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What will Middle East and North Africa’s IT spending be like in 2018?

 Middle East and North Africa (MENA) IT spending is projected to reach $155 billion in 2018, a 3.4% increase from 2017, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.

 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%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.

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Table 1. Middle East & North Africa IT Spending Estimates (Billions of U.S. Dollars) 

2017 Spending 2017 Growth (%) 2018 Spending 2018 Growth (%)
Devices 26,956 1.4 27,397 1.6
Data Center Systems 4,605 4.0 4,633 0.6
Software 5,500 10.9 6,199 12.7
IT Services 10,128 4.1 10,588 4.5
Communications Services 102,996 -1.4 106,547 3.4
Overall IT 150,185 0.04 155,364 3.4

Source: Gartner (March 2018)

Cloud spending

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.”

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Communication services

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%, insurance at 2.9% and retail at 2.8%. 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.”

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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.