How did a Tunisian businessman become the manager of a Libyan-owned hotel in Bangui?

A report by Africa Intelligence highlighted the acquisition, in early March, by the Vice President of Tunisian Esperance Sportive de Esperance, and director of the Arem Group, which owns four hotels in Djerba, on the management of Ledger Plaza, the most luxurious tourist establishment in Bangui, the capital of Central Africa, owned by the Libyan African Investment Company (LAICO).

Ledger Plaza is the fourth institution to transfer its ownership from LAICO to the Arem Group, as it acquired two of its three properties in Bamako in late 2020 under the same conditions, namely L’Amitié Hotel, one of the main hotels in the financial capital, and Al-Farouq Hotel, which is a hotel on the banks of the Niger River, whose name has been changed to Meridiana, is now managed by the Granada Group of Hotels, an entity controlled by Arem and his cousin, Mohamed Shababshop.

The two hotels were affected by the spread of the Coronavirus, and they also suffered more after the January 2022 coup and the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States on Mali.

In mid-2021, the Arem-Shababshop alliance acquired the 300-room LAICO hotel, now known as Blue Marine H, in the Tunisian seaside resort of Yasmine.

LAICO hopes, through Arem’s acquisition of Ledger Plaza; to put an end to years of conflict as the hotel, a stronghold of political, diplomatic and commercial dealings in Bangui, was the subject of a row between LAICO’s Tripoli staff and RCA’s Central African managing director Ziad Al Zarzour Khalifa, who was appointed in 2014 at the time of the struggle between the two Libyan governments for power in the country, when began to gradually liberate himself from the parent company, according to the report.

It required several interventions from the Libyan fund, with the support of politicians in Tripoli, to regain control and replace Khalifa in last September with one of its executive directors, Khaled al-Maftrash, who was already chairman of the board of directors of Ledger Plaza, but Khalifa, who has good relations with the Central African government, did not leave quietly, and succeeded on several occasions, Libyan diplomats and LAICO representatives were denied access to Bangui.

According to the report; relaunching Ledger Plaza will not be an easy task for Arem, who initially intends to at least manage it directly. He needs, in conjunction with the tense political situation in Central Africa, to find a way to access the hotel to the major global hotel reservation platforms that in recent years have not offered these platforms hotels. LAICO fears violating international sanctions imposed on many Libyan assets abroad since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011. However, it is possible that handing over management to a major international hotel chain, despite the controversy it may raise, is a marketing solution.

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