SCOOPEMPIRE‘ s TECH wondering Why The MENA Region Is Poised To Be The Next Fintech Hub, its Scoop Team on June 4, 2020, answered by posing another question such as What is Fintech, and where is it most prominent in this essay.
As the world braces itself for a potential global recession, it’s hard to countenance the idea of growth markets or lucrative industries. However, entities such as the fintech sector undoubtedly challenge this mindset, with the global market worth an impressive $127.66 billion by the end of 2018.
The market is also poised for further expansion in the near-term, with a compound annual growth rate rate of 25% forecast through 2022. This will create a fintech sector worth approximately $309.98 billion, while also helping to drive significant innovation and technological advancement in the wider financial services space.
Interestingly, we’re also seeing the geographical diversification of fintech, with locations in regions such as Africa and the Middle East now competing with established financial powerhouses like London. But why exactly will the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) jurisdiction become the next major fintech hub?
What is Fintech, and where is it most prominent?
In simple terms, fintech refers to financial technologies, while it continues to drive a diverse range of innovations and applications within the financial services sector.
Historically, it was used almost exclusively by financial institutions themselves, but over time it has continued to evolve to represent emerging technologies in their own right and the widespread disruption of the traditional financial services sector.
The history of fintech can also be traced back to the origins of the 21st century, while over the course of the last decade it has evolved into a rapidly growing and advancing customer-oriented spectrum of services. This is true across a number of financial industries too, although it’s fair to surmise that the impact of fintech innovation has been more prominent in some markets than others.
These fintech innovations have helped to make the forex market far more accessible to a wider international audience, while enabling everyday and non-institutional investors to trade variable derivatives and forex trading sessions.
This includes lucrative and high-volume entities such as the Asian trading session (which operates between the hours of 12am and 9am GMT), along with an entire basket of emerging currencies and asset classes associated with regions such as Africa and the Middle East).
The rise of Fintech in MENA – a marriage made in heaven?
Of course, this is just one measure of the growing relationship between fintech and the MENA region, and one that becomes increasingly formidable with every passing year.
This is borne out by the figures too; with the fintech market in the MENA region expected to account for 8% of the areas’ total financial services revenue by 2022. This growth has been largely inspired by a rising number of fintech startups in sectors such as forex, combined with increased mobile Internet penetration and sustained economic reforms throughout the region.
The main purpose of this investment was to accelerate the growth and influence of fintech in Dubai and the Middle East as a whole, and this has already had a marked impact in terms of achieving this objective. This also involved market-leading financial institutions such as HSBC, who have recently committed to renewing their participation for the third year.
This means that the region’s most dynamic and profitable fintech startups will continue to benefit from sustained support and nurturing, paving the way for the MENA region to become increasingly influential in the marketplace and challenge established entities such as London and Hamburg.
WE SAID THIS: The region is booming in more ways than you know!
Oman’s Ministry of Technology and Communications (MTC) has committed to a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with BankDhofar at the Sas Center for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), in order to manage a technology innovation lab at the center.
The MoC was reportedly signed by Dr Salim bin Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, CEO at MTC, and Abdul Hakeem Omar Al-Ojaili, CEO at BankDhofar.
The innovation lab has been established to help students and local Fintech startups, as they focus on developing innovative financial technology products and services.
“The Ministry has launched the SAS Center for the 4th Industrial Revolution to keep pace with the current developments in the ICT sector. Signing this MoC with BankDhofar reflects the significant role of the private sector in supporting this dynamic sector and the Omani youth initiatives in entrepreneurship.”
He added that through this cooperation, they aim to create an encouraging environment that can help develop useful Fintech solutions, which could become part of the 4th IR technologies.
He also said the project aims to encourage and support Oman’s private sector organizations to continue to empower the nation’s emerging technology fields.
“The innovative lab at Sas Centre for 4th Industrial Revolution serves our vision of contributing to such projects of national value, and it also contributes to the development of the Fintech field in general.”
“We are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution where the banking sector has to seize the opportunity and take part, supporting the youth and encouraging them to become effective in a field which will positively contribute to the national economic growth in the future.”
MTC and BankDhofar will work cooperatively to establish, host, and manage the innovation lab. They will provide mentorship and training for Omani students, staff, local startups and Fintech firms.
In December 2019, Bank Muscat, the leading financial services provider in the Sultanate, revealed that the Central Bank of Oman had approved the institution’s request to establish a $100 million (appr. OMR38.5 million) nationwide, strategic Fintech investment program.
The investment program is reportedly part of Bank Muscat’s strategic growth initiative.Sponsored Links by DQ Promote
For many publishers in the Middle East region, Nabd – the largest personalized Arabic news aggregator – has become the number one source of referrals to their portals, exceeding Social Media networks, as a traffic source.
