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Libya, officially the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, is a country located in North Africa. Bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Libya lies between Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometers (700,000 sq mi), 90% of which is desert, Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa by area, and the 17th largest in the world.

Background History

The Italians supplanted the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911 and did not relinquish their hold until 1943 when defeated in World War II. Libya then passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951. Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar al-Qadhafi assumed leadership and began to espouse his political system at home, which was a combination of socialism and Islam. During the 1970s, Qadhafi used oil revenues to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversive and terrorist activities that included the downing of two airliners - one over Scotland, another in Northern Africa - and a discotheque bombing in Berlin. UN sanctions in 1992 isolated Qadhafi politically and economically following the attacks; sanctions were lifted in 2003 following Libyan acceptance of responsibility for the bombings and agreement to claimant compensation. Qadhafi also agreed to end Libya's program to develop weapons of mass destruction, and he made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations. Unrest that began in several Middle Eastern and North African countries in late 2010 erupted in Libyan cities in early 2011. Qadhafi's brutal crackdown on protesters spawned a civil war that triggered UN authorization of air and naval intervention by the international community. After months of seesaw fighting between government and opposition forces, the Qadhafi's regime was toppled in mid-2011 and replaced by a transitional government. Libya in 2012 formed a new parliament and elected a new prime minister.



Country Name:

  • conventional long form: none
  • conventional short form: Libya
  • local long form: none
  • local short form: Libiya


  • name: Tripoli
  • geographic coordinates: 32 53 N, 13 10 E
  • time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 24 December 1951 (from UN trusteeship)

Government Type:

  • Currently operating under a transitional government

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President, General National Congress, Nuri Abu Sahmayn
  • head of government: Abdullah al-Thani remains Prime Minister after the 4 May 2014 election is declared unconstitutional; Deputy Prime Ministers Awad Ibrik Ibrahim al-Barasi, Sadiq Abd al-Karim Abd al-Rahman Karim, Abd-al-Salam Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Qadi
  • cabinet: new cabinet approved by the General National Congress on 31 October 2012
  • elections: prime minister and General National Congress president elected by the National Congress


People & Society


  • 6,244,174 (global rank: 108)
  • growth rate: 3.08% (global rank: 10)


  • noun: Libyan(s)
  • adjective: Libyan

Major Cities:

  • Tripoli (capital): 1.127 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • Berber and Arab 97%, other 3% (includes Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, and Tunisians)


  • Muslim (official; virtually all Sunni) 96.6%, Christian 2.7%, Buddhist 0.3%, Hindu <.1, Jewish <.1, folk religion <.1, unafilliated 0.2%, other <.1


  • Arabic (official), Italian, English (all widely understood in the major cities); Berber (Nafusi, Ghadamis, Suknah, Awjilah, Tamasheq)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 76.04 years (global rank: 86)
  • male: 74.36 years
  • female: 77.82 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 11.87 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 126)
  • male: 12.83 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 10.85 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 0.3% (2001 est.) (global rank: 97)
  • people living with AIDS: 10,000 (2001 est.) (global rank: 103)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 89.5%
  • male: 95.8%
  • female: 83.3%



Overview: Libya's economy is structured primarily around the nation's energy sector, which generates about 95% of export earnings, 80% of GDP, and 99% of government income. Substantial revenue from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but Tripoli largely has not used its significant financial resources to develop national infrastructure or the economy, leaving many citizens poor. In the final five years of Qadhafi's rule, Libya made some progress on economic reform as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the international fold. This effort picked up steam after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003 and after Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction. The process of lifting US unilateral sanctions began in the spring of 2004; all sanctions were removed by June 2006, helping Libya attract greater foreign direct investment, especially in the energy and banking sectors. Libyan oil and gas licensing rounds drew high international interest, but new rounds are unlikely to be successful until Libya establishes a more permanent government and is able to offer more attractive financial terms on contracts and increase security. Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing its primarily socialist economy, but the revolution has unleashed previously restrained entrepreneurial activity and increased the potential for the evolution of a more market-based economy. The service and construction sectors expanded over the past five years and could become a larger share of GDP if Tripoli prioritizes capital spending on development projects once political and security uncertainty subside. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 80% of its food. Libya's primary agricultural water source is the Great Manmade River Project.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $73.6 billion
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $11,300
  • real growth rate: -5.1.%
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 2%, industry: 58.3%, services: 39.7%


  • currency: Libyan Dinar (LYD)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 1.277


  • population below poverty line: About one-third of Libyans live at or below the national poverty line
  • unemployment rate: 30%

Agricultural Products:

  • wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans; cattle


  • petroleum, petrochemicals, aluminum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement

Exports Commodities:

  • crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals

Imports Commodities:

  • machinery, semi-finished goods, food, transport equipment, consumer products




  • Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Tunisia


  • total: 1,759,540 sq km (global rank: 17)
  • land: 1,759,540 sq km
  • water: 0 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than Alaska


  • Mediterranean along coast; dry, extreme desert interior

Land Use:

  • arable land: 0.99%
  • permanent crops: 0.19%
  • other: 98.82%

Natural Resources:

  • petroleum, natural gas, gypsum

Current Environmental Issues:

  • desertification; limited natural freshwater resources; the Great Manmade River Project, the largest water development scheme in the world, brings water from large aquifers under the Sahara to coastal cities


Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: dormant disputes include Libyan claims of about 32,000 sq km still reflected on its maps of southeastern Algeria and the FLN's assertions of a claim to Chirac Pastures in southeastern Morocco; various Chadian rebels from the Aozou region reside in southern Libya
  • refugees (country of origin): 16,796 (Syria)
  • internally displaced persons: at least 80,400 (59,400 still displaced at the end of 2013 from the conflict between pro-Qadhafi and anti-Qadhafi forces in 2011; 21,000 displaced by clashes in and around Sebha in 2014)
  • human trafficking: Libya is a destination and transit country for men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution; migrants who seek employment in Libya as laborers and domestic workers or transit Libya en route to Europe may be subject to forced labor; private employers also recruit migrants from detention centers as forced laborers on farms and construction sites; some sub-Saharan women are reportedly forced to work in Libyan brothels

Published: Wednesday, April 01, 2015