Located on the northern African coast and east of Egypt, the State of Libya shipped an estimated US$30 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 43% increase since 2014 and a 53.8% upturn from 2017 to 2018.
Given Libya’s population of 6.8 million people, its total $30 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $4,400 for every resident in the North African country.
In macroeconomic terms, Libya’s total exported goods represent 20.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($74.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 20.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 65.8% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Libya’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Libya also provided $188.6 million worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 0.3% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Libya’s unemployment rate was forecasted as 17.6% at July 2019 down from 17.7% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Libya’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Libyan global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Libya.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$29.4 billion (97.9% of total exports)
- Iron, steel: $162.9 million (0.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $127.5 million (0.4%)
- Copper: $100.4 million (0.3%)
- Fertilizers: $57.6 million (0.2%)
- Aluminum: $43.7 million (0.1%)
- Fish: $36.9 million (0.1%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $20.4 million (0.1%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $17.3 million (0.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $10.9 million (0.04%)
Libya’s top 10 exports are extremely concentrated, accounting for 99.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 70.4% since 2017 led by higher international sales from both crude and refined petroleum oils and also petroleum gases.
In second place for improving export sales was electrical machinery and equipment which was up by 31.3%.
Libya’s shipments of fertilizers posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 26.8% year over year.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Libya export categories was gems and precious metals down by -92.4%, thanks mostly to lower gold and silver shipments from Libya.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Libya’s most valuable exported product at 89.2% of the country’s total. In second place were petroleum gases (5%) trailed by processed petroleum oils (3.8%), unwrought gold (0.4%), copper waste and scrap (0.3%) then nitrogenous fertilizers (0.2%).
Overall Libya posted an $18.8 billion surplus for 2018, up by 84.7% from $10.2 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$27.3 billion (Up by 74% since 2017)
- Copper: $96.7 million (Up by 13.1%)
- Fertilizers: $46.6 million (Up by 158.7%)
- Fish: $24.3 million (Down by -13.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $8.8 million (Down by -58.7%)
- Lead: $6.2 million (Up by 28%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $5.4 million (Down by -25.2%)
- Wool: $3.4 million (Up by 29.5%)
- Other base metals: $382,000 (Up by 9,450%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $153,000 (Reversing a -$69,000 deficit)
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.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -US$840.4 million (Up by 39.2% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$631.4 million (Up by 79.2%)
- Cereals: -$625.9 million (Up by 14.5%)
- Machinery including computers: -$617.4 million (Down by -2.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$466.4 million (Up by 35.2%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$347.7 million (Up by 15.2%)
- Live animals: -$323.4 million (Down by -5.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$274.8 million (Up by 6.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$234.2 million (Up by 19.8%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$218.7 million (Up by 37.2%)
Libya has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers 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)
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 and Capital Facts for Tripoli, Libya
Al Jazeera, Libyan fighting reaches streets of Tripoli (August 21, 2011). Accessed on June 26, 2018
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 26, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 8, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 8, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 26, 2018
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 26, 2018
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 8, 2019
Wikipedia, Libya. Accessed on June 26, 2018
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Libya. Accessed on June 26, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 8, 2019