How will the social media behemoth approach the Middle East?

  • TikTok's entry into the UAE is reflective of the strong inroads Chinese tech is making in the GCC and wider MENA
  • Due to the MENA’s youthful, technology-embracing population, TikTok is positioned for strong growth throughout the region

Tahseen Consulting's COO Wes Schwalje recently spoke with Alicia Buller over at Arabian Consulting to offer his two cents on what the teenage phenomenon TikTok, and its mother-company ByteDance, might have in store for the MENA region. You can also read the full article here

Chinese giant ByteDance is now one of the most valuable private technology firms in the world.

It is reportedly worth $75 billion, and owns a variety of apps from news aggregators to social media services. The company is trying hard to diversify its business, through international expansion and other new business initiatives in domestic markets, e.g. smartphone, online education, e-commerce, instant messaging.

How might we see ByteDance makes inroads to the Gulf?

On the back of recent UAE-China Economic Forum in July and the state visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in February, China tech is making strong inroads in the GCC and wider MENA with a string of recent high profile announcements. Chinese ridehailing app Didi is likely to enter Abu Dhabi later in the year with the support of Symphony Investment and potentially Mubadala as it eyes wider regional expansion.

Hot startups that bridge the best of Silicon Valley and China, like the fast growing autonomous vehicle leader AutoX, are looking at markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The increasing number of Chinese tourists in the UAE and MENA have led to several; partnerships between the region’s tourism authorities and tech companies such as Fliggy and Tencent’s WeChat and WeChat Pay. Huawei has also become key to the MENA’s race to 5G.

People are surprised to learn that the world's most valuable private tech company is a dual nationality company with roots in both Silicon Valley and China.

ByteDance’s official regional launch of TikTok on January 1, 2019 with a one minute light show ahead of Dubai’s annual fireworks display on the Burj Khalifa is probably the boldest brand activation ever successfully executed by a tech company in the MENA. 

ByteDance’s global and MENA expansion has been driven by the short video, social media app TikTok. Since its regional launch, TikTok has been amongst the most downloaded apps in the key GCC markets of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are critical markets for social media companies since they make up over 70% of GCC digital ad spend. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are also bellwethers for what is likely to become big in other markets in the MENA.

TikTok is particularly popular amongst Generation Z  in the GCC with social media market increasingly becoming segmented by demographic cohort — Generation X and Y are avid users of Facebook and Twitter while Generation Z are heavy users of TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Due to the MENA’s youthful, technology-embracing population, TikTok is positioned for strong growth throughout the MENA and also benefits from high penetration rates in India and Pakistan which further reinforce GCC adoption due to the region’s historical commercial links with South Asia.