“In BBC Arabic, we consider our partnership with Nabd to be the most valuable and important of all our digital partnerships. This reflects the growing importance of news aggregators and the position of Nabd as a market leader. Our partnership with Nabd has enabled us to widen our reach and gain a new perspective of our audience needs”, says Mohamed Yehia, Head of daily output at BBC.
In its efforts to support its partners, the local, regional and international publishers, Nabd has launched a dedicated portal for publishers, enabling them to obtain and analyze detailed insights about their content, engagement, and users in Nabd.
“NABD is one of the top sources of traffic for RT Arabic. During the last 3 months NABD replaced Twitter as the second-best source of traffic from social media to the website”, says Maya Manna, Editor-in-Chief at RT Arabic.
Today, Nabd is considered by over 1,000 premium Arabic publishers, as a corner stone in their content distribution strategy, since it enables them to reach and tap into a massive audience, and continuously engage with them.
“We extremely value and enjoy our strategic partnerships with publisher partners. Such partnerships have empowered us to achieve our mission of supporting quality journalism in our region, and delivering relevant premium Arabic content for the Arabic audience globally”, says Mazen Singer, Chief Strategy Officer at Nabd.
Nabd is a Personalized Arabic Content Reader, enabling Arab users across the globe to stay up-to-date with their favorite topics on the go. Today, Nabd reaches over 20 million users, generating over 1.6 billion page views every quarter, making it the biggest Arabic app globally. It is currently available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
The UAE Government, in cooperation with the World Economic Forum (WEF), has opened the Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution in the UAE at AREA 2071, Emirates Towers in Dubai, the first of its kind in the region and the fifth globally.
In line with the rapid global changes and developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Center aims at preparing strategies, policies and developing solutions to the most pressing challenges in the region and the world. In addition, it works towards developing mechanisms, applications and uses for the fourth industrial revolution in the UAE.
Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of the UAE Cabinet Affairs and The Future, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees and managing director of Dubai Future Foundation stated that the opening of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution reflects the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Al Gergawi also highlighted that the UAE is continuously developing new business models that are dependent on technology and the outcomes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, to join global efforts for shaping a better future.
Borge Brende, president of WEF said: “In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, countries and businesses need to move fast or risk getting left behind. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain have the power to benefit everyone, but they must be shaped strategically to maximize the benefits and mitigate the risks.”
“We are looking forward to working with the UAE to accelerate the impact of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network’s work in this area and scale projects globally” Brende added.
The opening of the Centre was attended by His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Deputy Managing Director of Dubai Future Foundation, His Excellency Borg Brenda, President of the World Economic Forum, Her Excellency Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai, His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, alongside a number of senior representatives from the local government and the World Economic Forum.
The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR UAE) is a collaboration between the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) and the World Economic Forum (WEF).
An affiliate center of C4IR San Francisco, opened in 2017, C4IR UAE researches key focus areas in the fourth industrial revolution network: Blockchain and Distributed Ledger, AI and Machine Learning, and Precision Medicine.
Blockchain is the first project area launched under C4IR UAE in 2019 and will look into the governance frameworks around implementing blockchain across government sectors. The center will also trial a supply chain pilot, focusing on the correct governance protocols and practices with regards to security, data privacy and identity verification within blockchain. Across the three project areas, C4IR UAE aims to showcase UAE case studies, policy, and governance frameworks to WEF’s global network, as well as develop new research and policy around relevant UAE 4IR topics.
The Centre’s official launch follows the MOU signing that took place at the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council.
The Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution in the UAE, seen as the fifth of its kind in the world after the United States of America, Japan, India and China, comes as part of the strategic partnership between the UAE government and the World Economic Forum.
In an ever changing world, and despite the combination of factors all linked to IT infrastructure complexities and security, how investors can support entrepreneurship in the MENA region and the way, businesses and individuals alike are rushing into, for the time being at least, anything digital in the hope that such a move could assure a better present and somehow a decent future, McKinsey’s Dubai office produced this article written by Ahmad Alkasmi, consultant in McKinsey’s Dubai office, Omar El Hamamsy, senior partner, Luay Khoury, associate partner, and Abdur-Rahim Syed, partner. We republish it with our compliments to the authors and thanks to McKinsey’s Dubai office.
It goes without saying that the situation of each country of the MENA has specifics that are not covered here but it remains that to a certain degree, these are nevertheless not totally far from what is said by the authors.
The potential for entrepreneurship in the region is high, based on digital consumption and a startling increase in investment funding for start-ups.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most digitally connected in the world: across countries, an average of 88 percent of the population is online daily, and 94 percent of the population owns a smartphone. Digital consumption is similarly high in some countries; for example, Saudi Arabia ranks seventh globally in social-media engagement, with an average of seven accounts per individual.
