There are several contributing factors that lead to the obstacles that both new and established businesses aiming to expand their focus internationally must face. One of the most difficult of these to overcome is the language barrier that can exist between foreign countries. A good example of this is Europe. Though there is a prominent overall market, the many different languages existing here in its various countries create much more fragmented markets for these smaller commercial enterprises. On the other hand, Egypt and the several countries of the Arabian Peninsula all share one common language, Arabic.
The MENA region (i.e. Middle East and North Africa) is currently a very wealthy region and is growing at exponential rates. As of 2007, the population in the region was approximately 157 million and is expected to practically double in only four decades time. Not only is their population staggering, they also have some of the most impressive per-capita incomes across the globe. Qatar, for example, at $84,833, is the third highest in the world! According to the US Department of State, the UAE isn’t that far behind either, at $38,108! Considering the fact that the MENA region houses an extraordinary percentage of the world’s natural gas and oil reserves, the MENA countries are expected to respectively increase their GDP’s. Thus, making the region a prime market for American companies that are considering taking their businesses abroad.
Trade and the Vertical Market Factor
It would be safe to infer, that one of the main reasons for such market success in the MENA region is the fact that for the most part, trade is free. Only few exceptions, such as the trading of tobacco and alcohol have very high tariffs (between 50-100% overall) since Islam is the official religion of the MENA countries. Not to mention, pork and pork products are banned entirely. Aside from these very few trade impediments, exporting to these countries is by far very affordable and considerably risk-free.
As is widely known, the most viable vertical markets coming from the US are in the technology are services departments. And since many of the MENA currencies are tied to the US dollar, there has not been much significant instability as to their respective values. Aside from the lack of value fluctuations regarding these currencies, several Gulf countries have set a target date to implement a single common Gulf currency as early as 2010! Once again, such trends and predictions implicate the MENA region to be profitable place for investment and profitability.
Is Online Marketing in the MENA region a Viable Investment?
The simple answer to that question is, yes. According to Internet World Stats, the MENA countries have a total online presence of about 23 million! There has been a 1,044% growth over the last seven years alone. Although Saudi Arabia and Egypt make up of 80% of the Internet users, most of the money is in the remaining 20%. Since Saudi Arabia and Egypt are countries with such high potential, they will most likely be the ones to create the most increase in online presence in the future. These would therefore be the most advantageous countries to approach regarding online marketing strategies within the MENA region.
The MENA Language Barrier Issue
As mentioned earlier, the most beneficial connection among these countries is their common language. Arabic, as spoken in all of the MENA countries, is actually the seventh largest of all languages found online. This entails around 60 million users (that’s 4.2 of the internet population entirely!) In despite of that, only approximately 0.5% of Arabic content is represented online. The only logical solution that I can see here is that the global market needs to pay much more attention to this demand and supply at least a portion of their site content in Arabic. This would greatly expand their reach to already thriving markets.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that the three most widely used search engines in the MENA region are Yahoo, Google and MSN Live. These, of course, do vary slightly between countries but consistently remain the top three. Therefore, one should keep in mind that companies trying to expand their reach to these countries should make sure to craft their online marketing strategy to include the three. This would lead to a significant improvement in their results.
Though the Middle East and North Africa is fertile ground for any company or organization’s global expansion, it is still in its early stages of growth. Because of this, now is definitely the time to get involved in this Arabic-speaking market with online marketing campaigns before the competition gets fierce…. and by the looks of it, it definitely will.
Eastline Marketing offers successful online marketing solutions for companies that wish to target Arabic Internet users, mainly Lebanon, Qatar, Dubai, KSA, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, and Algeria.
Contact us for more details!