Hope in Hopelessness: Yemeni Startups Thrive, Despite Grim War

War crimes. Suffering. Humanitarian crisis. Carnage.

These words have been used to describe the war in Yemen, which has been eviscerating the young country for almost 3 years. Horrific images of the war are ceaselessly reproduced by news outlets as a representation of everyday life in the country. While these illustrations of what has been labeled the "forgotten war" are not distorted or false, it would come as a surprise to many that art, culture, science and technology still endure.

Anamehani, based out of Sanaa, Yemen, is one of many Yemeni tech startups holding strong as the war rages on. Anamehani is an online labor marketplace that connects community-based workers throughout Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco with consumers, companies and organizations that are in need of their services. CEO Saeed Alfagieh founded the company in 2015 with the goal of investing in youth and helping them develop professional skills.

Anamehani connects freelance laborers (professionals, novices and semi-professionals) with opportunities for employment in various industries. It places workers from fields like plumbing, welding, painting and electrical engineering, just to name a few. This set up not only allows workers to find work in fields they are trained in or training for, but it helps them establish networks and cultivate their skills.

The fact that the startup was established in and still operates out of Yemen may surprise many, but it shouldn't. In fact, Yemen is producing many startups, which act to fill in roles not satisfied by the crumbling economic circumstances in the country. Yemen, one of the most populous Arab nations, has approximately 28 million people and a rich history of trade and economic stability. Today, however, the wealth that Yemen enjoyed in former years is all but evaporated as infrastructure is decimated by the war and starvation claims the lives of many, especially children. Though war exacerbated the economic situation in Yemen, before the war, more than half of the country lived below the poverty line. This has made it particularly difficult for startups to convince potential funders in country to contribute to their growth financially or purchase their products.

This kind of environment is not only difficult for conventional economic organizations to thrive in, but particularly difficult for startups, especially now that travel is also severely restricted, and the visas required to travel abroad are routinely denied. Notwithstanding these dismal facts, startups are thriving, even under the severe conditions. Yemeni startups work to solidify an informal economy where entrepreneurs fill the space of industries usually operated by the government, like solar power, e-commerce and education.

Anamehani.com…aims to improve the life of each worker who has the skills and the capabilities to earn a living.

So far, Anamehani has fulfilled 67,000 jobs. According to their site, they have also accepted 24,946 requests, employed 67,078 workers, trained 350 people and put in 74,808 working hours. There are three categories in which customers can register on the site: user, worker, or provider. Users are the ones hiring skilled workers for jobs they need completed, workers are trained professionals or semi-professionals who wish to offer their services and providers promote products for clients and help expand their own companies.

It works by allowing users to search and browse workers in areas they require (for instance: electricians, construction workers, agricultural workers, carpenters, plumbers, black smiths, medical professionals etc.). Once a suitable professional is located, the user can register and request Anamehani to connect them with the professional they wish to employ. Users may leave a review once the work is done and pay a small fee to use Anamehani’s services.

Workers can sign up on Anamehani's site as well. Once logged in, they will enter their data and publish their profiles so users can reach out to them. A user will call the worker and they can start work.

Anamehani provides services under a number of vocational fields, features elite and qualified workers and, should customers require assistance, is staffed 24/7. Their hard work doesn't go unrecognized, either: they've been awarded by organizations like BlockOne, StartupIstanbul, and the World Economic Forum. Anamehani also continues to be a shining example of extracting hope from hopelessness and reminding us that the people we see in newspapers, broadcasts and magazines, though estranged and disunited geographically, are human beings with real ambitions, aspirations, and abilities.