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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8907
JPY
USD
119.77
GBP
USD
0.6496
CAD
USD
1.2492
INR
USD
61.941

Rates may not be current.