Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

E-commerce or bust: in-depth analysis on Gulf online shopping

Carrefour supermarket delivery in the UAE

The coronavirus pandemic encouraged many people to embrace online shopping for the first time, leading to a huge spike in global e-commerce. 

But what does the sector look like now across the Middle East and North Africa? 

Its three largest e-commerce markets are the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and together they account for more than 70 percent of total e-commerce in the region.

According to a joint report published by EZDubai and Euromonitor Consulting, the MENA e-commerce market was worth $31.7 billion in 2021, having expanded by 15 percent since 2020. 

The sector has seen a compound annual growth rate of 33 percent since 2017, when it was valued at just $10bn.

Chart, bar chart, histogram

Description automatically generated
Report published by EZDubai and Euromonitor Consulting

Largely shopping on their smartphones, the region’s online consumers mostly buy electronics, which represented 31 percent of total e-commerce sales last year. Clothing and footwear (23 percent) are the next most purchased goods.

Although growth in e-commerce penetration in the MENA region was the strongest globally last year, as a proportion of overall retail, it is still lower than the global average at just 6 percent. 

Chart, line chart

Description automatically generated

The sector is primed for further expansion. The EZDubai/Euromonitor Consulting report forecasts that e-commerce in the MENA region will be worth $49.9 billion by 2025. It predicts the fastest growing segments will be food and drink and consumer health.

Looking specifically at the UAE, its e-commerce market doubled in size in two years, to $5 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach $8 billion by 2025. Again, consumer electronics, clothing and footwear are the largest segments for online purchases.

UAE residents also enjoy ordering food online, with the highest use of smartphones for online food orders across the MENA region. They are also big spenders, with an average transaction size of $122 in 2019-20, compared with just $22 in emerging markets, and $76 in mature e-commerce markets.

Chart, bar chart, histogram

Description automatically generated

Across the MENA region, per capita e-commerce spending in 2021 was highest in Israel ($1,344), followed by the UAE ($553) and Kuwait ($257). These countries are noted for their high income levels and internet access.

The growth in e-commerce is being supported by continued investments in the region’s telecoms infrastructure, delivering faster internet speeds and better connectivity, and improvements to regulatory frameworks governing online payments.

The total number of internet users in the MENA region has leapt in the past decade, from 75.6 million in 2010 to 239 million in 2021. Some 80 percent of households now own a smartphone. 

Chart, histogram

Description automatically generated

Latest articles

Investment app Sarwa had more than 180,000 registered users by the first quarter of 2023

Investment app Sarwa fined by Dubai and Abu Dhabi regulators

Investment platform Sarwa Digital Wealth has been fined AED1,151,000 ($313,500) by regulators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for offering shares and securities without an approved prospectus. The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) said on Tuesday that it had imposed a penalty of AED701,815 on the fintech.  On the same day, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority […]

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the pledge ' sets a precedent for global standards on AI safety'

UAE joins AI safety pledge at UK-South Korea summit

Two artificial intelligence companies from the UAE have signed up to a new AI safety pledge and have committed to safe development of the technology. Abu Dhabi’s Technology Innovation Institute and G42 are among 16 names on the safety pledge that also includes Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and Samsung. The announcement was made […]

Turkey FAB Yapi Kredi

First Abu Dhabi Bank targets Turkish lender

One of Turkey’s largest corporations has confirmed it is in talks with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) over the sale of a majority holding in the Istanbul-headquartered lender Yapı Kredi, the country’s fourth largest private bank in terms of assets.  A report by Reuters on May 21 said sources told it FAB was offering around […]

Bruno Le Maire said France was also ready to help the UAE develop its own nuclear power plants

France ‘open’ to UAE investing in its nuclear plants

The French government is open to the UAE investing in the country’s nuclear power sector, its economy minister has said. Bruno Le Maire spoke to journalists in Abu Dhabi ahead of talks with Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE minister of industry and advanced technology, and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive of investment fund Mubadala and […]