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OPINION: Go South to Fezzan Young Men and Claim Libya’s Future - by Abdullah Elmaazi
15/12/2012 14:00:00
By Abdullah Elmaazi

“Can you do addition?” the White Queen asked. “What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?” “I don’t know,” said Alice. “I lost count.” Through the Looking Glass has made lessons for post Gaddafi Libya. The most difficult thing in life is to discover the obvious. Thus one of the next government’s immediate concerns must be the economic and social development of the Fezzan region.

Prime Minister elect Ali Zidan is well placed to understand the pressing problems in the Fezzan region being himself from Uadan. As the development pendulum swings, the approach of Libyan national policy makers and central authorities should be the incorporation of a macro view of national economic development rather than one built upon regional favouritism.

In the case of Fezzan however, there is more than economic development; at stake are compelling national security issues. If the situation in the Fezzan region is not stabilised Libya’s coastal region will suffer the consequences. Without the south as an integral and viable part of the country there will be no Eastern, Central or Western Libya for there can be no Libya. A process of dramatic marginalisation will inevitably result.

Fezzan is Libya’s soft underbelly bordering northern Sudan, Chad, Niger , south western Egypt and southern eastern Algeria. The strip of land from northern Chad all the way to Mauritania forms what is known as the Sahel region, one of the poorest strips of land and socio-economic deprivation- stretching all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

These are areas where the central government control is weakest and where the potential for groups, outside the mainstream, to recruit arm and train their members with a domino effect are ripe. Recent events in Mali and Niger as well as in parts of the Fezzan clearly illustrate this.

An economically developed Fezzan can play a major role in the development of the Sahel and ultimately in pacifying it. As economic growth spurs Fezzan it can offer employment opportunities to the skilled labour force from bordering countries and help ease the tide of illegal immigration.

A more ambitious project that will help to transform Fezzan, provide local employment opportunities and contribute to regional development is to turn Sebha airport into a regional cargo transit hub. There have been a number of studies for such a hub but none of them looked at Fezzan or Sebha.

The airport project can be offered on a BOT basis. The central government’s contribution can be limited to laying down the necessary transport and communication infrastructure and budgeting for their operation and maintenance.

Fezzan receiving high direct solar insulation is also very well suited for projects harnessing/utilising solar energy for power generation and other applications. The cost of generating solar power in Fezzan could be as low as the cost of buying conventional electricity. As fuel supplies diminish around the globe, solar power will become an even more important source of energy. Fezzan can place itself at the forefront of the post fossil fuel economies.

In such undertakings, the University of Sebha is the most well placed institution to partner with universities in the United States to help bring about the transformation of the Fezzan region.

The University of Sebha can draw on the wealth of experiences and know-how of universities such as Arizona State University and the University of Arizona that have for decades been engaged in specialised research in topics of agricultural, soil, scarce water resources and combating dessert conditions in the US with very similar climatic and soil conditions.

In shouldering this responsibility and assuming this pioneering role, the University of Sebha will itself become a centre of excellence in the Sahel region and help in triggering regional development.

With the right strategic partners and mechanisms in place, the University of Sebha will be positioned to pioneer research that can benefit tens of thousands of local inhabitants, develop small to medium sized projects such as fish tank farming and palm date cultivation, packaging and export.

These projects need little capital outlay and are well suited as to the social structure of the population scattered around the oasis. Both tank fish farming and date palm cultivation are suitable as small community projects and have a track record of success in similar soil and climatic conditions.

An essential corollary of this incorporation into development planning will have to be that the universities in the Fezaan region structure partnerships with renowned international universities and as result can play holistically both the role of catalyst and innovator in the education sector of the Sahel region.

These universities can be tasked with contributing to the development of scientific and technological infrastructures, and in the popularisation of science and technology.

It is progress, or lack of it, in these areas that distinguishes the most important causes for the differential social and economic disparities between countries. An essential prerequisite to a country's technological progress is recognition of the necessity of a revamped and focused education system.

