LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 MIDDLE EAST: More than half of citizens in the Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa subscribe to mobile networks, according to the GSMA’s ‘Arab States: Mobile Economy 2014’ report.
Mobile penetration in the region reached 53 per cent at the end of 2013 with 195 million unique mobile subscribers in the region. Penetration is set to rise to 58 per cent in 2020, with a total of 242 million unique subscribers.
Total mobile connections hit 404 million at the end of 2013, and are forecast to reach 529 million by 2020.
The mobile industry in the Arab states is growing faster than the global average with unique mobile subscribers rising by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5 per cent between 2008 and 2013. The global average over the same period was 8.2 per cent.
Mobile revenue in the region grew by 7 per cent (CAGR) over the past five years, ahead of the 4.6 per cent seen globally, while mobile connections increased by 13.2 per cent, slightly higher than the global rate of 11 per cent.
Mobile penetration varied considerably across the region’s 19 markets, largely due to differences between the two sub-regions of the Gulf States and North Africa, including socioeconomics, mobile penetration, technology maturity and regulatory environments.
The United Arab Emirates led the way with mobile penetration of 83 per cent, with other Gulf States (Bahrain, Kuwait) having penetration levels of more than 75 per cent.
In contrast, 16 per cent of the population in South Sudan subscribed to a mobile service, although it should be noted that ths is significantly lower than the country with the next lowest penetration, Sudan, with 41 per cent.
More than a third of total connections in the Gulf States are 3G or 4G, with some (Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) as high as 60 per cent.
And there are signs that some markets in North Africa are accelerating in their technology migration, with Morocco in particular seeing rapid growth in 3G connections.
According to the GSMA, the level of mobile penetration in the region presents “a unique opportunity to use mobile technology to drive social and economic growth”.
The industry already contributes 4.4 per cent ($122 billion) to the region’s GDP and directly supports one million jobs. The GSMA predicted that the industry will generate $161 billion by 2020 and support 1.4 million jobs.
Anne Bouverot, the director general of the GSMA, said mobile has “scaled dramatically” in the Arab states and is “delivering significant socio-economic benefits in every country across this diverse region”.
The GSMA is calling on governments in the region to work with the mobile industry to deliver a range of goals, such as rolling out networks to underserved areas in North Africa, and ensuring the right infrastructure is in place to support global business hubs like Dubai.