Despite this sizable appetite for online content and services, key digital sectors remain nascent, and entrepreneurship potential is yet to be fully tapped. Across MENA, only 8 percent of small and medium enterprises have an online presence—ten times less than in the United States. Only 1.5 percent of MENA’s retail sales are online, which is five times less than in the United States. Research by Digital McKinsey suggests that the Middle East has only realized 8 percent of its overall digital potential, compared with 15 percent in Western Europe and 18 percent in the United States.
However, we believe the region is at the start of a new S-curve: MENA is experiencing a startling growth in both the number of successful start-ups and the amount of investment funding available to them (exhibit). Start-ups are scaling by adapting offerings and business models, from digital music to digital logistics, to serve local needs. Examples of this abound, from Fetchr using GPS technology to power delivery in a region with few addresses to Fawry using a local network of retailers to anchor its payment network and overcome barriers in the fintech space.
Moreover, the number of investors in the region increased by 30 percent from 2015 to 2017, while total funding increased by more than 100 percent in the same period. Corporate-venture-capital funds, in particular, are rapidly emerging in the evolving MENA-investment ecosystem. In 2015 and 2016, 14 new, significant CVC funds entered the MENA market. The number of CVC assets under management grew by more than 2.4 times from 2012 to 2016, reaching 20 percent of total venture-capital AUM in the region.
Through items from targeted, venture-capital–like investment funds to structured incubator and accelerator programs, public institutions are also playing an increasingly key role in the start-up ecosystem. Recent examples include the establishment of Fintech Factory in Egypt, FinTech Hive in the United Arab Emirates, and National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise Development in Kuwait.
Overall, the ecosystem supporting the growth of MENA’s start-up landscape has been falling into place. However, distinct gaps remain for investors in properly identifying potential in new business models and in scaling chosen start-ups. We recommend investors in the start-up space adopt the following six best practices to unlock the potential of entrepreneurship in the MENA region:
·Develop robust investment theses leveraging local context.
·Capture and proactively engineer network effects.
·Invest at scale.
·Manage performance with a patient, programmatic growth mind-set.
·Secure investment independence in governance to win the right talent.
·Monitor key performance indicators in line with the value-creation model.
Local MENA entrepreneurs have demonstrated they can be innovative and bold to meet changing demand. The appropriate adoption of best practices in venture investing can create significant value for investors, promising new businesses, and the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region
It is set to hit $155 billion in 2018, according to Gartner, Inc. a US research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500 in a press release in Dubai today, where the MENA 2018 IT spending will be a three-year high with notably a 3.4% increase spending from 2017 and with its highest anticipated to be in communication services, primarily mobile voice and data by mostly consumers.
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) IT spending is projected to reach $155 billion in 2018, a 3.4 percent increase from 2017, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
Gartner analysts are discussing key IT and business issues that are driving the evolution of digital business during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai from Monday through Wednesday.
In 2018, the MENA region will exhibit its highest IT spending increase in the last three years. Spending in communication services (mobile voice and data primarily), mostly by consumers, is the segment that will largely contribute to the rise in IT spending in MENA this year (see Table 1).
Software is projected to exhibit the strongest growth in 2018, with a 12.7 percent increase year over year. Software spending has also been growing at a double-digit rate the last two years. The growth has been driven by companies pursuing new functionalities in major back-office systems like supply chain management, enterprise resource planning and customer service.
Table 1. Middle East & North Africa IT Spending Estimates (Billions of U.S. Dollars)
2017 Growth (%)
2018 Growth (%)
Data Center Systems
Source: Gartner (March 2018)
Not all categories of IT spending in MENA will surpass the regional total average in 2018.Cloud spending in the region is among the lowest in the world when measured as a percentage of total IT spending.
“There are insufficient local hyper-scale and large-scale data centers to support cloud systems, which cause local organizations to derive cloud offering from abroad,” said Peter Sondergaard, executive vice president and global head of research at Gartner. “Moreover, latency, legal and local currency makes this option problematic and limits cloud adoption among businesses in MENA.”
The communications services segment — the largest spending segment in MENA — is growing to serve increasing demand for premium mobile phones. Communications services are expanding coverage and increasing data transfer rates while keeping prices low. The rising demand of premium mobile phones by consumers is also set to fuel growth in the devices spending segment in 2018.
“The MENA region witnesses continued focus on technology initiatives and improvements,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “Digital business transformation is creating new industry revenue streams. In 2018, the leading segments driving IT spending growth in the region are banking and securities growing at 3.6 percent, insurance at 2.9 percent and retail at 2.8 percent. IT spending in the banking sector is driven by its move into digital business and the corresponding investments in technologies such as analytics, blockchain and artificial intelligence. For the insurance sector, IT spending is led by investment in software applications.”