In partnership with concerned ministries at home and educational institutions abroad, Fezzan based universities, provided they form the strategic partnerships with top universities abroad, can be transformed from the ignominious position they have descended into recently, to centres of excellence benefiting not only Libya but the whole Sahel region.

Call To Action

There is a crucial necessity for the economic development of the Fezzan region. I will therefore be most appreciative if others with vision and dynamism for the economic development of Libya see merit in any of these ideas produce a fresh analysis and give shape to it.

Perhaps the present staff in the universities of the Fezzan region can produce feasibility studies and business plans for both development projects in their respective regions and pursue the outcome of that synthesis into national economic development policy frameworks.

Libya’s economic and political destiny should be a matter of choice, not chance.

abdullah.elmaazi@yahoo.co.uk
Comment:
Well done again. Another great article by Mr Elmaazi. It is good to read such articles on The Tripoli Post as they give the readers something to chew on. I honestly also hope that the authorities read them too and act upon the suggestions.
Comment:
I totally agree with Mr Elmaazi with two additional notes. The first is that additional resources present although not exlusively but in more abundance in the south more than most other regions are oil, natural gas , water and source for solar power. All these added to the good nature of people there with good planning can bring renascence to Fezzan region that is based on its strategic resources and tribal role

The second point is that Having pointing such agreement and support is that, not only for Fezzan but for the entire country there are lessons to use as the foundation for moving forward before any body can dream of a bright future for the country: These lessons are very clearly can be drawn from throughout the history that extends all the way from the prophet Mohammed entering Mecca and his first words after victory that sparked a tribal forgiveness and reconciliations and all the good that follow. Abraham Lincoln speech after the American civil war and Nelson Mandela Truth and reconciliation are built on prophet and others first steps to rebuilding after victory of the just over the unjust. Many may understand what I am trying to point better if I leave you with these final words quoted from Abraham Lincoln second inaugural speech:"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Comment:
most important is the closing statement " Libya’s economic and political destiny should be a matter of choice, not chance."
Comment:
It is extremely important for the Libyan Government to immediately embark on serious work to persuade indigenous patriotic political talent and economic and development experts to return to Fezzan to begin urgent services that are decades late.


This in addition to drawing up the necessary development plans to change the social environment or else Fezzan will become a safe haven for arms smugglers , human traffickers a transit point of preference for illegal immigrants on their way to Europe and breeding ground for extremism in quite a similar fashion to Sinai in Egypt.

The choice is stark,the warning is clear and the writing is on the wall. Only the politically blind cannot see it
Comment:
You have raised awareness to a region that has been continually neglected though it forms an essential part of the country and without which Libya would not have gained independence and unity. The ideas mentioned in the article are all worth looking into and can be a basis for further elaboration and serious thinking enabling policy makers in reaching an outcome of practical actions to remedy the short and long term needs of security and sustainable development the people there are crying out for.
But before that stage i am of the opinion that the basic framework of the country needs to be built and our energies should be pooled in that direction right now. We have witnessed random local elections taking place here and there, maybe they could have served some kind of purpose during the initial period of the revolution. They are entities without a legal basis, what governs their actions and what are their relationships with the central authorities based upon ? The ones ( local councils ) in existence have they met the aspirations of those who elected them?
I think we should be focused on the process of constitutionalisation and into drafting a document answering the question of why have the people and especially the youths have revolted on the 17th of February 2011. Wide discussions on this should be initiated at all levels so that people are aware of the ideas circulating around and this will help them form an opinion. Within this context an economical , social institution or council can be set up to advise , make studies and recommendations on economic policy of the country. The general economic and financial orientations have not been yet clarified and until this has happened it would not be easy to take investment decisions at all levels. Many developed and developing countries have provisions for this council in their constitutions .
Also most ( just not to say all ) of the Libyan universities need a gigantic overhaul in infrastructure and resources . They have suffered from deliberate and systematic measures of destruction from the previous regime that had a natural inimicality to knowledge and learning.
In the meantime citizens who have the capacity, knowledge and expertise should participate in discussions, conferences concerning the future political , social and economic organisation of our country at local and national levels . These forums could be a platform to launch these schemes that you referred to.
Comment:

This is a good article Abdullah Elmaazi. You could however have focused more on the fact that the people of the Fezzan are the underclass in Libya.

