“Libya is a big market with a strong potential”
- Igor Chaplek
(AFP) – More than 50 French companies are participating in the Tripoli International Fair this week in a bid to turn political goodwill into commercial profits, French officials said Tuesday.
“More than 50 companies are participating and that is due to the historical link which was created between Libya and France in 2011,” Michel Casals, president of the French-Libyan Chamber of Commerce told AFP.
France was the first country to recognise Libya’s now ruling National Transitional Council and lobbied hard for a NATO campaign that helped civilians turned rebels overcome dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s superior forces during last year’s conflict.
“We want to take advantage of this (favourable) climate but we will also have to work hard,” Casals continued, noting that France faces stiff competition and only ranked sixth among countries exporting to Libya before the 2011 war.
“French interest in Libya boomed after the revolution” that ousted Kadhafi, Igor Chaplek of the French economic mission to Libya, told AFP at the sidelines of the forum which opened on Monday.
“Libya is a big market with a strong potential,” he added.
Only 30 French companies participated at the annual trade and commerce event in 2010, which drew more than 1,000 companies compared to only 500 this year, the majority of them being local, according to organisers.
“Libyans have overcome their fear but the world is still scared to come here,” said fair coordinator Sayid al-Shurki, adding that he hoped the event will help send a message that the North African nation is safe again.
Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Iran, Turkey and Palestinians took part this year whereas previous forums have drawn more than 40 countries.
Ibrahim Elkelani, deputy managing director of French energy major Total in Libya, said roughly a third of the company’s expatriate staff has returned, all of them single men without families.
“There is still hesitation and the main reason is the security situation,” he said.