Digital Is Here and Is Mainstream
Clearly, digital is here and digital disruptors are emerging in all industries. “We’ve seen this in books, clothing, and now it’s happening in other industries such as traditional grocery markets and consumer durables,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “MENA CIOs must embrace digital transformation. They need to build the momentum to scale and create value by amplifying the power of their people, their organization culture, and their technology platform to deliver breakthrough value.”
Organizations that are not creating new digital business models, or new ways to engage constituents or customers, will begin to lag. “Those vendors that do not move more quickly than their clients will be left behind,” Mr. Sondergaard concluded.
Gartner’s IT spending forecast methodology relies heavily on rigorous analysis of sales by thousands of vendors across the entire range of IT products and services. Gartner uses primary research techniques, complemented by secondary research sources, to build a comprehensive database of market size data on which to base its forecasts.
Gartner’s quarterly IT spending forecasts offer a unique perspective on IT spending across hardware, software, IT services and telecommunications segments. They help Gartner clients understand market opportunities and challenges. The most recent IT spending forecast is available here.
A subject that is currently preoccupying all MENA’s oil exporting countries leadership is the subject of this article. It is in fact about how to re-distribute the export revenues of the underground resources amongst their national populations. Nobody throughout these countries, these days has any doubt that it should be done and to be undertaken only through improving data collection for a better welfare.
This article written by Aziz Atamanov and Nandini Krishnan was published on The World Bank website on May 10, 2016, is meant to follow on our previous ones about the on-going revolution of the ICTs that is presently affecting all countries, oil exporting and importing alike of the MENA.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has witnessed a surge of conflict and economic uncertainty and, while the causes of conflict vary, there is no ambiguity about the negative impact it has on people’s wellbeing. Today, the region is both the world’s largest host for displaced populations and the single largest source of forcibly displaced people. As a result, for us the development challenge has broadened beyond issues of governance, accountability, youth unemployment, and job creation, to humanitarian aid, post-conflict reconstruction, and targeted help for a range of vulnerable groups—all set within a difficult security and political environment. In such a context as this, developing countries in the MENA region will face a huge challenge meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The data challenge Timely, accessible, good quality data is key to measuring and tracking poverty and other SDG indicators. And monitoring progress in poverty reduction starts with collecting household consumption survey data. MENA’s 13 developing countries have been making progress on this front since 2000—in the 1990s, one-third of them had not done a single survey but between 2006 and 2015, all collected data for at least one survey, and two-thirds collected data for at least two. Despite this, the availability of household surveys in MENA is far from ideal. MENA countries collected on average four surveys per year between 2006 and 2010, but this rate slowed to three per year between 2011 and 2015. To the best of our knowledge, only three countries of 13 considered had two comparable surveys after 2009. And in the Mashreq region (Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria and Iraq), where conflict and displacement have been particularly acute, no poverty estimates using household surveys have been released since 2012. Thus, the region is at risk of data deprivation.
The lack of recent data is the reason why estimates of extreme poverty have not been produced by the World Bank for MENA since 2010, and why they are not included in the “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016” flagship report. Access to survey data is another problem: Only one-sixth of the surveys from 2006–15 contained data needed to measure poverty and were freely available to the public for downloading. Turmoil has also diverted resources from data collection. Official sensitivity to numbers about poverty has reduced accessibility, as has concerns over confidentiality. At the same time, though, national statistics agencies recognize the need for data to inform policy, particularly during these tumultuous times.
Gathering to troubleshoot
Participants from national statistics’ offices discussed the challenges involved in collecting micro-data
To stimulate peer-to-peer learning both outside the region and in it, the Bank’s MENA Team for Statistical Development organized a regional conference at the Centre for Mediterranean Integration in France. Keynote speakers and high-level participants from national statistics’ offices across MENA discussed the challenges involved in collecting and sharing micro-data for monitoring welfare, and for evidence-based policy making. Speakers from Mexico and Indonesia shared their experience of systems for micro-data collection, data access, and linking systems to policy making. They emphasized the importance of informing policy by creating a loop connecting frequent, high-quality data, to rich public feedback.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is an example of this as it shares most of the micro-data it collects on its website. Its president, Ola Awad, said the main goal of statistics bureaus was to produce data and disseminate it: Any responsibility for its misuse lay with users and was anyway rare. The Bank has used Palestinian household budget surveys and a census to construct a detailed poverty map of the territory, drawing links between various barriers and constraints to growth and investment. Najla Ali Murad, the Director of Iraq’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, showed how Iraq was turning to new technology and data collection methods during a time of crisis. Iraq’s statistical offices, supported by the Bank, collected high-quality household budget surveys for 2006 and 2011—they are available on the Bank’s website. The 2011 data helped the Government of Iraq assess the implications of the crises Iraq faced in 2014 on poverty. The Bank itself has advanced tools that may be able to help countries collect new information, and may be able to measure wellbeing in fragile and conflict-affected areas. These include the use of satellite images when census data is either not available or outdated; using small-area estimation techniques for poverty maps; and using the Survey of Well-being via Instant and Frequent Tracking to collect household income and expenditure data in a cost-effective, user-friendly way. The ways countries can benefit from tools to help statistics agencies anonymize, document, and disseminate their data were discussed. Many countries in the region share problems in common, including the widely held perception that national statistics agencies need only publish indicators rather than share microdata. Collecting meaningful data and putting it to good use is a critical step for countries—in MENA and around the world—to identify and manage the many challenges their people face.
