29 August 2010

Most internet users in MENA, by country

Which country has the most internet users in the Middle East and North Africa region?

17. Iraq - Internet users: 325,000 Despite having one of the largest populations in the region, Iraq has one of the lowest levels of internet penetration at 1.1 percent – so only one out of every 100 Iraqis accessed the internet in the last 30 days and the figure has scarcely grown since 2000. No prizes for guessing why. But given the millions being poured into the country’s infrastructure, expect Iraq to surge up this list over the next five years.

16. Libya - Internet users: 353,900 Another country with a high population but an abysmal penetration rate – at an estimated 5.5 percent – Libya will also expect to see more of its citizens logging onto the net in the years to come. Given its abundant natural resources, it is a matter of concern that the ratio of nationals to internet users is as low as some of the poorest countries in Africa.

15. Yemen - Internet users: 420,000. A lack of natural resources and political instability have left Yemen’s 23m-strong population with little access to the internet. Penetration levels stand at 1.8 percent, with only 420,000 users logging on in the last 30 days.

14. Qatar - Internet users: 436,000. It may be low on the list, but that’s only because Qatar’s population is under a million people. Over half of the Gulf state’s citizens accessed the internet in the last month, and the figure is likely to grow, considering Qatar is the richest country in terms of GDP per capita in the world. The penetration rate in the emirate stands at 51.8 percent.

13. Bahrain - Internet users: 649,300. A lengthy history of deregulation has seen competitive services provided to the Bahraini population for some years now. As a result, it has more internet users than Qatar, a country with a larger population. In another version of this list, Bahrain would have come in first place, as it has the highest penetration rate by far – 88% - in the MENA region.

12. Lebanon - Internet users: 1,000,000. With a population of around four million people, Lebanon has a fairly healthy penetration rate of 24.2 percent. As in several of the non-GCC states in this survey, higher numbers of internet users will depend on political and economic stability in the near future. With GDP on the rise in recent years, the penetration level is likely to continue to improve.

11. Kuwait - Internet users: 1,100,000. The fourth most populous country in the GCC, Kuwait also has the fourth highest number of internet users. The penetration rate stands at 39.4 percent, so in terms of ratios it sits well behind Qatar, and significantly behind Bahrain

10. Oman - Internet users: 1,236,700. Just over 41 percent of the Omani population accessed the internet in the last month, a rate that was slightly higher than Kuwait’s. As in other countries in the region, the penetration rate is expected to grow in the coming years, although perhaps not as fast as elsewhere.

9. Jordan - Internet users: 1,741,900. Economic and political stability have led Jordan’s sizeable population to enjoy a relatively high internet usage. Its figure of 24.2 percent is higher than any of the other nations in the Levant region.

8. Tunisia - Internet users: 3,600,000. Tunisia may be relatively small in size in comparison to its neighbours, but the North African country has been a conduit for foreign direct investment under the tutelage of its long-standing political leadership. The penetration rate is 34 percent, the highest of any non-island economy in Africa.

7. United Arab Emirates - Internet users: 3,777,900. Three quarters of the UAE population logged on over the last month or so, putting the Gulf state second behind Bahrain in terms of its penetration rate. As the UAE approaches a natural peak in terms of the ratio of its population accessing the internet, the actions of the local regulator will be vital

6. Syria - Internet users: 3,935,500. With a population of just over 22m, Syria has seen an increase of 13,000 percent in terms of internet usage since 2000. However, given that the penetration rate is 17.7 percent, there is still considerable room for growth in this country.

5. Sudan - Internet users: 4,200,000. Sudan’s high ranking is down to its population, almost twice that of Syria’s, and second only to that of Egypt in the MENA region. However, a look at the country’s ratio of citizens to internet users reveals that the penetration rate is only 10 percent – less than that of the West Bank

4. Algeria - Internet users: 4,700,000. Another high population of almost 35m has propelled Algeria to fourth place. Its penetration rate sits at a fairly lowly 13.6 percent, but user growth has rocketed by almost 10,000 percent in the last 10 years, a sure indicator that more is to expected in the next decade.

3. Saudi Arabia - Internet users: 9,800,000. The top country in the GCC, just shy of 10m people logged into the internet in Saudi Arabia last month. With a penetration rate of 38 percent – half that of the UAE – there is much work still to be done. Saudi Arabia’s vast size counts against in terms of infrastructure build-out, but the government’s audacious spending plans have set telecoms access as a high priority.

2. Morocco - Internet users: 10,442,500. Pipping Saudi Arabia to second place is Morocco, which has a higher population but a lower penetration rate of 33 percent. The Maghreb country has been another one of the big risers in the last decade, with users rocketing by over 10,000 percent.

1. Egypt - Internet users: 17,060,000. Egypt is the undisputed lynchpin of the Middle East and North Africa internet world. Boosted by the biggest population, at over 80m, Egypt boasts a reputable 21.2 percent penetration rate and is supported by some of the biggest telecoms firms in the region. The country takes up a massive 15.4 percent of all internet users in Africa, second only to Nigeria.

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