While their land is rich in resources including oil and that very rare resource in Libya , water , their share of their own riches is less per capita than Libyans of other regions. It’s a mark of the civility of the people of Fezzan that they don’t turn off the water and oil taps as a form of blackmail the way other regions so readily do.

While other regions talk about needing to have a disproportionate representation in the central government , the people of Fezzan have not had for the last hundred years one of their own as state governor. They have always been dominated by powerful tribes from the North. This needs to stop not out of the good heartedness of the northern tribe but because it’s no longer acceptable to the young generation in Fezzan . Discrimination whether latent or blatant and has no place in the 21st century.

Of all of the regions talking about decentralisation, federalism or even outright secession Fezzan is the only region which is viably self-sufficient in resources . Its Fezzan which keeps Libya as a viable stable and independent country. The people of Fezzan realise this , it’s time the people of other regions understand it as well otherwise they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Comment:
تسعى المؤسسة لتقديم الدعم للمجالس المحلية ومؤسسات المجتمع المدني بالجنوب خاصةً وبكافة انحاء ليبيا عامةً، وتفعيل طاقاته الطبيعية والبشرية والمادية بما يسهم في تنمية وتطوير ليبيا الجديدة وترسيخ الديمقراطية والعدالة لتحقيق الأهداف التالية:
1.تنسيق وتنفيذ برامج التوعية في مختلف المجالات السياسية والاقتصادية والادارية.
2.الدعم والمساهمة الجادة في برامج المصالحة الوطنية.
3.تحريض شباب الجنوب للتطلع لأهداف عليا وسامية لتنمية مجتمعات الجنوب والابتعاد عن النظرة القبلية والجهوية وبناء ثقافة الجسد الواحد.
4.تجميع الدراسات السابقة والمشاريع المقترحة لإعادة دراستها وإمكانية تفعيلها.
5.إعداد الدراسات الاقتصادية والثقافية والاجتماعية والفنية لمساعدة متخذي القرار.

نحن نعلم أن الجنوب الليبي غني بثرواته الطبيعية ومشاريعه الإستراتيجية الكبرى والتي لابد من استثمارها بشد أيادي
وحشد همم شبابه الفاعل.

لدى نحن ندعوكم للمساهمة في هذه المؤسسة، فإن المشاركة لا تحتاج إلى وسيط أو إجراءات أو معاملات معينة اللهم إلا حب الوطن وإثار النفس والذات من اجل هذا الجزء الواعد من وطننا العزيز، والذي لا يجب أن نبخل عليه ولو بجزء من وقتنا ليس أكثر.

إن كل أبناء وطننا في أرجاء ليبيا بالداخل والخارج خاصة ممن كان لهم الجنوب حاضنا في الماضي والحاضر ومستقبلا بإذنه تعالى، فلنشارك في بناء ورقي ليبيا الجديدة.
Comment:
As Libya's main source of wealth, its natural resources are a focal point for competition and
conflict. Resource conflicts are often the result of a growing population, climate change,
and poor management but the constantly shifting power struggles of national politics also have intervened and have the potential of turning groups that coexisted peacefully into rivals.

Decades of neglect and heavy-handed control by the central government in Tripoli have left many Libyan communities on the periphery cut off from the financial and developmental benefits of resource wealth, particularly from oil . . There is no refinery in, or oil pipeline to, the Fezzan capital, Sebha. Electrical networks are almost exclusively in the north, and all hydro power and the best irrigation systems are in the north. Investment for development in the north far outstrips that for the Fezzan
.
Libya's resource management is often opaque and not directed at sustainability and
human development. For example, agreements between the central government and oil
companies are undisclosed in full, and production numbers are not independently verified. Policies
on managing oil, and water resources are not clear. Laws governing the oil industry
and resource administration are both outdated and poorly enforced, and environmental impact
assessments, particularly in the oil industry, are largely absent.