Change does not start through revolutions in streets. It starts in people’s minds . . .
Khadija Hamouchi, a social entrepreneur, is founder of SEJAAL, an initiative that is developing a free learning App for MENA’s youth. She has received six international awards, including Stanford Business and Innovation Fellow, Morocco’s African Entrepreneurship Award and San Francisco’s Parisoma Accelerator Programme.
In a piece for the TheArabWeekly of October 2nd, 2016, Khadija describes her views on education in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) region. For her, the region needs its “education empire” in its own right.
Khadija continues: “It also needs its social network and its Mark Zuckerberg. The MENA region needs to exercise as much influence as it does receive itself. It needs to start leading again, too. Just like what we used to do through innovation, knowledge development and cultural deployment centuries ago. I like to think it was not that long ago.”
Instead of waiting for some miracle to happen, I am building a free web-based application, a learning content sharing service for young people in the region. I allow myself to dream big. I aspire to go worldwide — breaching borders and designing the future of learning engagement. This is not pretention, it is ambition.
I believe learning for all transforms societies systemically. I believe everyone deserves a chance to learn. I believe in a quality education, accessible to all. I believe individual engagement in learning creates social cohesion. I believe it can and must be done. It must be achieved if our societies are to thrive through innovation, economic redistribution and social cohesion.
We owe it to our young people. The very ones who found themselves with invaluable talent and capabilities but without even a window of opportunity, let alone a door. And we also owe it to the ones who found themselves contemplating their futures without hope.
How do we get this new paradigm off the ground?
Change does not start through revolutions in the streets. It starts in people’s minds. Modernity does not come about by welcoming fast-food chains into a country. It happens by embracing new habits of thoughts. Advancement does not happen by investing in fancy buildings. It is reaped through nurturing the talent and potential.
We need to leave a certain number of thinking patterns, not people, behind. We should accept the idea of failure, which is only but a symptom of success. Pure perfection does not exist. Perfection is a state of moving forward constantly. We need to let go of autocratic selfishness, which has silently but dangerously killed our people. We need to communicate openly and throw the sometimes needless culture of secrecy away.
Today MENA is being transformed through entrepreneurship. On that note, I believe any venture in the region should look beyond solving people problems and to disrupt the status quo. Ventures should empower people through free choices as well as exposure to ideas, realities and landscapes.
It is this philosophy that underpins SEJAAL, an app that supports people aged 18-30 to share learning content with their followers from existing platforms that we select for relevance and quality. Our members will have the ability to post infographics, videos, articles, e-learning courses, podcasts and other multimedia content on SEJAAL. They will have the ability to save that learning content on personalised boards as well as select themes that interest them because we believe in empowering people.
They will be able to share their thoughts and ask questions of the wider community of learners. That is how social learning takes place. Our editorial line will curate content on personal and professional development as well as the humanities, to regenerate societies with new energy and aspiration. We are building a prototype to submit to students in the region so they can create human-centred design solutions for and by people. We expect to have a beta version by June 2017.
I find it important to emphasise that modernity does not mean rejecting our culinary, musical, historical, folkloric or clothing traditions. It means making the decisions that serve the whole community. This can happen by understanding the strengths of respective national history as well as crafting an inclusive vision that covers ethnic differences, languages and faith.
The good news in all of this: We do not necessarily need money. We need attitude, mindset and will. These are free. They do not cost anything. Their currency is love for the community.”
Thomas Baekdal in his “Something to think about” blog, has written and published this article on September 5th, 2016. Where are Baekdal Plus subscribers from is not only about the origins of his subscribers, pondering on whether in this day and age it matters that much, Thomas quite rightly pointed out that the Internet accessible now to billions is having bearings on the conventional media as well as on the ensuing trans-border cultural mutations. Baekdal expresses loud and clear how for the sake of ease of communication, the media are increasingly published in English for reach, spread and for future growth.
One of the things that often defines a digital native is that they have no country. Traditional media companies are all country-based. We often hear that traditional publishers are ‘expanding into [insert country]’, as if they are not already there.
Digital natives don’t think like this, because they are global by default. A US YouTuber would never say, “I want to expand into Canada,” because they are already in every country in the world.
I wrote much more about this in my recent newsletter, which you can see here (and if you aren’t getting it already, do add yourself to the list).
Another place I see this is looking at this site, Baekdal Plus. My audience comes from all over the world (although some countries are dominating more than others), and it’s quite interesting to look at.
