Yemen: “Its beauty comes from the people”

“We Yemenis do not have as many certificates as managers in Europe. But we have a life full of adventures and experiences.” – The story of Naif Al Najm shows how entrepreneurship is lived in the midst of an “ugly” war.

“Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and is now one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The fighting raging since early 2015 has devastated its economy, leading to severe food insecurity, and destroying critical infrastructure”, the World Bank clearly states on its website.
Business development consultant Naif Al Najm is not only aware of the state of emergency. As a Yemeni citizen, he is experiencing firsthand – according to the UN – the world’s largest humanitarian disaster. “21.6 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance.” To this end, the senior corporate developer devotes himself wholeheartedly. As president and founder of several local civil society organizations such as NWF, and as a volunteer team leader with UN Volunteers and INTERSOS, he not only sought to alleviate suffering. He gained profound experiences that shaped and strengthened his character and professional life.

His social streak didn’t come by default

Since 2015, people in Yemen have been suffering from the civil war. Since 2016, Naif Al Najm has been serving as a humanitarian aid worker. And strives to accompany thousands of people in need of food, water, shelter, and medicine. For as if the war were not enough, there are regular outbreaks of cholera, diphtheria, measles, and other vaccine-preventable diseases in the country. Most recently, the corona pandemic was added to the list. Given the high level of distress, Naif Al Najm believes it is all the more important to help local people cope with the aftermath of the conflict and rehabilitate themselves. “I am convinced that everyone who is in the condition to help ought to do so. We have to join forces so that the country can evolve in a sustainable manner.”
After all, his social streak didn’t come by default. “I owe my first steps towards humanitarian service to my mother. She always fascinated me with her eagerness to help and her human nature. On a personal level, this has influenced me greatly.” Being present in the midst of a war, seeing the suffering in front of one’s eyes, added to it. He is forced to be strong. “Through my humanitarian work I learned many things: to be patient because you may not see the results you desire immediately. To take responsibility because human lives are at stake. To not be afraid because you will always find yourself in the middle of conflict, stopped by people with weapons and under constant scrutiny. You learn to take risks because you have a specific goal in mind: The welfare of the people.”

Some flourish, some spoil

Little did he know that his helpfulness would later open new doors for him in his professional life. “In this field, you establish many connections. You depend on them – there is no other way we can gather the resources for people in need on our own. These people who you meet and who offer you their help then introduce you to other people from whom you can benefit in all kinds of ways.” It’s hardly surprising that this also enabled him to make crucial ties with international corporations.
One thing led to another. One step towards business, and you are swept along the rest of the way as if by waves. All of a sudden, the trained graphic designer found himself assisting in those corporations. Later, he became part of the administration. Experienced how some companies flourished while others went under. The exposure to an entirely new line of work provided him with profound business knowledge. Combined with the challenges of community service, he was now ready to face anything, and he certainly knew how.

A sympathetic ear at all times

Thanks to the experience he has gained in accompanying all kinds of companies, he now has the necessary expertise to support other companies and prevent them from failing. “A fundamental problem in Yemeni businesses is the lack of communication and collaboration”. Thus, with the aim of helping entrepreneurs avoid such mistakes, he founded his own start-up: Greenwall. A company that provides administrative and financial consulting services. His management style leading by example: “Regardless of how small my company is, it has always been important to me to lend a sympathetic ear to everyone. Regardless of what position they work in. Or in which company.”
This way, says the entrepreneur, one becomes receptive to ideas that can contribute to the advancement of the company. ” Not only does my company benefit from the cooperation, but also the contributors. Because they gain these experiences as a special competence that they could later apply in their own company.” For indeed, Al Najm is someone who is committed to ensuring that everyone can realize their dream. Even if that means having to sacrifice one of his employees. “Every success of someone else is also a success of mine.”

Not a proper basis

Companies in Yemen, however, already encounter difficulties in realizing goals that are somewhat self-evident in the West. “The country does not offer a proper basis for companies. Start-ups in particular face hardship.” From a lack of legislation or support services for start-ups to a lack of electricity and internet, there are no suitable resources to subsist. These aspects make it all the more challenging to develop trust in modern methods among the population. “We don’t even have online payment methods that are common in other countries. This makes business, especially internationally, enormously difficult,” explains the business expert.
Al Najm is therefore committed to the transition to digitalization. “We are starting with small steps. First, move away from the traditional paper and pen. Towards modern systems that simplify the organization of the company. Then we will see what happens. Under the circumstances, taking even this small approach is a lengthy process.” To succeed in Yemen requires a lot of time, patience, and determination. These are Naif Al Najm’s strengths. “Solving problems, understanding people, organizing and not giving up easily – these are all things I learned in humanitarian work and now teach to others.”

They demonstrate strength and unity

“We Yemenis do not have as many certificates as managers in Europe. But we have a life full of adventures and experiences that strengthen and qualify us for our professional lives,” explains Naif Al Najm. Those who make the breakthrough in Yemen, who build a successful business in Yemen, have skills on an entirely different level. “On the way to success, we had to overcome many challenges that one would never have had to face in other countries – under peaceful conditions. If you succeed in Yemen, you can succeed anywhere. Because in comparison, everything else seems downright easy.”
Despite the hard times in Yemen, and the ugly acts being committed here, Yemen remains beautiful. Its beauty comes from the Yemeni people […] Yemenis continue to show determination to face these hard times, showing strength and unity“, (translation). These values are impressively portrayed by Naif Al Najm. A resilient, helpful people striving to help each other and improve themselves. (Worldbank/UN/futureorg/signals)
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Herausgeber ist das futureorg Institut – Forschung und Kommunikation für KMU mit Sitz in Dortmund/NRW.

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