The mobile industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has largely risen to the challenge of sustaining social and economic activities in the region during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the unprecedented growth in data traffic. However, Covid-19 has also highlighted the impact of the digital divide for a large number of people in the region still unable to connect to mobile internet. With digital connectivity expected to play an even more central role in society post-Covid-19, it is more important now than ever before to address the barriers to mobile internet adoption and usage in the region.
New 5G networks were launched in three markets during the first nine months of 2020, taking the total number of commercial 5G networks in the region to 15 in seven markets. By 2025, there will be just under 60 million mobile 5G connections in the region. Meanwhile, 4G adoption continues to build momentum in MENA, driven by network expansion, especially in frontier markets, and concerted efforts by mobile operators to migrate users to 4G networks as part of plans to shut down legacy networks and free up spectrum for 4G and 5G services.
In addition to providing much-needed connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic, the mobile industry in MENA has actively engaged in initiatives to help to alleviate the economic impact of the pandemic, including discounts on data tariffs and cash and equipment donations. Mobile technologies and services also continue to contribute to economic growth more generally. The industry generated 5.7% of GDP in 2019, raised $20 billion through taxation, and supported around 1 million jobs.