by Frank Baker: UK Ambassador to Libya.

“The meetings in Aberdeen, in May, and this week in Tunis, have shown that the UK is a key partner for Libya in boosting oil production,” Mustafa Sanalla, Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), said at the recent trade mission hosted in Tunis by the Libyan British Business Council (LBBC).

I could not have put it better. The LBBC event – themed, “Building Bridges Together” – brought together over 60 representatives of the UK oil and gas industry to meet more than 120 of their Libyan business counterparts. I am delighted to hear some of the leading British oil companies are gradually resuming their work in Libya to support the NOC’s goal of increasing oil production to 2 million barrels a day by 2020. There is clear Libyan appetite for UK goods and services, including the UK offer on education (especially English Language Teaching) and healthcare. In 2017, trade between the UK and Libya more than doubled (up 138%).

We are offering support because we believe in Libya’s substantial potential, to become a hub for business and trade, and the determination of the Libyan people to achieve this goal. A strong Libyan economy will play an important role in the country’s stability and long-term security, and British businesses have an important role in realising this.

The UK is at the forefront of diplomatic efforts, working closely with Libyans, the UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salamé and the international community to deliver an inclusive and durable political solution, and an improved security situation across the country. We are also working with these partners and International Financial Institutions to facilitate greater economic reforms and transparency. On top of this engagement, the UK’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) is providing £12 million this financial year to, amongst other things, rebuild critical infrastructure, remove the unexploded remnants of war and build capacity within government to deliver public services more effectively.

Furthermore, £1.5 million of our CSSF funding is being spent on microfinancing projects with a focus on youth and female entrepreneurs. I am personally committed to the UK Government’s work on gender equality – and am pleased to be writing this article during our Embassy ‘Gender November’ month which is showcasing our work on gender equality all year-round. Empowering women and girls is not only an integral part of our British values – it also improves peace and stability, economic growth and poverty reduction.

There is no doubt that the challenges are big, but Libya’s potential is far bigger. The wide range of UK support is helping to create a more permissible environment for trade and investment, and to uncover opportunities for British expertise to help Libya’s reconstruction.