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

Shell Aramco LNG

Shell beats Aramco in race to buy LNG business

Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has lost out to UK rival Shell in its bid to buy Pavilion Energy, a Singapore trader of liquefied natural gas (LNG), from Temasek, the Asian island nation’s sovereign investment fund. Both companies were shortlisted for a potential acquisition worth billions of dollars. No financial details of Shell’s […]

The UAE, which is keen to embrace new technologies, ranked second for employment and third for international trade World Competitiveness Ranking

Saudi Arabia and UAE up in World Competitiveness Ranking

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have improved their rankings in the annual IMD World Competitiveness Ranking this year, as both Gulf states embrace artificial intelligence (AI) to make their economies more productive. The list, which is compiled by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland, saw the UAE rise three places to seventh, […]

ADIA Hargreaves Lansdown

ADIA group raises offer for UK stock trading platform

A consortium including Abu Dhabi’s biggest sovereign wealth fund is poised to buy stock trading platform Hargreaves Lansdown after making an improved non-binding offer for the British company. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority’s (ADIA) wholly owned subsidiary Platinum Ivy has teamed up with private equity firms CVC and Nordic Capital to offer £11.40 ($14.51) per share […]

A Brazilian delegation in front of an Embraer C-390 aircraft at the Singapore Airshow in February

Brazil’s Embraer woos Saudi Arabia for military plane deal

Saudi Arabia is in “early engagement” with Brazilian planemaker Embraer over a deal to replace its ageing fleet of military transport aircraft. Embraer is touting its C-390 Millennium transport plane as the ideal replacement for the kingdom’s Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft. Embraer Defense & Security’s CEO João Bosco da Costa Junior told reporters: “They […]