Current Market Trends
Population: 6.5 million
GDP*: USD 35 billion
Currency: Libyan Dinar
In General, Libya Medical sector is one of the public sectors that suffered the most during Gaddafi regime. Libya’s hospitals and clinics largely do not meet international standards. Those Libyans with sufficient resources travel to Tunisia, Jordan, or Europe for anything but the most routine medical care, a trend that has led to the establishment of a 100+ mile “medical services alley” on the Tunisian side of the border. The Ministry of Health establishes regulations regarding the Libyan health sector and is responsible for issues related to public health, precautionary health, therapeutic medicine, medical institutions, pharmaceuticals, control of the circulation of drugs and medical practice and related professions. Decree 38 of 2012 placed central, special, general and rural hospitals under the direct regulation of the Ministry of Health. According to Ministry of Economy Decree 103 of 2012, foreign companies with necessary experience are permitted to open independent branch offices and execute the installation, commissioning, and maintenance of medical equipment and/or the management of hospitals and medical institutions. Generally, importation of medical equipment and supplies into Libya is allowed so long as the manufacturer is register with the Ministry of Health.
Libya is a welfare country where health and education are free and provide universal coverage. There have been impressive improvements in health and education standards over the past decennia. Health services were badly disrupted in Libya during the conflict in 2011, and access to health services remains problematic, particularly for many vulnerable populations in need of mental health or psychosocial support, the displaced and mobile populations, the war wounded in need of treatment and rehabilitation, the victims of gender based violence, pregnant women left without antenatal, delivery and post- partum maternity services in nearby non-functional.
During the crisis WHO has played a key role in coordinating, mobilizing and optimizing health actions to address the immediate needs as well as to provide technical assistance and guidance. In the post-conflict phase WHO is expected to play a major role in coordination with essential stakeholders and partners in the restoration and development of the health system in order to resume and maintain provision of quality health services to the Libyan population.
Successful market entry strategies for Libya have three common elements: understanding the market, selecting the optimal partner, and providing ongoing support to that partner. It is important to gain an understanding of the Libyan context for a product or service, its competitors, standards, regulations, sales channels, and applications. Success in the market will require appointing a Libyan distributor or establishing a local subsidiary, and setting-up a local sales presence. Typically, distributors for medical products will cover the entire country.
U.S. companies are encouraged to appoint technically strong agents and distributors to sell their products and technologies in Libya, and to participate in leading trade exhibitions, such as the “Arab Health” in Dubai, for market and product exposure. The U.S. Commercial Service (CS) offers programs to introduce U.S. products and technologies in Libya. Performing due diligence on potential local partners is just as important as in the United States.
In many cases, a U.S. firm may not be able to provide the wide variety of products required in large tenders. However, a company can offer a bid by forming a consortium. Libyan Ministry of Health prefers a single bid for an entire tender rather than having to piece together bids for each component. Public sector hospitals may request credit in their procurement tenders. While suppliers offering credit will certainly have a better chance of winning bids, sales without credit are sometimes made since other factors such as price, quality, and a delivery schedule may be of greater importance.
The five-year National Development Plan (2008-2012) is specifically aimed at modernizing the country’s essential infrastructure through partnership with overseas expertise. Around US$35Billion has been allocated to this program, with particular focus on the construction and equipping of healthcare institutions.
As well as stepping up the expansion of private clinics and hospitals by initiatives and joint investment projects with domestic and foreign partners, existing major hospitals are also being converted into educational institutions, partnering with and managed by an already established international hospital that will provide training in hospital management and modern healthcare systems. More than 20 hospitals have already been targeted for this purpose.
Integral to this program is the creation of a national network of Primary Healthcare (GP) Surgeries and Polyclinics. The development of primary care in Libya is essential, if only to take away some of the workload from the country’s hospitals which are too commonly used as walk-in clinics by Libyans. The Tripoli Medical Center, for example, a specialized tertiary care and medical student training hospital, estimates that up to 40 per cent of its resources are currently spent providing basic primary care services to local people.
Plans are also in place to build and refurbish secondary and tertiary care institutions (i.e. hospitals and specialist care clinics); and unlike the ‘false start’ of 2002, the necessary funds and the political will now seem to be in place for this ambitious program to succeed – a situation which also promises to create lucrative partnership opportunities in large-scale healthcare projects.
The Ministry aim is to employ comparable procurement models to those developed around the world over the past decade in developing health services in Libya. The widespread adoption of PPP and PFI-style projects (as well as more focused investment schemes similar to NHS LIFT for improving and developing frontline primary and community care facilities) are seen as key to the future of the Libyan healthcare system.
The market for medical and pharmaceutical products offers the most clearly available opportunities for businesses in Libya’s healthcare sector: “There are excellent doctors in Libya; however the hospitals are in dire need of modern equipment, technology, healthcare products and drugs.”
In the absence of local production, imports are growing rapidly. At the end of 2006, (the most recent figures available) the total value of imports of drugs and medical consumables was estimated at LD560m per annum, around 60 per cent for pharmaceutical products, and 40 per cent for medical supplies.
Government agencies are the main purchaser, though various organizations such as the Red Crescent and the increasing number of private clinics are increasingly active in the country. Imports were a state monopoly but, since the opening and privatization of this market, new import licenses have been granted to certain operators to supply pharmacies and private clinics.
The reorganization of the public sector currently covers around 60 per cent of total demand. Companies that want to take part in public procurements or distribute products on the market through a local agent must be registered with the Food and Drug Control Centre.
Tenders generally take place in spring for public procurement, but according to some companies active in the market, these processes have, in the past, tended to be anything but predictable. However, since the centralization of Libya’s healthcare administration in March 2006, these processes have become more standardized, predictable and workable.
Libya spends approximately 10 % of its GDP on healthcare. Libyan increasingly suffer from heart stroke; cancer; diabetes; rheumatoid arthritis; asthma; obesity; vascular disease; osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. Opportunities exist for technologies that avert or reduce disability because of these diseases.
As part of the Government initiative to reform the healthcare sector, reforms underway include:
Libyan suppliers are mainly European, with the UK alongside the Italians, Swiss, Germans and French at the forefront of the market.
Libya needs to upgrade its existing facilities and construct new ones. Also, it must invest in substantial equipment upgrades and better integrate the more modern equipment it already possesses.
The Ministry of Health sets technical rules and specifications applicable to all medical equipment to ensure that all products being sold to Libyan end users meet the requirements of safety and quality.
Medical equipment procured by the public sector is tested either by the beneficiary itself (i.e. Ministry of Health). This testing is not applicable to medical equipment procured by the private sector, which is not subject to any testing procedures.
U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information
Name: Mohamed Shwehdi
Position: Commercial Specialist
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