In all of the above Fezzan get a very raw deal indeed. This needs to change if Africa is not to see another secessionist movement , this time in the south of Libya take root
Comment:
Yet another excellent article by Abdullah Elmaazi .
I strongly second his call for action.

"There is a crucial necessity for the economic development of the Fezzan region. I will therefore be most appreciative if others with vision and dynamism for the economic development of Libya see merit in any of these ideas produce a fresh analysis and give shape to it.

Perhaps the present staff in the universities of the Fezzan region can produce feasibility studies and business plans for both development projects in their respective regions and pursue the outcome of that synthesis into national economic development policy frameworks"

This is the sentence I agree with most

"Libya’s economic and political destiny should be a matter of choice, not chance."


Good luck with that
Comment:
Fezzan needs a State body to end its marginalization . Instead it gets declared a “ war zone”

Dire economic circumstances and decades of neglect under successive Libyan governments including those who came to power after the revolution have turned Fezzan into a breeding ground for criminals , arms smugglers , drug smugglers traffickers in humans as well as different shades of extremists .
Fezzan has been exploited used and abused by its northern brethren for tens of years . No one is blameless in this not least the revolutionary fortune hunters who now dominate the Libyan scene .

The people of Fezzan should start their own revolutions to rid themselves of among others their feudal rulers. Failing that they will be confined to more decades of serfdom . The shame will be that of the international human rights organisations and the so called the “ International Community “

When will an authentic indigenous FREE FEZZAN movement make its voice heard ?
Comment:
partner with universities in the United States to help bring about the transformation of the Fezzan region. that's good , but why don't we try Japanese universities and institutes. As we know Asian people so helpful and respectful . nowadays Japanese Technologies are the best.we have to start moving to rebuild Fezzan and all libya ,
and we have to make it easy , as simple as we can . if we think it's big problem , so we are gonna spend our time just for thinking about solve it, but if we start solving our problem by simple solution we will overcome it. we just need to be honest and loyal to our homeland
Comment:
Said Hoderi . You agree that " Libya’s economic and political destiny should be a matter of choice, not chance."

The choice should of course be ours and its us who must make it happen. We have far too many discussion forums. Lets have some which are dedicated to making a difference through direct action.

The forum you are involved with " مؤسسة خبراء الجنوب" is very well suited to play such an action orientated role.

You must have read our mutual friend , Idris Assed's , extremely well informed and informative comment above.
I don't think we can afford to just read Idris's comment , forget about it , and move on

You and I both know that , in keeping with a long family tradition, Idris Assed is consumed with a passion for Libya as a whole and a devotion to helping bring prosperity to a Fezzan which is an integral part of a united Libya. Idriss personal messages to me were a major if not the main inspiration in writing this article. His above comment should therefore inspire us into action. Idris suggests that"In the meantime citizens who have the capacity, knowledge and expertise should participate in discussions, conferences concerning the future political , social and economic organisation of our country at local and national levels . These forums could be a platform to launch these schemes "

So Lets do that

May I suggest that your group "مؤسسة خبراء الجنوب" together with the Tripoli Post organise a workshop at the University of Sebha to discuss the proposal that " The present staff in the universities of the Fezzan region can produce feasibility studies and business plans for both development projects in their respective regions and pursue the outcome of that synthesis into national economic development policy frameworks. "

Other than " مؤسسة خبراء الجنوب " and the Tripoli Post ,Who else Said Hoderi do you suggest can be a dedicated sponsor of such a workshop

You can respond with your ideas directly to Said Laswad at
editor@tripolipost.com .

Said Laswad will waste no time in moving the idea forward.

