Yemen's Main Business Sectors

Yemen has a projected population growth rate of 2.8% through 2015, and the population is predicted to reach over 36 million by 2029. Most Yemenis are Muslim, either of the Sunni or Shiite sect; however, there is a small Jewish and Christian minority. Population growth in Yemen is high when compared to the rest of the world, and it is the highest in the Gulf region. Almost 25% of the emirate's people live below the poverty line. Here are some of Yemen's main business sectors that provide jobs for its work force.


Though the strategic location of Yemen would make it an ideal fishing location, actual production is low, mainly due to underexploitation. Most Yemeni fishing activity is focused on family-owned businesses and small fleets; the sector employs almost fifty thousand people and produces hundreds of thousands of tons per year. The Yemeni fishing industry would greatly benefit from regulation that prevents overfishing of some popular species.

Mining and Natural Resources

Yemen derives a lot of its export earnings from oil, but its reserves are small when compared to those of its neighbors. The emirate has an estimated 4-billion barrel reserve, and most production is centered around fields at Masila and Ma'rib. Unlike in most other oil-producing Arab nations, most of Yemen's oil sector is led by foreign companies. The Yemeni oil sector will greatly benefit from foreign investment and the exploration of untapped oil fields. The Ma'rib region is also home to large natural gas reserves; though the reserve is again small by comparison, gas is produced in quantity.


Yemen's manufacturing sector is a vital contributor to the emirate's economy, accounting for about 15% of the GDP. This sector of business has grown steadily, but lately its growth has been hampered by a lack of money and stiff competition from imports. Over half of all manufacturing comes from oil, with refining being done in Ma'rib and Aden.

Yemen's small manufacturing sector is centered on family-run businesses; the emirate has over 40,000 companies with 1-4 employees. Most of Yemen's manufacturing base is focused on beverage and food processing, but flour and cooking oil are produced as well. The biggest single industry is the production of mixed metal items, such as windows, doors and water tanks.


Despite the government's best efforts to promote it, the tourism sector does not contribute much to Yemen's economy. The tourism sector has a number of issues, such as a lack of infrastructure and political instability. Since about 1998, Western countries have been issuing advisories warning their citizens not to travel there.

Financial Services Sector

The banking system in Yemen is underdeveloped and suffers from issues such as low loan collection rates, low assets and unethical loan policies. Despite the government's efforts to prop up the financial sector, it continues to be plagued by poor compliance and enforcement, a weak judiciary, and a lack of public trust. There are both private and public banks in Yemen, and all follow Islamic practices, which include not charging interest. Rural areas do not have banking facilities, and most loans are extended on the basis of a personal relationship.


The emirate of Yemen has no developed commercial centers, even in its large coastal cities. Therefore, its retail sector is not as large as that of some of its neighbors. Most retail outlets are small, family-run businesses, and roadside stands are quite common.

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