The way I run my business simply wouldn’t be possible 10-15 years ago. Baekdal Plus is 100% digital, but only 3% of audience is coming from my own country. 97% is coming from other countries, which I would not have been able to reach before the internet.
But let me show you the data.
There many ways we can measure an audience. Do we just look at the traffic, or do we look at conversion (which in my case means subscribers)? Well, let’s look at both.
Here is a graph illustrating which countries my audience is coming from if you look at unique visitors.
As you can see, I have a ton of traffic coming from the US, but keep in mind that the US is also a country with 318 million people, so it’s not really surprising that this one country stands out.
When we instead look at this per capita, now we see that most of my traffic is coming from countries that are close to my own (Denmark/Northern Europe) and/or English speaking.
Notice how I have just as much traffic from Australia as from the US, when compared per capita. Language is more powerful than distance in the connected world.
But notice how people from almost every single country in the world visit this site. The only ones missing are a few countries in Africa, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Eastern Europe… and North Korea.
This would have been impossible just 15 years ago.
But I’m not really interested in unique visitors, because I don’t make any money just from the traffic. Baekdal Plus is monetized by subscriptions, so it’s far more relevant to me to look at that.
So, here is the same map but for all ‘conversions’, being both actual subscribers and people signing up for a free trial.
Yes, the US is dominating Baekdal Plus in a big way. About 60% of all my subscribers and free trials come from the US.
But again, because the US is so big, it is kind of hard to see what’s going on everywhere else. So here is the same data excluding the US.
What you see now is that the UK and Belgium are my two largest (non-US) countries in terms of where my subscribers are coming from. Next are Norway and Sweden. Then comes Australia, followed by my own country (Denmark), Germany, Canada and Brazil.
Yes, Brazil. How awesome is that?
You will also notice that I’m getting more and more subscribers from India and Indonesia, which is just brilliant.
Africa is a bit of a problem though, and so is China. I have a few important subscribers in Hong Kong, but because of China’s media laws, it’s impossible for me to make Baekdal Plus relevant for them.
I want to mention Turkey here as well. As you can see above, I do have a number of subscribers in Turkey, which I find to be very interesting. Or rather, I used to have subscribers in Turkey, but not anymore.
As you may know, Turkey has decided to close down its internet to global players by forcing, for instance, payment providers to operate entirely within its borders (similar to what is happening in China). And as a result, PayPal has been forced to stop all payments from my subscribers in Turkey.
It’s yet another example of how Turkey is destroying itself and hurting not just the media industry, but also the tech industry. It’s really sad to see.
So, I’m unable to get any new subscribers from Turkey, and my existing subscribers cannot renew their subscriptions (although what I have done is to extend their subscriptions indefinitely, so that all my current Turkish subscribers are getting Baekdal Plus for free).
So, thank you Turkey for being an idiot.
The above map, however, shows you all conversions, regardless of whether people are currently active subscribers or not. So what if we just look at the active subscribers?
Well, here you go:
Again, the US is dominating. Not as much as before though. While 60% of all free trials and subscribers are from the US, only 29% of all active subscribers are from the US.
But while the US is awesome, let’s exclude it from the data so that we can see the pattern everywhere else, which looks like this:
Again, we see that the UK and Belgium are huge countries for Baekdal Plus, but Sweden is not far behind. Then comes Norway and Germany, followed by Australia and Canada. Brazil is pretty high up as well. Spain, France and India are pretty good too, as well as Mexico and Argentina.
But look at Denmark. My own country has almost dropped off the map, and I have nowhere near as many subscribers coming from my own country as the countries around me.
As I said before, only 3% of my annual revenue is coming from media companies within my own country. 97% comes from other countries. And you simply couldn’t do this 10-15 years ago. This is what happens when you live in the connected world.
So, when I define my location as ‘global’ on Twitter, that’s really what I am. I may live in Denmark, but my work, my analysis, my business… and in many ways also my culture… does not.
For instance, I was recently introduced by a Swedish magazine as a ‘Danish media analyst’, but I’m not. There is nothing specifically Danish about my work or analysis.
The next generation
Anyway, this was just a bit of data fun that I wanted to share with you. What’s interesting about this, though, is the larger trend.
Fifteen years ago, none of this would have been possible. But today, it’s not just possible for me, but also for many other digital native publishers. And if we look 15 years into the future, this will become the new normal.
And a big part of this is because of language. The countries with a very high English proficiency are also where we see most of the digital natives. And every young person today is growing with the internet, social media, blogs, and other channels, where communicating isn’t defined by any specific country nor the local language.
Already today, people don’t really think about what country someone is from before they follow them on Instagram. We only look at what they do, who they are, and why they are sharing things.
The older generation is still mostly just following people locally because of old habits and existing networks, but the younger generation isn’t really defined by country anymore, and especially not in countries where English proficiency is very high.
