Dubai is set to conduct a trade mission to Libya this year as it seeks to dramatically grow trade between the UAE and the North African country.
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) believes the level of imports and exports between the two countries can increase substantially as Libya begins to diversify its economy away from oil after the first democratic elections in 40 years this Saturday.
"Libya is one of the countries we have identified as having strong potential for our members and we will be taking a trade mission to the country later in the year as part of our strategic objective to explore new foreign markets," said Atiq Juma Faraj Nasib, the senior director of the commercial services sector at the DCCI.
Trade between Dubai and Libya had increased steadily after the end of international sanctions against the country in 2005 up until the Arab Spring last year.
In 2010, Dubai exported Dh3.5 billion (US$952.8 million) of goods to Libya and received Dh4.1bn in return but non-oil trade fell dramatically to Dh2.13bn last year as Libya was gripped by revolution and civil war.
Despite the fall in trade, Mr Nasib said there was now a huge opportunity for companies based in the UAE to provide infrastructure, consumer goods and services to Libya as the country tries to grow its economy following the fall of the Qaddafi regime.
"We are going there with a better approach, different strengths and [ideas on] how we can capitalise more," he said.
"I would not rule out any sector but Libya is an oil country, so oil and gas would be a major sector," he added. "Infrastructure, construction and telecoms will also be major sectors."
Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, at 46.4 billion barrels, and is now pumping about 1.5 million barrels a day in production, which is close to pre-civil war levels.
Before the war, Libya's biggest export to Dubai was precious and semi-precious stones, metals and minerals, making up more than 95 per cent of inbound trade.
Dubai sold Libya a greater variety of products that had often been imported from elsewhere, including electrical equipment, machinery, cars and vehicles and processed consumer foods.
"Qaddafi left a state that was immature and largely had nothing but its oil and defence sector," said Charles Gurdon, the managing director of Menas Associates, a political risk consultancy based in the United Kingdom. "It was left to stagnate."
Mr Nasib added Dubai could leverage its expertise in airline and airport services to help to grow Libya's aviation industry.
"Dubai Airports manages many ports, with the closest one to Libya in Djibouti, so why not Libya?" he said.
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