MENA Mobile Subscriptions Remains Low Despite UAE’s Top Performance



The United Arab Emirates is a top performer when it comes to smartphone and mobile penetration in general. One of the latest reports of the GSM Association has found that mobile subscription penetration in the country has reached 83%. As a result, the UAE is leading not only in the MENA region, but also on a global level. Nevertheless, the same research shared that the population, which is not mobile connected, remains rather high.

GSMA’s “Arab States: Mobile Economy 2014” report has discovered that the UAE is the country with the highest mobile subscription penetration in the Middle East and North Africa. The subscription rate in the country is estimated at 83%. That is 67% more compared to the country with the lowest penetration in the region – South Sudan (16%).
MENA countries with highest mobile subscription penetration:

  • UAE (83%)
  • Kuwait (77%)
  • Bahrain (76%)
  • Saudi Arabia (74%)
  • Qatar (73%)

All in all, the top five of the MENA countries with the most impressive mobile subscription penetration is made up entirely of GCC states. Second, after the UAE, is Kuwait with 77%, followed by Bahrain with 76%. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have 74% and 73% of mobile penetration, respectively. Egypt, on the other hand, is the biggest market in the Middle East and North Africa since it has 44 million unique mobile subscriptions. The study concludes that over 50% of the region’s entire population, or about 195 million people, is mobile connected. According to GSMA, that is a record percentage.
nother report by International Data Corporation (IDC), published quite recently, paints a similar picture. It informed that smartphone sales in MENA countries have hit 64 million units in Q2 2014. This is jump of 27% compared to Q2 2013. Mobile phone shipment rates were even more impressive in some countries in the region like Qatar (32%) and Egypt (37%).

Nevertheless, according to the GSM Association, the total number of mobile subscribers in the Middle East and North Africa is low. Although the region’s average annual growth in this industry is 1.3% higher compared to the global average, around 25% of the MENA population is not mobile connected. That is because the distribution of the subscriptions is not equal across all MENA countries.

Still, mobile industry made up around 4.4% of MENA’s total GDP in 2013.


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