Located on the northern African coast and east of Egypt, the State of Libya shipped an estimated US$27.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 149% increase since 2015 but a -9.8% downturn from 2018 to 2019.
Given Libya’s population of 6.8 million people, its total $27.7 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $4,100 for every resident in the North African country.
Libya’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Libyan global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Libya.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$27.1 billion (97.9% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $223.8 million (0.8%)
- Iron, steel: $173.1 million (0.6%)
- Copper: $61.3 million (0.2%)
- Organic chemicals: $34.1 million (0.1%)
- Aluminum: $28.5 million (0.1%)
- Fish: $19 million (0.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.3 million (0.04%)
- Machinery including computers: $7.5 million (0.03%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $4 million (0.01%)
Libya’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Organic chemicals posted the sole increase among the top 10 export categories, up by 492% from 2018 to 2019.
The leading decliner among Libya’s top 10 export categories was inorganic chemicals, thanks to an -80.4% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Libya’s most valuable exported product at 89.6% of the country’s total. In second place were petroleum gases (5.1%) trailed by processed petroleum oils (3.3%), unwrought gold (0.8%) and iron or steel scrap (0.3%).
Overall Libya posted a $15.4 billion surplus for 2019, down by -13.2% from $17.8 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Libyan product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$25.1 billion (Down by -7.5% since 2018)
- Copper: $53.9 million (Down by -43.9%)
- Iron, steel: $41.3 million (Reversing a -$37.3 million deficit)
- Fish: $5 million (Down by -78.4%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $2.8 million (Down by -48.2%)
- Lead: $1.6 million (Down by -74.2%)
- Wool: $1.1 million (Down by -68.3%)
- Woodpulp: $521,000 (Up by 1984%)
- Nickel: $313,000 (Reversing a -$2.2 million deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $165,000 (Up by 5.8%)
Libya has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude oil and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Libya’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil product category.
Below are exports from Libya that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Libya’s goods trail Libyan importer spending on foreign products.
- Vehicles: -US$1.2 billion (Up by 58.4% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$935.1 million (Up by 28.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$915.8 million (Down by -40.4%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$398.4 million (Up by 81.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$354.2 million (Up by 13.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$341.7 million (Up by 39.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$329.1 million (Down by -36.7%)
- Cereals: -$323.6 million (Down by -48.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$287.4 million (Up by 44.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$277 million (Up by 14.2%)
Libya has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the vehicles category.
Libyan Export Companies
Not one Libyan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Libya. Selected examples are shown below.
- Arabian Cement Co. (construction materials)
- Arabian Gulf Oil Company (oil, gas)
- Brega Marketing Company (oil, gas)
- Challenger LTD (oil, gas)
- General National Maritime Transport Company (industrial transportation)
- Jowfe Oil Technology (oil, gas)
- Libyan Cement Company (construction materials)
- Libyan Iron and Steel Company (basic materials)
- National Oil Corporation (oil, gas)
- Oilibya (oil, gas)
- RASCO (oil, gas)
- Sirte Oil Company (oil, gas)
- Tamoil (oil, gas)
- Waha Oil Company (oil, gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Libya’s total exported goods represent 33.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($83.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 33.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 20.5% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Libya’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Libya’s average unemployment rate was 17.3% for 2019 same as one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Libya’s capital city is Tripoli, nicknamed by local residents as “Bride of the Sea” or “Mermaid”.
See also Top 10 Exports from Cyprus, Malta’s Top 10 Exports
Al Jazeera, Libyan fighting reaches streets of Tripoli (August 21, 2011). Accessed on June 3, 2020
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 3, 2020
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 3, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 3, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 3, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 3, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 3, 2020
Wikipedia, Libya. Accessed on June 3, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Libya. Accessed on June 3, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 3, 2020
WorldOMeter, Libya Population. Accessed on June 3, 2020