• Table of contents

    • [+]Preliminaries (3)
    • [+]Introduction (4)
    • [+]Latin America (13)
    • [+]Sub-Saharan Africa (9)
    • [—]Arab World (11)
    • [+]Russia (11)
    • [+]India (11)
    • [+]China (9)
    • [+]Conclusions (6)
    • [+]Appendix (1)

Arab World

Electronic payments: between the Web and mobile phones

Another characteristic that distances the Arab world from the countries of the North is the unwillingness of Internet users to make online purchases,[1] which perhaps explains why none of the virtual stores aimed at PC users from the internal market has been particularly successful. Ramy Habeeb comes straight to the point on this topic:

Unfortunately for the Arab world, as an online economy, generally speaking the Arab world is not used to purchasing anything online. It’s become a culture of free online purchasing – people in my region simply do not wish to pay for content. This is a bit different from territory to territory, I hesitate to generalise and say that the entire Arab world is like that. You find that the Gulf States, like Saudi Arabia, especially, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain they tend to purchase a bit more online, but when you look at the Levant, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon hardly purchase anything online. And Syria, zero. Whereas the other states will get occasional traffic, in Syria you get nothing. And my bet is that the reason for this is because of the anti-credit-card-to-be-used-online culture.[2]

Just like in sub-Saharan Africa, in the Arab world it may be mobile phones rather than the Web that are the real protagonists of electronic commerce. Among the local telecommunications companies that have already championed the cell phone-based payment system we should mention Etisalat and Zain. The first of the two companies, based in the United Arab Emirates, offers a money transfer service via mobile phones that, according to the company’s website, is part of a wider m-commerce strategy.[3] Zain, which emerged in Kuwait in 1983, is now present in 7 countries in the region and in January 2011 it presented its mobile wallet platform in Jordan.[4]

The cell phone-based payment systems will no doubt continue to expand throughout the Arab world and will be crucial for the economic viability of many digital publishing projects.

  1. A recent study reveals that only 32% of the inhabitants of the Arab world are in the habit of buying products or services via the Web, compared with 62% in the United Kingdom. Almost half of those surveyed were from the Gulf States – with greater purchasing power –, and very few from the Maghreb (13%) or the Levant (7%), where digital consumption habits tend to be even lower. Cf. “Media consumption & habits of MENA Internet users”, Effective Measure-Spot On PR, September 2010.
  2. December 2010, cited supra.
  3. That is to say, commerce via mobile phones. Cf. “Etisalat Mobile Money Transfer Service”, Etisalat.
  4. Cf. “Mobile commerce comes to the Middle East: ‘Zain E-mal’ mobile wallet service is launched”, Zain, 30th January, 2011.


  1. thierry quinqueton

     /  27/08/2011

    Au dela des technologies de circulation des savoirs, l’attention portée dans l’étude à la façon dont sont appropriées par les gens les différentes possibilités de paiement numérique (internet avec carte de credit, par téléphone mobile) est très riche pour voir comment pourraient se développer l’édition numérique. Les autres partenaires de la chaine du livre (bibliothèques, librairies, par exemple) n’auront probablement la même approche.

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