The Future 100: MENA Trends and Change to Watch in 2016

What do consumer trends in the Middle East & North Africa tell us about how governments can connect with citizens in the region?

This report uncovers radical shifts in consumer behaviour across the Middle East and North Africa. These emerging consumer trends provide an essential insight into the region’s evolving citizen thinking and behaviour.
The Future 100 MENA Trends and Change to Watch in 2016 is produced by Innovation Group MENA and J. Walter Thompson Intelligence MENA. J Walter Thompson is a global communications company and part of WPP.

Some key findings:

The Water Credo
The new World Resources Institute (WRI) rankings place 14 of the world’s 33 most water-stressed countries in the MENA.  Due to water resource depletion – and in some cases, water outages - governments and citizens alike are working on identifying new solutions to the problem. Teen entrepreneurs in Lebanon ("Teenpreneurs"), for example, have devised urine powered electricity generators, in place of hydroelectric power. The population have not only become more cognizant of the links between water, food and energy, but are also more open to adjusting their habits. The Water Credo is a trend which will express itself across multiple facets for years to come.

Banking the Unbanked
According to the World Bank, 41% of adults in the MENA region claim they are not eligible to even open a bank account. This has led to a trend in peer-to-peer systems and decentralised currencies, eliminating the need for traditional financial players all together. Payments via virtual wallets and social platforms, Bitcoin exchange and age-old barter models are acting as new players to substitute traditional financial mediums and allowing brands to reach unbanked consumers; allowing citizens to access, borrow and invest money who would otherwise be unreachable.


The New Face of Arab Women
In January, CNN reported on how women are shaking up business in the MENA region. The Future 100 finds that Arab women are expecting brands to work around her and her needs more than ever before. The soar of female gamers, women adopting mixed martial arts and the visibility of female fashion and make-up bloggers are driving a whole new rhetoric around women. Not only is this change driving what Arab women demand and expect from brands, but also giving rise to career paths and shaping continuous collaboration with rising talent to connect to young Arab audiences.

The Health Conscious Consumer

Consumers in the MENA region are becoming more discerning about their health, causing brands to reassess their strategies to reach this health-conscious consumer. The population are looking at health in a completely new way. They no longer see health as an isolated subject, but take a holistic approach; the lines between beauty and food continue to blur, curiosity around not only new ingredients but the method of production has increased, and mind, body, diet and fitness are now seen as intrinsically linked. This trend is particularly interesting, considering the rising obesity rates in a number of MENA countries, and shows that in order to reach these more discerning citizens, governments need to reflect their holistic approach as brands have already begun to do.

Silicon Arabia
Innovations of Arab tech companies are blazing the trail for Silicon Arabia’s New Frontier, and seem to be set on improving the economy. These startups are radically rethinking traditionally accepted practices across all sectors, developing products and services reflecting the demands of a discerning population. With ‘silicon-savvy’ overtaking ‘book-savvy’ as the new competitive advantage of our times, the rise in education programmes focusing on these skills is likely to increase this trend even further – in a region where ‘Teenpreneurs’ are already ushering in a more progressive wave of startups.

Acting as the silent seamless catalyst across the board is the smartphone, which in the era of connectivity is no longer just for the educated and prosperous, but is powering benefits in the lives of repressed minorities, particularly the waves of migrants spilling into regional markets. The sheer number of people online is driving growth and change in behaviour and expectations of citizens across all sectors.

Read the full report here.

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