E-commerce and Online Trade in Yemen: A Snapshot [Archives:2008/1145/Business & Economy]

April 10 2008

By: YemenTimes Staff
Since the early nineties of last century, several fundamental modifications in human behavior has been affected by the internet, and the subsequent availability of information across the world in a matter of seconds. And Yemen is no exception, since the introduction of internet services in Yemen in 1997, companies and other business establishments started building their websites and home pages in order to have a foot print in the virtual world created by the internet, and since then, Yemen experienced ten years of continued growth in online business activity, including promotion, marketing, retail, and even procurement.

In Yemen, the growth of internet users to over 150,000 users in ten years may seem too small a number for companies to invest in e-commerce and online trade, however, the dynamic nature of the internet has facilitated the creation of consumer-driven markets where individual customers have the same weight – if not more – than large businesses.

Additionally, the inaccessibility of online trade in Yemen has reduced the growth in the number of customers, with the demand for an internet connection or having to pay for internet services, in addition to the illiteracy of most Yemenis in the subject of internet-based trade. Mohammed AbdulSallam, a commercial web developer, stated that companies in Yemen do not opt to put retail channels in their websites due to the relative cost of developing such mechanisms comparing to the cost of putting in a simple information homepage.

He also added that most businesses say that they do not want to “experiment” with online business due to unforeseeable complications that assume possible, mainly due to the ignorance of the many functions and possibilities made possible through the internet.

On the other hand, there have been several businesses which have offered online trade, mainly depending on the classifieds concept. AlBilaad real estate agents is an example of many companies which use the internet as a medium to exhibit their classifieds and market to online audience.

A Respondent Survey

YemenTimes has surveyed several internet users to understand their take on E-commerce in Yemen, Abdulhamid Muhsen, a teacher, stated that there is a fear from engagement in business transactions over the internet because people fear being scammed, they cannot be sure who are they dealing with and cannot make sure of the specifications and quality of the product at display. He also added: “Yemenis need to 'feel' and experience whatever they want to buy before buying it, and this cannot be done through the internet”.

Samir Essam, a taxi driver, stated that the internet is a source of reference, and has a long way to becoming a trade facilitator, he added that the internet might enable him to check the specifications and reviews for a certain product or item, but there is no way that one can make an informed buying decision depending on that information.

Nour Al-haadi, a post-graduate student, stated that its all a matter of the price, if the internet can give customers a better price, then all customers will go shop online, but since the prices online as either not displayed or more expensive than usual, then there is no way people will resort to online buying.

Muhsen Al-Ethani, an accountant, indicated that it is very hard to buy online as the instruments for buying such as credit cards are not available in yemen, even if people find something they want to buy, they don't buy it because they do not have the means to do so.