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06/04/2008

Consumer Tech in Egypt

I just returned from a trip to Egypt and wanted to write down some observations about the ways in which consumer technology and telecom have been evolving there.

I lived in Cairo for two years in the mid-1990s. Part of that period I worked as an analyst for RITSEC, a joint venture between several NGOs and the Egyptian Government, whose mission is to promote the development of technology and the software industry throughout the Arab world. What struck me on this trip, was both how far things have come along in the intervening years and also the change in direction of this development.

Today technology is very much a mainstream product in the country. While the emergence of satellite television was the "killer app" of the 1990s, today broadband and wireless data technologies have moved well beyond mere luxury goods. Not surprisingly, the prime example is the prevalence of mobile phones. A country with per capita GDP of less than $5k, Egypt recently passed the 30 million subscriber mark, or about 35%. This is split between 3 carriers: Mobinil and Vodafone each have nearly half the market, and a considerably smaller stake is held by UAE's Etisalat, which has been in market for less than a year.

I've posted some pictures which give a good sampling of the main mobile operators' retail stores and advertising. Also thrown in are some shots of the Smart Village development on the Cairo-Alexandria road.  Smart Village is a private industrial park catering to foreign and domestic IT and telecom companies.  (Unfortunately the pictures don't do justice to the striking fact that those lush lawns and gleaming buildings are in the middle of the desert.)

The speed of change in "emerging markets" is accelerating as a result of technology and globalization. While these trend are well-documented elsewhere, I think that looking at it through the lens of marketing can be particularly informative. Over the next few days I plan to write about specific aspects of consumer tech marketing in Egypt.

June 4, 2008 in News | Permalink

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