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Upside for eCommerce in the Middle East and Africa


The number of mobile phone users worldwide will continue to grow through 2016, and smartphone users, in particular, are on the rise. This year, there will be 950 million smartphone users around the world, reaching 1.94 billion by 2015.

In the developing nations of the world, a mobile device may be the first and only way that many of their consumers will access the internet. As people prosper and move upward in the local economy, their expectations and related product or service needs evolve.

According to the latest market study by eMarketer, business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) -- including sales of travel, digital downloads and event tickets -- are growing much faster than in any other region in the world by a margin of nearly 10 percentage points.

But the growth in this region is somewhat limited by a very low base of online spending. eMarketer estimates online buyers in the region will spend $20.61 billion this year, making MEA the most underdeveloped regional ecommerce market in the world.

By comparison, in Latin America, the second-smallest ecommerce market, online buyers will spend $36.82 billion -- that's nearly twice as much. Spending in all of the Middle East and Africa combined is comparable to that in just one highly developed nation -- South Korea.

The underdeveloped market in MEA is primarily due to a small number of internet users, low penetration and high cost of broadband internet access, and an apparent lack of familiarity with online shopping.

To date, the online goods and services that are available to users in this region are extremely limited. At the same time, there is a shortage of stable online payment systems and very low credit card use among consumers.

That being said, there are few regions of the globe that have this amount of pent-up demand and untapped raw potential for new consumer-driven ecommerce growth. Meanwhile, savvy marketers will continue to develop m-retail solutions that harness very basic mobile communications capabilities, such as SMS capabilities.

eMarketer forms its estimates of B2C ecommerce sales worldwide based on the analysis of estimates from other research firms, historical trends, consumer online buying trends and macro-level economic conditions.

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