We see this even more with magazines and newspapers from English speaking countries. More and more of their audience is what is usually referred to as ‘out of market’, as people are reading their publications from outside their old markets.
Local newspapers in the US, for instance, are slowly turning more and more national, and UK magazines are increasingly focusing on the entire English speaking population of the internet, as opposed to just the UK population.
And, of course, digital natives are doing all of this by default. Here is the most popular YouTuber in Norway. Yes, she is obviously creating all her videos in English, because that’s the only thing that makes sense.
As you can see in the map above, real English proficiency is still only a thing in parts of Europe and a few other places, but if you live in any of those places, it is becoming increasingly important to look at publishing in English as a key driver of future growth.
If you are a Norwegian magazine, for instance, does it really make sense to continue to publish in Norwegian and only reach a maximum of 5 million people, or would it make more sense to create a more global magazine in English just like the popular Norwegian YouTubers are already doing?
That’s the shift that is currently happening.
Of course, if you live in France, where English proficiency generally is still low, it’s too soon to make that shift. I would not recommend to a French magazine to do what I would tell a Norwegian magazine.
But, again, this is a generational thing. The future generation in France will have grown up communicating in English with all their friends, so whether something is in French or in English won’t really matter to them.
That’s why we call this a transitional trend. Our world is transitioning from a country-based media industry, to an interest based media industry. And this change is happening faster in countries with a high proficiency in English, because it allows being global by default (which is impossible for an Italian magazine).
Further to our article on Which languages do most people want to learn?, we propose here to dwell on the preoccupying issue of the Language as a Communication Tool for all Sciences between individuals as well as between communities and countries at the dawn of the Fourth Revolution, which today, all mass media worldwide refers to as the ‘Digital Revolution’ or the ‘Knowledge Revolution’.
In fact, the Fourth Revolution for most relate to the technological advances of cheap long distance, interactive communications, predicting that because of the current development of the technology, the reel revolution is deemed to happen, because it fundamentally increases the collective cognitive capability of humankind in a manner never possible before.
We propose the reading of a brilliant article written by Cedric Villani, a French academic under the title of “LA LANGUE DE CHEZ NOUS”. We took the initiative of translating some of the first paragraphs for the subject’s historical background setting out. We shall endeavour to bring in more of the same for the subject is an on-going as we speak topic and would most probably remain so with us in the foreseeable future.
This article dated back to February 2016 gives out also an idea of the current resentment perceived here and there towards the technological related ever increasing use of the English language.
The MENA region which is in our view itself, between the Anglo and Francophone worlds in its day to day relations with the world share in the same preoccupations.
After over 200 pages of discussion, Montgomery answered YES… a fairly natural response: global business, science works according to global exchanges, and research articles should be accessible to all.
But as one might expect, the debate is more subtle, and the book was not all completely devoted to the question: it dealt with, more generally, of the delicate subject of the language of science communication and all that this implies. Because «language is power.
Let us put the discussion back in a historical context. Simplifying by big strokes, we can say that the language of science was first Greek; then Arabic; then Latin. The rediscovery of Greek authors, translated from Arabic into Latin, was a considerable upheaval in Europe in the 13th century…
During the Renaissance, Latin has established itself as the language of international scientific exchanges, for several centuries — Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Euler will publish most of their major works in Latin. In parallel, the scientific writings in common languages multiply; so Galileo wrote his scientific-polemics works in Italian ”Il saggiatore and Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo”, or as Euler writes in French his “Letters to a young German Princess”. The first scientific journals appear in Paris and in London in the 17th century, and are published in the language of the country.
When Latin goes out of fashion, common languages take off. For mathematicians, differential geometry perhaps best symbolizes this evolution: If Gauss publishes his famous “Theorema Egregium” of 1827 in Latin; it’s in German that his student Riemann posed, a quarter century later, the foundations of a general theory of non-Euclidean geometry.
However, it was not question to use all common languages; the multiplication of language barriers would have hindered the flow of ideas. On the other hand, as the European academics were all, at this time, more or less multilingual, it wasn’t a matter of letting several languages co-exist. In the 19th century, three languages therefore got cleared: French, German and English – and, to a lesser extent, Italian. Thus, Einstein published in 1905, his famous articles in German in “Annalen der Physik”, the most important journal of Physics of the time. In fact, German was the dominant language in physics and chemistry, while French had the leadership in mathematics.
Came then the world wars! Provisional annihilation of French and German Science at the end of the first world war; boycott of German scientists; rise of a generation of American scientists who wanted to publish in their own language; propulsion of American universities to the top global ranks, with the help of an economic boom and the massive immigration of European scientists… All this made English establish itself as the dominant language as much in science as in world culture. Beyond simple communication, linguistic domination was also a source of power and income in a world where the handling of knowledge became an economic issue. Two other notable scientific languages of the 20th century, Russian and Japanese, remained rather confined to their respective spheres of influence, and got finally erased also.
