Slower Facebook User Growth on the Arabian Peninsula in February

Growth slowed down in February for most Middle Eastern countries, especially the smaller and more affluent nations that have the most monthly active users on Facebook. We’re taking a look this month at the Arabian Peninsula, plus Egypt.

Three countries in the Peninsula stand out for a high market penetration of over 30 percent: Israel, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. As you can see below, both Israel and the UAE are continuing to pick up significant numbers of users. We don’t expect that trend to continue for too many months more, as most countries have so far topped out at roughly 40 percent penetration.

On the other hand, growth is also slowing a bit for some much larger countries that have low penetration — both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are well under 10 percent. The dip may only be temporary, especially with Facebook putting more resources into the Middle East.

However, there are clearly also some demographic trends at work. Most of the region is sharply defined by income disparities; the citizens of the UAE, for example, are fairly rich on average, while even a wealthy country like Saudi Arabia has only a small upper class. As in other parts of the world, it’s likely that broad swaths of the population in some of these countries are too poor to be online yet.

Note that Facebook counts all the countries from Morocco to Pakistan in its measurement of the Middle East. We’ll be covering the African countries next week, while Pakistan and its neighbors go along with our coverage of Asia. There’s also the matter of Turkey, which we’ve included in Europe. Although quite large, Turkey also has over a quarter of its population on Facebook, making it a force in the region.

Breaking out the Peninsula on its own, there are only about 9 million Facebook users in the region, but about 15 percent market penetration overall. As Facebook expands its advertising efforts in the region, many will be watching growth data to see if Middle East growth is slowing for the long-term, or if this is just a temporary fluctuation. More data  and specific country breakdowns can be found in the full Facebook Global Monitor report.