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United Arab Emirates Leads Middle East and Africa in Mobile Phone Penetration

UAE tops other MEA countries in smartphone penetration among mobile phone users

February 5, 2015 | Mobile

Nearly 73% of the population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will use a mobile phone this year, eMarketer estimates. This puts the UAE in the No. 1 spot for mobile phone user penetration among countries in the Middle East and Africa (MEA). Penetration will rise slightly throughout our forecast period, nearing three-quarters in 2018, and will remain the highest during that time period.

Mobile Phone Users and Penetration in the Middle East & Africa, by Country, 2013-2018 (millions and % of population)

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Nigeria will follow the UAE in mobile phone user penetration, respectively. Next year, though, Saudi Arabia will pass Egypt to take the No. 2 spot.

Still, due to its small population, the UAE will be home to the smallest mobile phone user base out of the MEA countries for which eMarketer produces estimates, at 4.2 million this year and 4.6 million in 2018. Nigeria will lead the region, with 93.5 million users this year and 107.9 million in 2018, followed by Egypt, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Smartphone Users and Penetration in the Middle East & Africa, by Country, 2013-2018

The UAE sits atop the region for smartphone user penetration as well, at 64.6% of mobile phone users. eMarketer estimates that this rate will rise to 74.6% by 2018—more than 15 percentage points above second-place Saudi Arabia, which will trail by around 10 points this year. Smartphone penetration among mobile phone users is much lower in South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria, and South Africa is the only other MEA nation where penetration will pass 50% during our forecast period.

Just like with mobile phone users, the UAE’s smaller population means it will rank last among the region’s countries for smartphone penetration among mobile phone users, at 2.7 million this year and 3.5 million in 2018. Nigeria will take the top spot in 2015, at 23.1 million, followed by Egypt, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

eMarketer bases all of its forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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