Symbol of this evolution: in 1924, Einstein still took the trouble to translate the work of Bose from English into German; twenty years later, no one was thinking anymore of doing the same. Another symbol: in the interwar years, Torsten Carleman, the greatest Swedish mathematician of his time, published in French, in German or (more rarely) in English; nowadays, his brilliant Nordic successors publish exclusively in English. As for “Annalen der Physik”, it became a 100% Anglophone review, except for its title!
In search of the universal language of mathematicians
vAt a time of globalisation notably through its digital expression, there seems to be greater polarisation of languages around a handful few. In effect and despite of leaning on techno Hard & Software based direct translation systems, more and more do still rely on human capacity to learn and naturally practice a language. Which languages do most people want to learn? It is an article written by Keith Breene, Senior Writer, Formative Content of the WEF gives an expressive rendition with colourful images of the present conjecture. Wouldn’t you agree?
Which languages do most people want to learn?
A handful of popular languages win out every time. Image: South China Morning Post
A new map gives us an easy way to visualize how languages grew as cultural, economic and religious influences spread around the world.
According to the data is this graphic map, the distribution of languages closely follows patterns of human migration, colonization and religious influence. The Romans spread the use of Latin across Europe and the Mediterranean basin as their empire grew. Latin has fallen out of common use but it is still the basis for many of the most frequently spoken languages.
The British Empire made English the global language it is today.
Image: South China Morning Post
A total of 335 million people have English as their native tongue; 225 million of them in the United States. English is spoken in 110 countries, more than any other language.
Spain’s colonial history in Latin America left a strong linguistic legacy, too. Spanish is the native tongue in 35 countries and is spoken by 399 million people as a first language.
Image: South China Morning Post
Key: SV (El Savador), GT (Guatemala), NI (Nicaragua), PA (Panama), UY (Uruguay)
Arabic is another language that has spread far and wide. It is spoken in 60 countries by 242 million people. It became widespread with the conquests of Muslim armies in the seventh century BC, as Islam emerged as a new religious and political force.
But the most commonly used language? Chinese, with by far the largest number of speakers.
China’s various dialects are the mother tongue of over a billion people. Most of them live in mainland China but there are Chinese-speakers all the way across Asia.
With the world again witnessing a mass movement of people, language patterns will evolve even further. But the most popular languages look likely to keep on being the most popular, at least in the near term.
So, which languages are people learning? Of the students surveyed, 1.5 billion are studying English and a further 1.6 million either French, Chinese or Spanish.
Have you read?
How your language shapes your worldview
There are advantages to speaking two languages
Is the internet killing off the world’s languages?
Information & Communication Technology in the MENA
How is the sector of information and communication technology (ICT) in the MENA ? Could the ICT address the MENA region youth unemployment as it was claimed last year? The World Economic Forum (WEF) provided elements of an answer to this question in its latest report The Global Information Technology Report 2016 made public on last Thursday, July 7th, 2016.
The Global ICT 2016 report starts with the assertion that : “We are at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which represents a transition to a new set of systems, bringing together digital, biological, and physical technologies in new and powerful combinations.” and its study on the use of ICT world-wide, established a ranking of some 139 countries from around the world, based on indicators that relate, inter alia, to the political and regulatory environment and to the business environment, the technological infrastructure of each of the countries, the use of ICT by citizens as well as by business companies and by public administrations. It concludes with an estimated impact on the economy and society of each of the countries.
The study was conducted in collaboration with the INSEAD, a French graduate business school with campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
According to the Global Information Technology Report 2016, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel, Singapore, the Netherlands and the United States are leading the world when it comes to generating economic impact from investments in their respective ICT.
The Report adds that on average, this group of high-achieving economies at the pinnacle of its Networked Readiness Index (NRI) economic impact pillar scores 33% higher than other advanced economies and 100% more than emerging and developing economies. The seven are all known for being early and enthusiastic adopters of ICT and their emergence is significant as it demonstrates that adoption of ICTs – coupled with a supportive enabling environment characterized by sound regulation, quality infrastructure and ready skills supply among other factors – can pave the way to wider benefits.
Europe remains at the technology frontier with seven out of the top 10 NRI countries being European. For as far as the MENA is concerned, the UAE (26th) and Qatar (27th) continue to lead the Arab world when it comes to networked readiness. The MENAP region (Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan) is home to two of the biggest movers in this year’s rankings: Kuwait (61st, up 11) and Lebanon (88th, also up 11).
It ranked Morocco at the 78th and Tunisia at the 81st and at the other end of the spectrum, Algeria is at the 117th. Unlike Morocco and Tunisia, Algeria was found lagging in a majority of the areas of the country’s ICT.
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