In the Middle East and Africa (MEA) large numbers of people use a mobile device to access the Internet. A survey carried out by Analysys Mason points up the main trends in these countries.

Mobile Main Means of Internet Access in MEA


The Arab States Mobile Observatory survey, recently carried out by Deloitte, one of the Big Four audit and consulting firms, in conjunction with GSMA, the sector association representing mobile operators worldwide, recently revealed that countries in the Near East, Middle East and Africa were experiencing the fastest growth rates worldwide in mobile connections. The number of mobile Internet connections, put at 19 million in 2002, had risen to an estimated 391 million in 2012. Now a survey from global consulting and research firm Analysys Mason entitled ‘Mobile Internet Survey in the Middle East and Africa: 2013’, confirms the trend. This survey, carried out among users in six countries*, found that 87% of respondents use their mobile device – whether a smartphone or a tablet – as their main means of connecting to the Internet.

Online services are top priority for Internet access

Social networks, email and instant messaging are as prevalent in MEA as in other regions of the world, and are among the survey respondents’ main mobile uses. However around 33% of users in Saudi Arabia and the UAE use video-conferencing services, although this trend is far less prevalent in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Taking all six countries overall, when it comes to what are known as over-the-top (OTT) services, smartphone users are more likely to use these value-added communication services than feature phone users but, perhaps surprisingly, 75% of users of less-advanced ‘feature phone’ owners responding to the survey also said they access video-audio OTT services, which are often SMS-based and are usually outside the basic data plan provided by the mobile operator.

Price the main deterrent to acquiring smart devices

It comes as no surprise that the richest countries surveyed – Saudi Arabia and the UAE – have the highest rates of tablet penetration, with close to 40% of mobile users there owning one. Overall, on average across the MEA, 20% of respondents have a tablet, but the figure falls drastically in Kenya and Nigeria, where tablet ownership stands at 7% and 8% respectively. Country differences are judged to be partly due to Wifi availability and also to prior expérience accessing the Internet on more capable devices, but purchasing power appears to be the number one factor, as 66% of all the MEA respondents indicated that the high price of tablets is the main reason for not owning one.


*Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa on the African continent, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the Middle East. The survey was conducted, in association with On Device Research, among 4,250 mobile Internet users.

By Guillaume Parodi