swiss expertise in the area of evaluation and planning,” said Sliman Bouchuiguir.

Bouchuiguir also praised Switzerland’s high-quality work in the areas of technology and services.


The competition
Thanks to their leadership of the Nato campaign to help opposition forces in Libya, France and Britain have a head start on any reconstruction contracts being doled out in the war-torn country.

Britain and France were among the first to recognise Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC).

Earlier this month, 80 French business leaders travelled to Libya to establish ties with Libyan decision makers. However, when he visited Tripoli in September along with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France did not expect preferential treatment.

At a conference in London last month, a representative from the NTC encouraged British businesses to get involved in the rebuilding. He also pointed out that the second language in Libya was English – making Britain a top destination for education and business.

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