Facts about Libya

World Facts Index

Libyan leader Muammar GaddafiThe 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 Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI began to espouse his own political system, the Third Universal Theory. The system is a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices and is supposed to be implemented by the Libyan people themselves in a unique form of "direct democracy." QADHAFI has always seen himself as a revolutionary and visionary leader. He used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. In addition, beginning in 1973, he engaged in military operations in northern Chad's Aozou Strip - to gain access to minerals and to use as a base of influence in Chadian politics - but was forced to retreat in 1987. UN sanctions in 1992 isolated QADHAFI politically following the downing of Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. During the 1990s, QADHAFI began to rebuild his relationships with Europe. UN sanctions were suspended in April 1999 and finally lifted in September 2003 after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. In December 2003, Libya announced that it had agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and to renounce terrorism. QADHAFI has made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations since then. He has received various Western European leaders as well as many working-level and commercial delegations, and made his first trip to Western Europe in 15 years when he traveled to Brussels in April 2004. Libya has responded in good faith to legal cases brought against it in US courts for terrorist acts that predate its renunciation of violence. Claims for compensation in the Lockerbie bombing, LaBelle disco bombing, and UTA 772 bombing cases are ongoing. The US rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. In late 2007, Libya was elected by the General Assembly to a nonpermanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2008-09 term.

Geography of Libya

Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Tunisia
25 00 N, 17 00 E
total: 1,759,540 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 1,759,540 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Alaska
Land boundaries:
total: 4,348 km
border countries: Algeria 982 km, Chad 1,055 km, Egypt 1,115 km, Niger 354 km, Sudan 383 km, Tunisia 459 km
1,770 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 NM
note: Gulf of Sidra closing line - 32 degrees, 30 minutes north
Mediterranean along coast; dry, extreme desert interior
mostly barren, flat to undulating plains, plateaus, depressions
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sabkhat Ghuzayyil -47 m
highest point: Bikku Bitti 2,267 m
Natural resources:
petroleum, natural gas, gypsum
Natural hazards:
hot, dry, dust-laden ghibli is a southern wind lasting one to four days in spring and fall; dust storms, sandstorms
Environment current issues:
desertification; very limited natural fresh water resources; the Great Manmade River Project, the largest water development scheme in the world, is being built to bring water from large aquifers under the Sahara to coastal cities
Geography - note:
more than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert

Population of Libya

6,173,579 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 33.6% (male 1,012,748/female 969,978)
15-64 years: 62.2% (male 1,891,643/female 1,778,621)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 121,566/female 126,198)
Median age:
23 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
23.71 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.69 years
male: 74.46 years
female: 79.02 years
Fertility rate:
3.28 children born/woman
noun: Libyan(s)
adjective: Libyan
Ethnic groups:
Berber and Arab 97%, Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, Tunisians
Sunni Muslim 97%
Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 82.6%
male: 92.4%
female: 72% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
local long form: Al Jumahiriyah al Arabiyah al Libiyah ash Shabiyah al Ishtirakiyah al Uzma
Government type:
Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in fact, a military dictatorship
Administrative divisions:
25 municipalities (baladiyat, singular - baladiyah); Ajdabiya, Al 'Aziziyah, Al Fatih, Al Jabal al Akhdar, Al Jufrah, Al Khums, Al Kufrah, An Nuqat al Khams, Ash Shati', Awbari, Az Zawiyah, Banghazi, Darnah, Ghadamis, Gharyan, Misratah, Murzuq, Sabha, Sawfajjin, Surt, Tarabulus, Tarhunah, Tubruq, Yafran, Zlitan; note - the 25 municipalities may have been replaced by 13 regions
24 December 1951 (from Italy)
National holiday:
Revolution Day, 1 September (1969)
11 December 1969, amended 2 March 1977
Legal system:
based on Italian civil law system and Islamic law; separate religious courts; no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch:
chief of state: Revolutionary Leader Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI (since 1 September 1969); note - holds no official title, but is de facto chief of state
head of government: Secretary of the General People's Committee (Prime Minister) al-Baghdadi Ali al-MAHMUDI (since 5 March 2006)
cabinet: General People's Committee established by the General People's Congress
elections: national elections are indirect through a hierarchy of people's committees; head of government elected by the General People's Congress; election last held March 2006.
Legislative branch:
unicameral General People's Congress (members elected indirectly through a hierarchy of people's committees)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders:
Political pressure groups and leaders:
various Arab nationalist movements with almost negligible memberships may be functioning clandestinely, as well as some Islamic elements; an anti-QADHAFI Libyan exile movement exists, primarily based in London, but has little influence


The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which contribute about 95% of export earnings, about one-quarter of GDP, and 60% of public sector wages. Substantial revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society. Libyan officials in the past five years have made progress on economic reforms 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 as Libya announced in December 2003 that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction. Almost all US unilateral sanctions against Libya were removed in April 2004, helping Libya attract more foreign direct investment, mostly in the energy sector. Libyan oil and gas licensing rounds continue to draw high international interest; the National Oil Company set a goal of nearly doubling oil production to 3 million bbl/day by 2015. Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps - including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization - are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy. The non-oil manufacturing and construction sectors, which account for more than 20% of GDP, have expanded from processing mostly agricultural products to include the production of petrochemicals, iron, steel, and aluminum. Climatic conditions and poor soils severely limit agricultural output, and Libya imports about 75% of its food. Libya's primary agricultural water source remains the Great Manmade River Project, but significant resources are being invested in desalinization research to meet growing water demands.

$74.72 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 7.6%
industry: 49.9%
services: 42.5%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
1.64 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 23%
services: 59%
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
petroleum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement
wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans; cattle
crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas
Export partners:
Italy 38%, Germany 15.7%, Spain 8.8%, France 6.3%, Turkey 6%, US 5.3%
machinery, transport equipment, semi-finished goods, food, consumer products
Import partners:
Italy 20.8%, Germany 10.5%, South Korea 6.7%, Turkey 5.5%, Tunisia 5.2%, UK 4.9%, France 4.6%, China 4.5%
Libyan dinar (LYD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

Copyright 2004 - 2008 worldfacts.us