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eMarketer estimates that 336.5 million people in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) will access the internet at least once per month in 2014—nearly one-quarter more than in 2013. Annual growth rates will remain in the double digits through 2015. Within four years, the region will register almost 458 million web users, with more than 30% of all residents regularly online.
Our fifth annual “Global Media Intelligence Report” outlines how media and device usage trends are playing out in MEA, along with how those trends are shaping up in regions throughout the world.
Smartphone usage is even more limited but is demonstrating rapid growth rates. The “Ipsos Arabnet Beirut 2014” report from Ipsos MediaCT noted a sharp rise in the use of advanced handsets in many countries in the region last year. In Kuwait, smartphone penetration jumped from 49% of the total population in 2012 to 69% in 2013, while in Lebanon, penetration shot from 36% to 63%. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates registered penetration rates of at least 72% last year—equivalent to gains of at least 10 percentage points in a single year. In Egypt, by contrast, penetration was just 6%, compared with 5% in 2012.
eMarketer projects that smartphone penetration across MEA will grow more than 31% this year, but fewer than 9% of the entire population will have such a device. In 2018, that share is expected to approach 15%.
Affordability is the key to much of the smartphone boom in the region—and in African countries particularly.
Tablets are also proliferating, though their higher price tags are still a barrier to most potential users. Shipments of PC tablets to MEA grew 111% year over year in Q4 2013, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), reaching a total of 3.45 million that quarter. IDC put much of that growth down to end-of-year promotions that tempted consumers to snap up a bargain. But businesses—especially the educational sector—are also capitalizing on the options tablets provide.
Meanwhile, with respect to more basic mobile phones, MEA is already a star. Only Asia-Pacific has a greater number of mobile phone users. eMarketer estimates that 672.6 million people in MEA will have at least one mobile phone this year, and the tally will pass 730 million in 2015.
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