As a political solution to Libya’s civil war remains elusive, with rival governments operating in Tripoli in the west and Tobruk in the east, running a fully functioning economy has been all but impossible. Once a major oil exporter, the war-torn country has had to make do with less production and, given the collapse in global prices, less revenue. In an email interview, Mohamed Eljarh, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, discusses what remains of Libya’s non-hydrocarbon economy and the toll that the deteriorating economic situation is taking on the country’s people and businesses.
WPR: Outside of the oil sector, where is most of the economic activity in Libya coming from, and how integrated is the economy across the country?
Mohamed Eljarh: Outside of the oil sector, telecommunications, which is controlled by government-owned companies, is considered the largest economic sector in the country. The three main mobile phone operators—Libyana, al-Madar and Libya Phone—have no competition from private mobile phone operators. Yet the sector suffers from significant disruptions as a result of the damage to infrastructure from the 2011 revolution and ensuing civil war, with some estimates suggesting that a quarter of the country’s mobile tower sites have been damaged or stolen.