Metaverse technologies have the potential to add a combined $55 billion to the economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE by 2035, a new study from Facebook parent Meta Platforms suggests.
The innovation could contribute up to $38.1 billion and $16.7 billion to the kingdom and the Emirates respectively by the middle of the next decade, as the nations adopt the metaverse, the report by consultancy Deloitte said.
The minimum impact would be $20.2 billion for Saudi Arabia and $8.8 billion for the UAE, the study said.
In Mena markets such as Egypt, the region's most populous country, the metaverse is expected to have an impact of between $11.6 billion and $22 billion.
Morocco is expected to benefit to the tune of between $2.6 billion and $5 billion, while Jordan's is forecast to bring between $900 million and $1.7 billion from the technology.
Among the sectors that are expected to significantly benefit from adopting the metaverse are tourism, retail, property and gaming, the report said.
“The metaverse will be a constellation of technologies, platforms and products built by a range of companies, opening up creative and commercial opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa and around the world,” Fares Akkad, Meta's regional director for the Middle East and Africa, said.
“While these technologies may be virtual, their economic impact will be very real. Unlocking this potential is critically important and will only be achieved collaboratively, through effort and co-operation between technology companies, policymakers, civil society and others.”
The metaverse, based on Web3, is a virtual space where people represented by avatars interact. It is could reshape and streamline workplace and businesses operations with new techniques.
It remains to be seen at which stage of adoption the metaverse would be by 2035, but companies and governments are tapping into its potential.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have regulations in place encouraging the use of Web3 technologies as part of their digital economic transformation programmes.
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's biggest economy, is in the middle of a diversification drive under its Vision 2030 agenda, with technology central to attracting investments and creating jobs.
Dubai's metaverse strategy
Meta launched the Mena region's first metaverse academy in the kingdom at the Leap technology conference in February. The institute, which began operations on May 1, focuses on shaping the metaverse by providing training to 1,000 people in its first 18 months.
The UAE, the Arab world's second largest economy, unveiled its Dubai Metaverse Strategy last year, which aims to create 40,000 jobs and add $4 billion to the city's economy.
The emirate also hosted the Dubai Metaverse Assembly in September, the first of its kind.
A number of UAE entities have “addresses” in the metaverse, including the Ministry of Economy, Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, Ajman Police and the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority, which made it the first regulator in the world to set up shop there.
A previous study from PwC unit Strategy& showed that the metaverse is projected to contribute about $15 billion to GCC economies annually by 2030, led by Saudi Arabia.
The Meta study acknowledged that the metaverse is in its infancy, but stressed that early adopters will have the advantage — especially in markets like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are investing in building the infrastructure required.
“While early metaverse experiences are emerging through existing infrastructure and current user devices in more advanced regions, the extent to which advanced technologies such as the metaverse will be widely used in Mena will rely on an enabling environment,” the report said.
This will go “beyond internet service providers, including adequate digital infrastructure, digital skills and regulations to attract investment, foster innovation and facilitate access to metaverse applications”, it said.
In other global markets, the metaverse is forecast to contribute between $402 billion to $760 billion in the US, $284 billion to $536 billion in the EU and $50.5 billion to $95 billion in the UK, new and earlier reports from Meta said.