The invitation of course is a public one and not confined to Said Hoderi nor just to "مؤسسة خبراء الجنوب "


Comment:
It’s very unfortunate if the recent closure of Libya’s borders with its southern neighbours and the appointment of a military governor for Fezzan means that instead of becoming the centre for regional peaceful development Fezzan is to be for the foreseeable future yet another theatre for the global “ war on terror “
Some of us have been trying to highlight the perilous situation in Fezzan and its implication for the rest of Libya and calling for immediate remedial action for several months.
This is what I wrote nine months ago on the Tripoli Post as a comment on the article “Libyan Association of American Universities Graduates Established in Tripoli “ dated 31/03/2012 in which Dr. Ramadan Sennusi Belhaj LAAUG chairman was interviewed by the Tripoli Post
http://www.tripolipost.com/articledetail.asp?c=1&i=8117

“Of immediate concern must be the economic and social development of the Fezzan region, Libya’s soft underbelly. Recent events in Sebha should have underlined this fact to all concerned. The University of Sebha is the most well placed institution to partner with others in the US to aid transformation of the Fezzan region.”


The present situation the people of Fezzan find themselves in , could have easily been avoided if we had proactive far sighted statesmen instead of reactive politicians far too absorbed with issues of immediate political expediency to look much further than the end of their noses .
Comment:
Along of what Mr.Elmaazi mentioned above the security of Libya starts at Fezzan ,it is amatter of choice not a chance, raising the awareness of the intelectual community regarding this issue is very important.The LAAUG ready to participate in any effort to organize an event to takle the issue
Comment:
Much of the comments stated in this panel have been quite impressive. As theoretical as the comments' natures may have been, they add more focus, orientation and direction towards the creation of watchdog communities, public policy institutions and so forth.
However, I would like to raise the attention to something, which I believe is of major significance and importance to Libya, now more than ever before. Economic development projects in Libya have so far been relying on the usual government infusion of oil money to public buildings and infrastructure development in general. What about alternative forms of Financing, known these days as "Smart Capital" financing. The banking system in Libya has been rigged with opaque economic activities and loan granting based on total miscalculation of asset and project valuations in the country. The system, I believe, has known, notoriously enough, economic activities based on tribes' popularity, families' reputation and so on. Instead of heavily relying on a poorly structured banking system, why don't the government foster private investments from sectors other than oil? And specifically from foreign expert countries in smart capital. It is, I believe, a major, but not the only way to diversify away as much as we can from oil dependence. We need to urgently diversify our heavy reliance on Oil revenues to kick-start all forms of economic life. Western civilizations have never been able to know outrageous economic expansions until they relied on a good financial system that started with the creation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and going even further to listing their companies, as they grew in time, on public stock exchanges.
Of course, logically speaking Libya cannot, for the time being, reach that culture of investment banking. The other way, seems to me, is the smart way. Private Equity firms; Venture Capitalists; Angel investors. Those are the so-called smart investments that have been fuelling a lot of economic growth in countries lacking the oil riches of Libya, such as Morocco, Tunisia and especially Egypt. The majority of those Private equity firms in the MENA region are concentrated in the gulf countries and have been created in oil-rich countries for the same reasons I have mentioned: Diversifying away from oil dependence, creating a strong entrepreneurial culture. Not just loaning funds to SMEs, but instead, offering managerial assistance all along after infusing the necessary capital…
I think Fezzan needs the Libyan government to layout the essential first of all, a reliable infrastructure. Roads, highways, modern garbage disposal systems, security of course, hospitals, schools, hotels, and and and and…the list can really go on.
A form of Financial hub, such as the ones in Dubai, in Qatar, or more recently the soon-to-be Casablanca Finance City in Morocco, can act as a major magnet for foreign capital infusion and financing to SMEs, not only in the region of Fezzan but may be a catalyser of economic growth in the country as a whole.
Without serious plans of diversification away from the usual financing sources, Libya will be going into a dark tunnel with no end. Our prophet Muhammad may ALLAH’s prayers and peace is upon him has once said: “لا خير في امة تاكل مالا تزرع وتلبس مالا تنسج”
It is high time that we start initiating financing techniques that would, help SMEs in Fezzan and in other Libyan regions alike, diversify away from oil money, and create a more sustainable Economy that relies on SMART CAPITAL and HUMAN CAPITAL, not only on OIL CAPITAL. The latter will very soon vanish; the formers are the future for Libya, at least in my own opinion.
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