News / Economy

    Yemeni Business Leaders Search for US Investment

    Jeff Swicord
    In a conference room of General Electric Company in downtown Washington D.C., 10 of Yemen’s most successful business leaders sit around a large table.  They are on the second stop in a five-city tour led by U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein to attract American business investment to Yemen.  They are in search of American know-how in power generation, renewable energy, agriculture, water desalination, and waste water treatment.    

    The guests and their host say Yemen is at a critical juncture in its history.  Most Western headlines about Yemen focus on drone strikes and the terrorist activities of the home-grown al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.  But in February of this year, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was swept from power on the coattails of the Arab Spring.  His vice president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, heads up a transitional government preparing for elections in February of 2014.  

    Many regional experts think the timing is right to take on Yemen’s political, economic and security problems. 

    “We believe on the one hand strategically [that] helping the Yemeni private sector develop is something that is going to contribute directly to security and stability in Yemen, and therefore more broadly in the region and the world,” said Ambassador Feierstein.

    Yemen faces many challenges.  One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, 40 percent of the population faces food shortages.  There are one million acutely malnourished children in the country at risk of permanent mental and physical disability.  A third of the population is unemployed.  Militant groups have attacked government infrastructure and aid convoys.  Regular blackouts occur in the capital city Sanaa.  Roads and other infrastructure are often primitive, and clean water is in short supply.

    “I think it would be challenging for American business to establish themselves in Yemen because of underlying structural concerns in the country,” said Katherine Zimmerman, a Yemen analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.  “If you start looking at what businesses need to operate in an efficient manner, Yemen’s infrastructure is not designed for that at this point.”

    But Yemen’s business leaders argue that is precisely the point.  They say the change in government is transforming Yemen’s business climate.  The new government will be more open and transparent.  Changes in laws are making it easier for foreign companies to invest in the country, and companies from Europe and South Asia have already come calling.

    “Yemen is still pure.  It is as they say, ‘a virgin land.’  We have to do everything from scratch.  So, it is better for those companies who would like to invest to come right now.  Now is the correct time, rather than waiting until later when the opportunities are gone,” said Wael Zokri, CEO of Griffin International, which specializes in information technology security.

    There are still concerns about political stability in the country.  Groups loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are still active.  And there are other groups loyal to different members of the former government.  Under the terms of the transition, a national dialogue is to be held soon to form the structure of the new government, review the constitution, and decide on a presidential or parliamentary system.

    “I think that there is quite a possibility that one of these actors will make a move that will throw the transition off course,” said Katherine Zimmerman.  “And so many have chosen to sit back, wait until some of those decisions are made, and then they will get into the game.”

    The business leaders stress the security situation is much improved over a year ago.  While they acknowledge al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is still a threat, it no longer controls so-called Islamic emirates in some of the population centers in the south.  The business leaders say U.S. drone strikes and counterterrorism training provided to the Yemini military are making a difference.

    “There are challenges, we cannot deny.  But we have done a lot and are willing to do much more.  Not only in the government sector, but people are fed up with these problems,” said Ahmed Jumaan, managing director of Jumaan Trading and Investment Company.  “When you compare the situation last year to today, you would find we are much better off.  So that is why we are here with confidence to call and request American partners to come.”

    The business leaders say their reception in the U.S. has been very positive.  And their schedule is filling up quickly.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8926
    JPY
    USD
    116.68
    GBP
    USD
    0.6871
    CAD
    USD
    1.3751
    INR
    USD
    67.653

    Rates may not be current.