Dubai: Metaverse could unlock revenue and innovation in key growth sectors in the MENA region, according to a report "The Metaverse and its potential for MENA," prepared by Deloitte LLP for Meta Platforms, Inc. The MENA region is undergoing rapid change, with hydrocarbon-rich countries seeking sustainable growth through diversification and ambitious transformation plans. Digitalization is at the heart of these plans, with countries targeting it as a key driver of development. In parallel, consumers and business communities across the region are increasingly open to digital technologies.Based on projections of metaverse?related ICT investment globally, this study estimates that metaverse technologies could eventually support an annual economic contribution ranging from US$ $20.2 toUS $38.1 billion in KSA and US$11.6 to US$22.0 billion in Egypt, to US$ $0.9 to US$ 1.7 billion in Jordan, by 2035.Digitally mature countries such as KSA and the UAE have particular potential for near?term adoption. However, further diversification will be needed to create a dynamic private sector business environment with incentives for innovation and investment, to expand the potential for metaverse adoption across the wide range of sectors where it can create value.Elsewhere, benefits can be expected to accrue more gradually. Countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Morocco face wider gaps in digital infrastructure, skills and affordability, creating barriers especially for the adoption of the most sophisticated and transformative use cases. The report outlines the potential impact of the metaverse in MENA and how it can enable successful growth. The metaverse is a collective virtual shared space that is created by the convergence of physical and virtual worlds. It offers new opportunities for economic growth, social interaction, and innovation. The report suggests that the metaverse could provide a platform for the region to showcase its cultural heritage and offer new experiences to consumers.In countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, and the KSA, momentum behind the metaverse is building across policymakers, businesses and consumers.The UAE and KSA seek to play a leading role in the emergence of the metaverse globally, recognizing the potential contribution towards growth and diversification targets. In the UAE, Dubai has launched a Metaverse Strategy, aiming to establish one of the world’s top ten metaverse economies.KSA, for example, has launched an initiative that will allow Muslims from all around the world to virtually touch the Black Stone at the Kaaba, an important religious tourism site. The initiative will allow people to completely immerse themselves in the experience, stimulating a range of senses including vision, hearing and smell.The Strategy envisages economic benefits of US$4 billion by 2030, focusing on transformative impacts in tourism, real estate, education, retail, and government services.34 The UAE has hosted international events – including the Dubai Metaverse Assembly and the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (‘GITEX’) in 2022 – to spread awareness and explore the metaverse’s potential.However, the report also highlights the challenges that need to be addressed to enable successful metaverse growth in MENA. These include infrastructure challenges, such as connectivity and access to digital technologies, as well as regulatory challenges, such as data protection and cybersecurity.To enable successful metaverse growth, the report suggests a collaborative approach between public and private sectors, academia, and civil society. It also suggests the need for investment in infrastructure, digital skills, and innovation.The report concludes with country profiles of MENA countries, highlighting their current digitalization efforts and potential for metaverse growth. The report emphasizes that any decision to invest, conduct business, enter or exit the markets considered in the report should be made solely on independent advice, and no information in the report should be relied upon in any way by any third party.GamingImmersive gaming is currently one of the most prevalent use cases for metaverse?related technologies, and will play a key part in the proliferation of the metaverse across MENA.MENA has one of the fastest growing gaming industries in the world, expected to more than double to a US$ 5 billion industry with 85.7 million gamers by 2025.62. MENA countries such as KSA and the UAE are investing heavily in the industry, reflecting its potential. KSA is making multibillion?dollar investments in gaming and e?sports and has launched the “Gaming And Esports Strategy” programme to boost the sector’s contribution to GDP to US$ 13 billion in eight years and generate 39,000 jobs by 2030.63.In the UAE, the government is supporting the creation of a gaming hub in Abu Dhabi, ADGaming Hub, that aims to attract international creators and gaming companies. More generally, the UAE is forecasted to reach an AR and VR penetration rate of over 50% by 2027, highlighting the ubiquity of the technology in the near future.Other governments in the region also recognize the importance of gaming, such as Morocco, where the Ministry of Youth partnered with Royal Moroccan Federation of Videogames to promote the sector. The two entities plan to increase investment, enhance the country’s youth gaming skills and promote participation in international tournaments, such as the FIFAe Nations Series 2022.Improved access to gaming could even offer players new avenues to pursue professional careers as gamers, with this trend already becoming popular in Morocco. Retail and tourism Metaverse technologies can offer consumers access to engaging shopping experiences through virtual shops, experiencing products without visiting the shop physically. Emerging examples include the launch of the first metaverse B2B marketplace in the region, based in the UAE, called “Magnati?MetaV’, which will provide shops and brands the ability to shift to multi?dimensional online commerce.85 Also, retailers such as Chalhoub Group – the largest retail operator in MENA – are already offering retail in the metaverse with products in the form of non?fungible tokens (NFTs) designed to be bought and worn by avatars.Metaverse technologies can enhance and amplify the existing tourism industry. AR, VR and MR have the potential to create a more engaging and interactive experience for visitors, for example, by restoring physical historical ruins to their original architecture or augmenting historical events into real life settings. By adopting metaverse technologies, the sector also stands to benefit from virtual visits and virtual tourism campaigns, which could motivate travelers to visit MENA countries physically after experiencing sites or hotels remotely.Egypt, for instance, has launched the ECO Egypt virtual tourism campaign which offers people the opportunity to explore some the country’s most spectacular sites through VR tours and 360° technologies and Jordan has introduced virtual reality tours to promote Petra, one of the country’s most important tourist sites.