Business in Misrata: The can-do city

LIBYA’S third-largest city became notorious for the fierce battle fought during the 2011 war to oust Muammar Qaddafi. But Misrata survived as the commercial hub. As Libya struggles to persuade foreigners that it is open for business, Misrata’s streets are lined with shiny new shop fronts. Its office buildings bustle.The port and its free zone, where people and firms are exempt from tax, have been buzzing with activity since the city enticed Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian and Tunisair to start direct flights. “We’re doing great,” says Wajdi al-Sahli, the head of Farwa, a shipping agency. “As people rebuild we’re carrying in goods from Italy, Spain, Egypt and Turkey.”The city of 300,000 has always been business-minded but the gap with the rest of the country is widening. Misrata’s militias provide better security than those in bomb-prone Benghazi. The port and free zone have broad autonomy from the central authorities in Tripoli, so decisions are taken more quickly.Entrepreneurs have a collaborative spirit, explains Jibrail Raid, whose family owns the Misrata-based al-Naseem Dairy, one of Libya’s largest companies. When the war ended, local businessmen had a whip-round to pay for rebuilding a destroyed airport terminal and the bombed-out shops on Tripoli Street in the city centre.Foreign firms seeking a way into Libya often look to Misrata first. The city sends delegations…

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