LinkedIn launches Arabic service to tap into Middle East market

The launch of an Arabic version will provide a more relevant experience to members and customers in the region, LinkedIn executive says.

Above, Linkedin's office at Dubai Internet City. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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The professional social network LinkedIn is targeting an increase in users in key Middle Eastern markets including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the launch of its Arabic language service.

The Middle East and North Africa is one of the social network’s fastest growing regions, with more than 14 million users, compared with 5 million members in 2012.

However, the region’s largest labour markets remain under-penetrated by the social network up to now, in part owing to the lack of an Arabic language option, according to Ali Matar, the head of LinkedIn Mena Talent Solutions.

While the UAE leads the region with 2 million members, its user base is roughly equivalent to the total user base of Saudi Arabia and Egypt combined, despite the two countries’ combined population being more than 11 times the size of that of the UAE.

“The launch of an Arabic version will provide a more relevant experience to our members and customers in the region,” Mr Matar said at the launch of the Arabic service in Dubai yesterday.

“This will open up opportunities for hundreds of millions of Arabic-speaking professionals to connect and engage with other professionals and employers across the world, and for companies to find and attract the best talent, connect their brand with our audience, and engage with their customers.”

Noura Al Kaabi, the chief executive of twofour54, who was at the launch, said the initiative would help to strengthen the Arabic media sector and nurture Arabic-speaking talent. “Arabic is spoken by over 300 million of the global population, more than French and Portuguese, yet it is underrepresented on the internet,” she said.

The site’s Arabic service also drew praise from the Saudi government.

“LinkedIn has been working with us to match talent in the kingdom with the right opportunity,” said the Saudi labour minister Adel Fakeih. “With Arabic, this benefit can be rolled out to a much wider member base. LinkedIn will continue to be a useful tool for us as we use technology to communicate the need for nationals to up-skill themselves and take advantage of the strong economic climate and significant job creation in the kingdom.”

LinkedIn in recent months has increased its global team of in-house editors with high-profile recruits from publications including Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, as the site increases the amount of content generated by a team of "influencers", which includes high-profile figures such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates.

A Dubai-based spokesman said that LinkedIn’s global strategy was to develop its localised content offering, but there were no updates as to how this would be developed in the Mena region.

The launch of Arabic brings the total number of languages available on the social networking service to 24.