Selling sketches and clothes, Libyan women set up businesses against the odds

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A cash crisis means public servants often do not get their salaries paid out in full. (Reuters)
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A cash crisis means public servants often do not get their salaries paid out in full. (Reuters)
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A cash crisis means public servants often do not get their salaries paid out in full. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2019

Selling sketches and clothes, Libyan women set up businesses against the odds

  • Libya has only a tiny private sector and the economy is dominated by the state
  • Cumulative inflation over the last four years has seen real incomes lose more than half of their purchasing power

TRIPOLI: When inflation began eating into her state-paid salary Libyan architect and assistant professor Seham Saleh started selling drawings over the Internet to help pay the bills.
She joins a growing number of Libyan women launching start-ups in the conservative Arab country, where many still think a woman’s place is in the home but where the strains on personal and family income following years’ of political chaos have forced women to look for more work.
Libya has only a tiny private sector, which means there is a market for locally-produced goods. The economy is dominated by the state, which employs most adults under a structure set up by Muammar Qaddafi, who was toppled in 2011.
Men are the traditional breadwinners, although around 30 percent of women were in the labor force as of 2015, according to a UN report.
“I cannot live on my assistant professor salary of 1,000 dinars ($256) even if it is paid out,” said Saleh. She has been selling drawings of people in Libyan dress or book marks she created on a computer.
“Thank God... people wanted to buy the products,” she said. She also does freelance work as an architect.
Once one of the richest countries in the region, the chaos and civil war that ensued after the fall of Qaddafi has seen Libya’s living standards erode. Little is now produced in Libya other than oil, even milk is imported from Europe.
Cumulative inflation over the last four years has seen real incomes lose more than half of their purchasing power, and the government effectively devalued the dinar last September.
A cash crisis means public servants often do not get their salaries paid out in full. Lenders have no cash deposits as the rich prefer to hold their cash themselves, rather than deposit it in a bank.
Women rarely had jobs outside of sectors such as teaching, although the need for more family income has changed the situation, said Jasmin Khoja, head of a women’s business support venture.
Her organization, the Jusoor center for studies and development, has trained some 33 would-be female entrepreneurs, offers legal advice and office space as women often can’t afford their own.
While Seham’s “Naksha” art business is in its early stages, others such as Najwa Shoukri’s start-up are growing fast. She started designing clothes from home in 2016, and selling them online.
Now, together with five other women, she has a workshop selling 50 pieces a month and plans to open a shop next year on Jaraba Street, the main fashion shopping avenue in Tripoli.
To make the shop a success her output would have to rise to 150 pieces a month. Her brother and family have contributed to investments worth 10,000 dinars.
The biggest challenges for start-ups are legal hurdles and the lack of electronic payment systems.
Some Libyan commercial laws go back to the 1960s and are aimed at big corporations such as oil firms, not start-ups. Under these regulations firms need to deposit thousands of dinars.
“Banks do not give loans, which stops projects and makes them unable to grow or employ other women and young people,” Khoja said.
Undeterred, Mayaz Elahshmi started a business last week training women to fix computers and smartphones.
“There is big demand as many women are reluctant to go to a phone shop where men work, as they have personal files on their phones.”
Six people came to her first training session, each paying 30 dinars.


US to extend license for its companies to continue business with Huawei

Updated 25 min 24 sec ago

US to extend license for its companies to continue business with Huawei

  • A longer extension is in the works but has not yet been finalized due to regulatory hurdles

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is set to issue a two-week extension of a license allowing US companies to continue doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies, two sources familiar with the deliberations said.

The extension of around two weeks is far shorter than the prior 90-day extension and a longer extension is in the works but has not yet been finalized due to regulatory hurdles, said one source who was briefed on the matter.

After adding Huawei to an economic blacklist in May citing national security concerns, the US Commerce Department has allowed it to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.

The extension will be announced on Monday, when the earlier reprieve is set to expire, the sources said, declining to be identified as the extension has not been publicly announced.

A spokesman for Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecom network equipment, said the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. The Commerce Department declined to comment.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US added Huawei to an economic blacklist in May citing national security concerns.
  • The Commerce Department is also considering whether to grant individual licenses for US firms to sell components to Huawei.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network on Friday that some rural carriers need the temporary licenses and are dependent on Huawei for 3G and 4G networks.

“There are enough problems with telephone service in the rural communities — we don’t want to knock them out. So, one of the main purposes of the temporary general licenses is to let those rural guys continue to operate,” Ross said.

The development comes amid discussions between the US and China aimed at coming to an initial agreement to resolve a trade war that has lasted for over a year.

In blacklisting Huawei, the US government said it had a “reasonable basis to conclude that Huawei is engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests.” Huawei has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday Huawei and ZTE Corp. “cannot be trusted,” as he backed a proposal to bar US rural wireless carriers from tapping an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase equipment or services from them.

In May, President Donald Trump also signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and barring US companies from using telecommunications equipment made by companies posing a national security risk. The Commerce Department was due to draw up an enforcement plan by mid-October but has yet to publish one.

The Commerce Department is also considering whether to grant individual licenses for US firms to sell components to Huawei after receiving more than 200 requests.