Entrepreneurs in Libya? Isn’t this the pariah state where everything is run by so-called people’s committees and until recently private property was severely restricted? The answer is that Qaddafi has wised up—at least partly. He began changing course a few years ago when oil prices were low. The Libyan economy was close to collapse after more than a decade of U.S. and U.N. sanctions brought on by his reckless actions, such as the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. After the U.S. invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, Qaddafi settled his differences with Washington and abandoned his weapons of mass destruction programs.
Since then, foreign oil companies have been piling into Libya, and Tripoli has started to revitalize the economy. Much of the progress is due to an unusual partnership with Harvard Business School professor and competitiveness guru Michael E. Porter, who is advising the Libyans through Boston consultancy Monitor Group. For the past two years, more than a dozen Monitor consultants have been working in Libya, studying the economy and running a three-month leadership program intended to create a new pro-business elite. So far, 150 Libyans have graduated. The people in the course “were real role models, starting businesses, contributing to society,” says graduate Yazid el Shaari, an engineer at Canadian-Libyan joint venture Veba Oil Operations.
The article goes on to explain the likelihood and difficulties facing those attempting to reform the Libyan economy and broader society — in 2007. Interestingly, the piece points to Saif Gadhafi as a true leader of reform (he was at Davos as a young global leader this year). This week Saif blamed “people abroad operating via the Internet and Facebook” and vowed that the ruling clan would fight to the “last man, woman and bullet.” The view from Business Week circa 2007 clearly has not come to fruition and the reforms — which most believed in until last week, were at best not impactful and at worst, a way to attract foreign investment (cash for Gadhafi) quickly.