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Smartphone Usage to Nearly Double in the Middle East and Africa

New report highlights rising media and mobile usage in MEA, despite slow uptick in ad spending

Mobile phone usage is skyrocketing in the Middle East and Africa, and the region is expected to account for the second-largest mobile phone population of any region in the world, according to eMarketer’s latest Global Media Intelligence Report, produced in collaboration with Starcom MediaVest Group.

Asia-Pacific has the largest mobile phone population in the entire world, at more than 2.43 billion—no surprise considering China and India alone each boast more than 1 billion residents, making the region the most populous in the world overall. But the No. 2 region in terms of the number of mobile phone owners is the Middle East and Africa, where 525.8 million people of any age are expected to use a mobile phone at least monthly this year—significantly more than in North America or Western Europe.

Smartphone use in the region will nearly double this year to 112.2 million, up from 67 million last year, while penetration of smartphones among the population as a whole in MEA will increase from 5.1% to 8.3%, according to the report.

Despite the rapid rise in smartphone penetration, the region remains last in the world by this metric, which helps explain why mobile internet ad spending in the region is still the lowest in the world, at an anticipated $50.4 million this year. That represents 140% growth compared to 2012 spending levels, but is far behind regional totals elsewhere in the world, even for other emerging markets like Latin America ($150 million) or Central and Eastern Europe ($162 million), which have smaller mobile populations but larger populations of smartphone users and users of the mobile internet.

Key figures on MEA media usage and spending from the report include:

  • Internet users: 260 million in 2013, up from 102 million in 2008.
  • Mobile phone users: 525.8 million users in 2013, up from 358.3 million in 2009.
  • Smartphone users: 21.3% of mobile phone users in 2013, up from just 1.5% in 2009.
  • Social network users: 209.8 million users in 2013, up from 45.5 million in 2008.
  • Total ad spending: $19.28 billion in 2013, up from $13.38 billion in 2008.
  • Digital ad spending: $1.35 billion in 2013, or just 1.1% of total digital ad spending worldwide.
  • Mobile ad spending: $50.4 million, or less than 1% of mobile ad spending globally.

The Global Media Intelligence Report is eMarketer’s largest and most comprehensive snapshot of the state of media usage and spending globally. The report contains more than 700 charts collected from over 150 global research sources, which SMG helped identify and gather for local and core global markets, in addition to benchmarks, analysis and context provided by eMarketer.

eMarketer Corporate Subscribers can access the full report here.

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