Saudi Arabia Leads the Middle East With High Growth in March

Following a lull in growth in February, most of the Arabian Peninsula (plus Egypt) sped ahead in March, adding 640,280 new monthly active users. That’s an 8.2 percent increase, to a total of 9,830,480 users for the sub-region, which we’ve broken out from our latest Facebook Global Monitor data from Inside Facebook Gold.

Saudi Arabia is the stand-out country here. When we discussed February’s figures last month it had achieved only 5.8 percent growth; as you can see in the table below, it grew an impressive 13.4 percent in March. And with its relatively low penetration, the country still has plenty of room to accelerate in the future.

More surprising is the second-fastest grower, Israel. At 35.9 percent penetration, Israel seems like it should be nearing its limits — most countries top out as they approach 40 percent. However, that may not prove to be true for Israel, which is small and tightly-knit at 7.3 million citizens. We’ve observed that smaller countries tend to have the highest penetration rates — at least up to this point in Facebook’s growth. For reference, the most-penetrated country in the world is tiny Iceland at 54.6 percent, while the lumbering United States is still at 37 percent.

Most of the remaining countries in the table also grew faster in March. The exception is Egypt, which performed better in February — or did it? Facebook’s figures usually lag behind by several weeks. So the slowed growth we’re seeing now might actually be the result of a fatwa issued on Facebook by an Egyptian cleric in early February. The social network has unintentionally become a political weapon in the country; more recently, the head of the opposition sent out a plea for reform via Facebook.

The Middle East is not a terribly important region by size alone, but Facebook has put some effort into securing an advertising deal for its own definition of the Mideast, which stretches from Morocco to Pakistan. For our own numbers, we cover the Maghreb with Africa (look out for that post next week), and Pakistan with Asia.

You can find more detailed growth stats and forward projections for the next year on 96 countries in the full Facebook Global Monitor report, available through Inside Facebook Gold at gold.insidenetwork.com/facebook.