News / Economy

Yemeni Business Leaders Search for US Investment

Yemeni Business Leaders Search for US Investmenti
|| 0:00:00
X
Jeff Swicord
October 27, 2012 1:34 AM
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. VOA's Jeff Swicord report they are in search of American know-how in power generation, renewable energy, agriculture, water desalination, and waste water treatment.
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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7492
JPY
USD
102.27
GBP
USD
0.5960
CAD
USD
1.0950
INR
USD
61.300

Rates may not be current.