Young Yemeni Entrepreneurs: Overview of the 8th Summit in Brussels [Archives:2001/24/Business & Economy]

June 11 2001

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times
Back from Brussels end of last month, after attending the Third LDC conference, 8th Young Entrepreneurs summit, what do Yemeni participants have to say? The Young entrepreneurs summit happens yearly. The idea was mooted by a successful business man Mr. Sujit Choudry, who established the Institute of Leadership development (ILD) in York University of Canada. The idea was to gather young Entrepreneurs from most of the Least Developed Countries, provide a special kind of training for them so that they enhance their productivity and standard of performance. Not only that, but also to provide some kind of support and encouragement for them through their interaction with the developed countries and the donor agencies in the world. After 7 previous summits, ILD managed to reach an international standard in organization, and this time it was able to be conducted along with the Third LDC conference gaining thereby a high governmental and authoritative profile.
It is interesting to know that this kind of institution is the fist of its kind in the world. Yet it has already gained a lot of appreciation and popularity, for the impact of such activities on young Entrepreneurs world wide.
Five Yemeni companies took part in the summit, namely: Yemen Company for Fisheries and Marine l`Life, Businesswomen group, Yemen Feed Company, Al Farouk Institute, Al and Amal Company.
Yemen Company for Fisheries & Marine Life
A leading company in Fisheries Sector in Yemen and one of the largest in the Middle East. Established in 1996, it aims at engaging in all types of Fisheries Business including: Catching, processing, marketing and manufacturing of Fishing equipment and tools. With a Capital of 12 million US Dollars, the company today deals with 73.100 tons of different kinds of fish annually, ranging from Sardines, Tunas, Crevalle, Cattle Fish, Shrimps, Lobsters and many other types. The company exports mainly to Europe ( France, Netherlands, Spain) and also to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.
The Yemen Company for Fisheries and Marine Life, represented by Chairman of the Board Director Mr. Ali Mohammed Al-Wafi, participated as private sector in the LDCIII conference at the invitation from York University in Canada, and from UNCTAD to attend the 8th summit for Young Entrepreneurs.
“Donors found out that the more they provide aids to least developed countries the less development actually take place. With globalization they realized that the private sector is the key factor in enhancing the economic status of underdeveloped countries to ensure competition and better industrial growth. We participated in the summit in order to expand our dealings over seas, seeking Joint Venture Partners, also to improve on our knowledge and contacts, creating applied knowledge partnerships.” Mr. Al-Wafi said.
As for the problems Fishery Companies are facing in Yemen and whether the conference helped in clearing them, he told that the basic problem when it comes to exporting to the outside market is the high standards required by the western markets. This is symbolized by what is called “the European Number”. Keeping in mind the American and Japanese competition, the standard of laboratories here in Yemen cannot compete with high advanced level of such countries. Also the decreasing value of the euro due to the fact that Europe is the main market for this company contributes to the problem.
“Working in Marine and Fisheries is a very risky job. We not only suffer from the hard working circumstances in the sea, and dangers of pirates even monopoly taking place in catching, but also we are not able to sell in Yemen due to the high cost of marketing, taxation and low income. It seems that producers from the least developed countries are supporting consumers from the developed ones. The summit discussed this problem and the so called “Fair Trade” concept, which protects LDC producers’ interests in developed countries. But it still remains as an idea so far.”
The company has adopted a number of new projects, such as:
Construction of three processing workshops or laboratories in Hodaida, Aden along with the currently active workshop in Socatra.
Construction of a factory for making boats in Aden.
Building Tuna canned factory in Hodaida.
Ice Factory in Aden, for the benefit of the fishermen and the company as well. This factory is expected to start working within the few coming days, all according to professional International standards.
A few significant agreements were signed at the conference with other private sector establishments.
As to the steps that would help improve the fishing industry in Yemen, he said:
” If only the government removes the 2% marketing tax for exporting. And if they support the private sector instead of making it difficult to invest. There has been efforts but they are slow. Maybe a better focus on the fishery industry would do the country good, especially that the coastal area of the Republic of Yemen is over 2,500 Km on the Red and Arabian sea with more than 350 kinds of fish. It is estimated that about 400, 000 tons of fish could be caught annually without affecting the reserves.”
Business Women Group
It was a British Council initiative in 1997. Miss. Kathryn a teacher in the British Council then gathered a number of pioneer women and attempted rehabilitating them in business management and English. In 1998, this group started on its own, following experiences of other Arabian and Asian experiences of Women groups, such as in Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, India, London etc.
Now it has become a member of the council of Arabic businesswomen, member of the council of Business women of Asian countries, and an indirect member of businesswomen group in the African horns.
Goals of the Group:
Marketing women products.
Developing and activating women and family products.
Offering services and advise regarding with a producer family.
Improving and marketing products of high quality.
Establishing projects that suit with the requirements of developments.
Coordinating with owners of capitals, through the group, and those who have the desire to establish projects.
Searching for the funds for establishing projects.
Encouraging products that use local raw materials.
Establishing commercial exhibitions & encouraging Arabic commercial exchanging.
Encouraging and sponsoring talented people through the group.
Opening clubs for entertainment purposes.
“We received an invitation from the Ministry of Commerce and Trade to represent our group in the LDC III conference. It was a good chance for us to present ourselves to the outside world, and to learn from the other nations’ experiences,” Mrs. Mahasen AlMunabairi, Chairperson of the Businesswomen group said.
In response to if the conference touched the problems they are facing here, she said:
“They did know what we are going through as young entrepreneurs. And they did realize how difficult it is for us to reach the high level of standards it is in the western world. What made things easier is that we felt that we are not alone. There were 49 other countries suffering from the same problems we do. Through our discussions and talks, we tried to exchange experiences and find solutions. We also tried to make initial agreements and business deals. Our main problem here is that productive women or families which we are working with in Yemen lack professionalism in marketing their goods. We learned that it is not only about the standard of product we produce, but how you present it, like the packaging for example, to whom you present it and when. These were important points which we benefited from the conference.”
The group reached an agreement with a similar Group from Tanzania, and cultivated relations with Kofi Anan’s office, Child and family Minister of Canada, head person of UNCTAD and other entrepreneurs. She commented that maybe there should have been better synchronizing between the Yemeni private sector prior to the visit.
“The main problem women face in Yemen is the difficulty of her being granted loans. There are many terms and conditions before any bank would grant loans to women. They do not see if the project is worth it or not. All they care is whether she will be able to pay back or not. This is not the case with men, for them it is much easier. This is why we should seek other donor agencies to promote projects with potential. We realized that Yemeni women need to market her products internationally. If she finds a market, and she benefits from her work, she certainly would spend her time working rather than chewing Qat. And this is one of the main purposes of our group.”
To be Continued next week.