Libya Reconstruction and Investment Forum, January 2017

With the Islamic State (IS) group more or less defeated in Libya, senior oil officials are engaged in a push to attract foreign investors, or at least to let them know that Libya is open for business and there are opportunities.

This was very much the message to those attending the large Libyan investment and reconstruction conference that was held in London at the end of January. The conference, supported by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), was aimed at what British ambassador to Libya Peter Millett described as ‘an important step towards reinvigorating the Libyan economy.’ The gathering was attended by a number of senior Libyan officials, including the National Oil Corporation (NOC) chair Mustafa Sanallah, as well as Presidency Council deputy Ahmed Maitig.

At the conference, Sanallah announced that Libya was lifting its self-imposed moratorium on foreign investment in new oil sector projects. This had been introduced in 2011 after the revolution when the whole country was turned upside down. Sanallah made clear that – despite the continued lack of a functioning government – Libya is now ready to open up again to outside investors. He told the media, ‘We can get production back towards 1.2 million b/d but we need investment to be unlocked.’

At the North Africa Oil and Gas Summit 2017 in Milan in late January, similar optimism was expressed by Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) board member Jadalla Alaokali, and its enhanced oil recovery (EOR) coordinator, Khaled Abdalkadeer.

Despite expressing the NOC’s neutrality and claiming that NOC was ‘the glue that binds the country together’, the Libyan delegation appeared supportive of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA).  They argued that his ‘professional soldiers’ could easily capture Tripoli and remove the ‘militias’ and bring peace to the country. They also said that, other than the El Feel field, which was being held by a militia, almost all the other oil fields were currently controlled by the NOC. Some of the IOCs have also been expressing their preference for Haftar and favour a military strongman rather than the chaos that revolution and a faltering democracy has brought to the country.

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