MEDA’s Libya Economic Empowerment (LEE) project began in Oct. 2012 and successfully completed in March 2020. Originally named Libya Women Economic Empowerment (LWEE), the project was designed specifically to release the unrecognized economic potential of youth and women’s entrepreneurship and thereby contribute to Libya’s economic growth and political stability.
The project sought to identify those obstacles that are unique to youth and women’s full participation in Libya’s formal economy and provide innovative solutions to those obstacles. Research shows that development interventions that focus on women have a greater secondary impact on development at the household level as women are much more likely to invest income into the betterment of their families and communities. Not only does increased income result in economic wellbeing, but the creation of business networks and mentorship can build trust within a community and reduce instability. The result of empowering youth and women leaders with business skills is to enhance social aspiration for diverse economic opportunities for inclusive and sustained economic growth for Libya.
Following the 2011 revolution, Libya has continued to struggle with the transition to a decentralized and inclusive economy. The economic system under General Muammar Gaddafi was highly centralized with heavy reliance on, and investment in the oil industry. Entrepreneurship, the engine for growth and innovation in many economies, was not encouraged and remains woefully underdeveloped leading to a huge loss in economic potential. Women and youth face great challenges in participating in Libya’s economic recovery and remain a largely untapped economic resource, even though they were at the forefront in the fight for independence.
With limited budget and numerous security challenges, the project was focused only on Tripoli and had an initial target of supporting 200 women. By the end of the project, LEE had completed activities in 13 cities and had 3,503 clients (73% women) from 36 locations across Libya. The Project’s ability to expand its reach outside Tripoli was largely due to the Project’s clients requesting support and facilitating entry to new locations, which is a testament to the reputation of the project and the demand for business development support services on behalf of women. Due to this success, our funding partner, USAID, requested the project to expand its target client audience in the last two years of the project to include Libyan youth, particularly male youth, who were most likely to be recruited into extremist activity (at this time, the project dropped “women” from the title to be more inclusive).
Summary of core activities:
- Support to business development
- Leadership skills
- Access to capital
- Creation and support of business networks
At the conclusion of the project, the political situation in Libya remains unchanged and complicated. However, the LEE Project team takes some consolation in knowing that it has equipped thousands of women and youth with the ability to create livelihoods in the midst of uncertainty and hopes that Libya, perhaps because of these entrepreneurs, can make the transition to a stable, free, and inclusive economy. Thank you for your support on this challenging but rewarding project!