Yemen takes tough sell message to U.S. businesses

Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:30am EDT
 
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By Daniel Bases and Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It has to be one of the toughest jobs around - trying to sell U.S. businesses on the investment potential of one of the poorest nations on Earth, a country battered by Islamist militants who bomb, assassinate and kidnap.

Yet it is a job U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein is taking on by leading a delegation of 10 Yemeni businessmen on a 10-day, five-city tour of the United States.

"We think there are great opportunities. There's money to be made investing in Yemen," Feierstein, a career diplomat, said on Thursday. This is the first time the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa has organized a Yemeni business delegation to visit U.S. companies.

Just last week masked gunmen fatally shot a Yemeni who worked in the security office of the U.S. Embassy, leaving behind a wife and seven children. A month ago the embassy was stormed by protesters angry about an anti-Islam film made in California.

The task of promoting Yemen seems daunting and could draw a parallel to the 2011 film "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," starring Ewan McGregor as a fisheries expert hired by an eccentric sheik to bring fly-fishing to the parched land. Still, the Yemeni business executives, who arrived in New York on Wednesday, presented an upbeat image of their nation.

"The overall situation in Yemen is improving," said Fathi Abdulwasa Hayel Saeed, chairman of the Yemeni Businessmen Club. "Yes, there are challenges. Yes, there are security issues but Yemen is such a virgin country where there are a lot of opportunities to do business.

"I think a lot of American companies have been shy from coming to Yemen, while other nationalities like from Europe and Southeast Asia have been coming to Yemen even in the difficult times," Saeed said.

Their itinerary also takes them to Kansas City, Houston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.   Continued...

 
U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein speaks during an interview in New York October 18, 2012. It has to be one of the toughest jobs around - trying to sell U.S. businesses on the investment potential of one of the poorest nations on Earth, a country battered by Islamist militants who bomb, assassinate and kidnap. Yet it is a job Feierstein is taking on by leading a delegation of 10 Yemeni businessmen on a 10-day, five-city tour of the U.S. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid