As Peace Returns, Competition Begins for Libyan Railway Opportunities

Investment in post-conflicts and fragile states is fraught with risk. But a Libyan top official said : the more the risk, the more the profit”.

By Olawale Rasheed

In the midst of emerging political settlement ahead of election, Libya is billed to witness fierce competition for railway investment opportunities among Asia and Western Rail companies.

It would be recalled that Libyan railway was destroyed during the war. Train projects were halted after 2011 and even the tracks were sold as scrap and company’s equipment and mobile equipment were ransacked. Citizens who were already compensated for land regained the land.The sector was grounded to a halt. But all that is about to change.

The troubled North African country is eyeing an opening up to investors especially in the railway sector with Russian and Chinese companies having initial advantage. Turkish railway firms are reported to be in the scouting process just as western companies from Siemens to Alstom have their hands in the scrambling.

Russian railway had an ongoing railway project that was previously suspended due to the protracted conflict. The Russian firm was handling the Sirte-Benghazi high speed railway whole value was $2.4-billion. The company suffered loss of equipment and massive rail supplies when it had to hurriedly evacuated Libya due to the armed conflict.

The former interim government had sent a delegation to Russia seeking the return of Russian company to restart work on the high speed project. Both parties then endorsed an arrangement that will see Libya compensating the Russian firm for the loss while reworking agreement for the rewarding of the project.

China is however making inroad too as a Chinese firm also contacted and actually agreed on preliminary position with the then interim government for greefield rail projects. This may have smartly avoided head on collision with Russia on the Sirte-Benghazi high speed rail.

Turkish state alongside Russia and France were critical backers of the two previous factions. With the peace deal and agreement on elections, Turkish rail firms already active across Africa are seeking to capitalise on the military investment of their state to secure lucrative rail projects, both green and brownfields.

Libya political and military elite appear to have common agreement on returning their country to its frontline position as a haven for world class transport infrastructure. They had designed an integrated transport infrastructure on multi-modal corridor development approach. They indeed concieved of an underground métro in major cities. Report indicated that the unity government is looking into expanding that Transport Strategy to cover the whole of the country.

Libya is Back

All indications point to a resurgent Libya. With massive resources and Mediteranian advantage, the Libyan government is already making out a plan to develop several coastal free zones to link with neighbouring African states through its railway project and create partnerships with the EU.

The former foreign minister, Mohamed Siala at a recent virtual workshop reviewed Libya’s various contributions at the bilateral and regional levels and the role it played in building the African continent in economic and social development through investments and granting loans.

Siala stressed Libya’s desire to increase activity to create good joint opportunities calling on African countries to be aware of Libya’s role aimed at strengthening cooperation and partnership and called on African states to contribute to saving its investments from the obstacles they encounter due to their current conditions.

“The More the Risk, the more the Profit”

Investment in post-conflicts and fragile states is fraught with risk. But a Libyan top official said : the more the risk, the more the profit”.

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