Getting Aden to where it belongs [Archives:2002/50/Viewpoint]

December 9 2002

Aden is the city that we all have been having great hope in. Ambitions have been high ever since unity, to have it as a competing regional hub and free zone port for business and trade from all over the globe.
When we look at Aden today, we see a gloomy image of a city suffering from lack of investment and a shrinking market. Companies in Aden complain that they are simply losing. There isn’t interest in investing in Aden, unlike in the past.
What happened? What went wrong?
The most important element that gave Aden a bad name was security. The USS Cole incident of 2000 was more than enough to keep international companies from approaching Aden for trade.
The Western media was quick to associate terrorism with southern governorates in Yemen, including Hadramout. Some media love to remind us that is the original home of the number one wanted person on Earth, Osama bin Laden.
As if that wasn’t enough, the oil supertanker Limburg attack near Al-Mukalla brought even more devastation for the Aden’s economy. Despite the fact that Al-Mukalla is hundreds of miles away from Aden, yet because they share the same coastline and trade route, Aden was directly affected.
Other threats by al-Qaeda that further attacks will take place to the ‘lifeline’ of the West – represented by oil – has discouraged whoever thought of Aden as a future investment destination. Investment needed for its free zone, is now extremely weak.
But even if all these attacks and reports wouldn’t have happened, there are still domestic issues that need to be resolved. Every investor or company needs purchasing power in order to achieve profits through sales.
But Adenese are fleeing their city for Sanaa, where they find better job opportunities. This applies almost to all smaller towns. Aden has been abandoned for so long and the strict centralization in the country has caused most young people to leave to Sanaa.
Aden could receive greater attention by the central administration if opportunities are provided. In my experience of receiving job applications in Sana’a, I have learned that most of the qualified applicants come from Aden. But because job opportunities are so scarce in Aden, they tend to apply for work in Sanaa.
Aden has become unbearable for them as a city where they could have ends meet. In short, Aden has great potential that could be exploited easily by our government if it only thinks strategically.
Nowadays, Aden is receiving an influx of local tourists coming from the northern parts of the country. Instead of waiting for the international investors to come to the country, why don’t we use this time to work on the infrastructure of Aden and provide better water, sanitation, cleanliness, and educational services?
The city can absorb many more entertainment projects and public parks that could drive more tourist from all over the country.
We have the time to take those steps, so why wait? It would be a wise idea to have the city prepared for the time when security and stability are regained in the area. Then, investors will come running to a beautiful, well-organized, and attractive port that could once again rise to the occasion.