By Hassan Sassi, Sadeg Faris and Mustafa Shembesh edited by M. Dehler.
2 April 2013:
In a recent opinion piececo-written by Abdullah Elmaazi and Jason Pack published on Al Jazeera, the two posit:
Libya’s development cliff
… if the Libyan government does not combine attempts to provide security with the implementation of coherent plans to spur economic development, many of Libya’s far flung regions will soon become entirely ungovernable. …
Conversely, Libya has the money, knowhow, and international alliances to establish a virtuous cycle. The Fezzan urgently needs to be integrated into the rest of Libya via infrastructural investment, job creation, demobilisation of militias and strategic partnerships with outside universities and corporations. The current crisis represents a great opportunity. One can only hope Libya does not become yet another example in a long list of wasted opportunities and wasted revolutions.
Libya is blessed with energy resources which include petroleum, natural gas and materials from its vast desert land. There is the (justifiable) temptation to export as much as possible at the highest rate possible to generate the cash flow needed for the rapid building of the nation in the wake of the disastrous 40+ years of neglect. This, of course, is the right path; to build modern infrastructure, roads, schools, hospitals, and investing in future generations. But is it enough?
Per Chatham House’s 2012 Report ‘Resources Futures’, Libya holds fourth place in the largest bilateral resource trade relationships in fossil fuels: exporting crude oil to the EU27 at a value of 28.8 ($ bn). Libya is also one of the producer countries placed in high rank in vulnerability to international commodity price fluctuations. Producer countries particularly exposed to macroeconomic shocks from commodity price fluctuations are those whose i) their economies are particularly dependent on exports and ii) commodities account for a significant share of exports.
There are 79 countries worldwide for which exports constitute at least 20% of GDP and commodities make up at least half of exports. Of these countries, 15 of which are in Africa, 33 are identified as highly exposed to resource price volatility, with more than 70% of exports consisting of resources, and exports being at least 30% of GDP. For most of these countries it is a mixture of metals, minerals and fuels that leads to the very high share of commodities in exports. Libya is firmly situated in this group where the share of exports in GDP and Share of primary commodities in exports is located in the ≥30% ≥70% range.
Identifying Technology Colonization
Importers of Libyan resources, such as the EU countries use Libya’s natural resources to continue to fuel their own growth, expand their economies, and maintain high levels of employment while enjoying a high standard of living.
Continued economic growth based solely on natural Libyan resources simply further advance others’ technological advancements. The country has great human resources yet very little job creating capacity to absorb them. Without more focused development in Libyan technological sectors such as solar energy and water salination projects, etc., it is feasible that the end result will be to perpetuate Libyan dependence on other people’s technology – referred to as ‘technology colonization’.
Since 1969, Libya’s sovereignty has been assailed by the Gadaffi regime that squandered precious human and other resources, dismantled infrastructure, robbed people of dignity, and sent Libyans backwards by neglecting to educate them adequately. While other nations advanced technologically, Libya was left behind in a ‘dark age’ and created a huge and still widening technological gap for the Libyans. Proud to be from a nation with a small population and wealth, Libyans hoped the 2011 revolution would resolve issues of prosperity and equal opportunities.
The reality is that after two years still much needs to be restored and brought to better standards including the educational system, infrastructure, health, justice and other important matters.
At the same time, some developed countries are staying in the fossil fuel economy, sale of raw resources and partnering with foreign owners (in itself viewed by many as selling its autonomy). By neglecting their ability to move into the forefront of sustainable and scientific advancements much needed in the current global awareness of climate change and the impact of old technologies, Canada is perhaps one of the best examples a country that continues to encourage investments in an old industrial paradigm and retreating from innovative growth.
Technology sovereignty means owning indigenous-created technological intellectual property (IP) to level the playing field and gain leverage when trading with other IP owners. The alternative is to simply continue with selling petroleum and other unsustainable resources which are not infinite and perpetuate Libya’s technological colonization.
Can we do more to generate sustainable growth in jobs and innovation? What is the next fight as we begin to rebuild Libya? I propose Technology Sovereignty to close the ever widening technological gap and move forward Libya into a leader of innovation and sustainable governance.
A recent study from Nottingham Trent University indicates Libya could generate five times the amount of energy from solar panels alone than what it produces from crude oil.
According to research by Ahmed Mohamed, a PhD student from Libya at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment: “If Libya could harness only a tiny fraction of the renewable energy resources it has available in the form of solar and wind power, not only could it meet its own demands for energy, but also a significant part of the world’s demands by exporting electricity.”
Libya’s location along the tropic of cancer offers the country exposure to long hours of daylight, all year round. Its average solar radiation rate is almost double that of the UK.
Researchers also found that as Libya is exposed to dry, hot, prolonged gusts; it also holds the potential to generate significant amounts of wind power.
Achieving Technological Sovereignty
In order to achieve this it is crucial for Libya to establish a world class laboratory to enable Libyan talent to invent and innovate, to close the technology gap and achieve technology sovereignty. This will be evidenced when indigenously developed innovative Libyan products are exported and used for as leverage and level playing field in the trade.
Libyan expatriates have been fortunate to have received education and opportunities that a vast majority of Libyans have not had. Our loyalty to our homeland is in our desire and willingness to return – with our knowledge — and help grow our country and move this economy into a world-leader in technology, energy and a better standard of living. Employing Libyans and its ingenuity has to be on the forefront.
Some of the returned Libyans have gone into the political arena — to varying degrees of success and acceptance. The scope of politics is far more diversified and a great width of it falls within subjective realms of personal opinions. Unlike other professions – such as those in technological and scientific areas — there are no specific roadmaps for politicians to achieving success.
Regrettably, some degree of unease generated from this has placed a difficult onus on acceptance of expats and is an unfortunate but not absolute proof of incompatibility. Specific skills in other professions are far more susceptible to attracting the right people with the right qualifications and degree of knowledge. This is why the expertise of Libyans in the technological and scientific and medical forum should be welcomed back.
We do not need to rely on other countries to do our work. Libyans should undertake the measures to create a better future. We can do it. Let’s work together and set the record straight. Libya is a nation to build and be leaders in global energy matters. Our chance is here and now.
H. Sassi: VP, OWEN Group Inc. (www.owengroup.com) email@example.com
S. Faris: Founder & CEO Reveo, Inc. (www.reveo.com)
M. Shembesh: United Construction & Services (UCS) – Benghazi, Libya
 Resources Futures A Chatham House Report, Bernice Lee, Felix Preston, Jaakko Kooroshy, Rob Bailey and Glada Lahn December 2012