The Medical Technology Blog

In the light of recent world developments, Espicom Business Intelligence has just released a new report entitled The Libyan Medical Market: Status & Post-Conflict Opportunities. This report has been compiled from novel forecasts and original materials to give a complete overview of the Libyan health market. Together with the fall of the Gaddafi regime as well as the expected introduction of a more open-handed democratic government, it is time to scrutinize Libya’s medical market economy in the region, examine the way it may develop, and assess the impacts for medical technology companies.

Libya is a small but oil-rich country in North Africa. Under the personal rule of Muammar Gaddafi from 1969 to 2011, it developed an eccentric mixture of socialism and Islam. The country was largely isolated from the international community due to its terrorist links, although Gaddafi made concerted and largely successful moves to re-engage with the West in the 2001-10 period.

2011 saw a bloody but ultimately successful rebellion against Gaddafi’s rule, caused by declining living standards over the past two years, and inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in neighbouring countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. Aided by NATO airpower, anti-Gaddafi forces based in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, were able to take Tripoli in August 2011, and the whole country by October.

Libya’s oil wealth has enabled it to create a reasonably comprehensive healthcare system, but spending remains low in comparison with other oil-rich countries of comparable income such as Saudi Arabia. There is therefore considerable scope for expansion and modernisation in the future. There is no private insurance as such, so local people are largely reliant on the public hospital system. There is a well-equipped private sector, which caters for wealthier locals and workers in the oil industry.

The 2011 fighting has caused serious dislocation in the health sector, at the same time as placing great strains upon it. Some facilities have been directly damaged, while others have faced shortages of power, equipment, supplies and personnel. Most services have remained open, however, and the transitional council in Benghazi established a health ministry early on, in order to restore some normality. Shortages have become far less acute in the latter part of 2011, helped by short term overseas aid and the unlocking of public funds for use by the transitional government.

Libya makes some drugs locally, but has no significant domestic production of medical equipment, so all its requirements have to be met by imports. These were boosted by the thawing of relations with the EU and USA in 2003-04, since when direct trade became far easier. Imports peaked at just under US$200 million in 2009, but fell back in 2010 to US$146 million or US$22 per capita. Around three quarters is sourced from the EU, principally Germany and Italy. Despite the fall in 2010, Libya remains by some margin the leading African importer of medical equipment in per capita terms, ahead of larger economies such as South Africa or Egypt.

Understandably, the fighting in 2011 had a severe effect on the Libyan medical market. Imports shrank to almost nothing in the March to July period when trade became difficult, not least due to the freezing of government finance. With the fall of Tripoli in August and the death of Gaddafi in October, some much-needed stability has returned and a rapid rebound to pre-2011 levels of spending can be expected as the new government – and the private sector – restock and re-equip. Looking further forward, Libya has the opportunity to use its oil wealth to create a sophisticated and advanced health sector in the style of the Gulf states, assuming a degree of political will and ongoing political stability. The latter is far from a certainty, but the prospects appear far brighter post-Gaddafi than under his rule.

To purchase, or read more on this new report please click on the link to The Libyan Medical Market: Status & Post-Conflict Opportunities.

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