The potential contribution of the metaverse to GCC economies could be around US$15 billion annually by 2030, according to the latest report by Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network, of which $7.6 billion would be in Saudi Arabia and $3.3 billion in the UAE.
Although the metaverse is still developing, the pace of change is swift. Organizations in the GCC should act now and seize the opportunity.
Tony G. Karam, Partner, Strategy& Middle East, said “Overall, we estimate the metaverse will inject $15 billion annually into GCC economies by 2030. The projections assessed growth in the component technologies, platforms, hardware, and software, as well as the economic contribution of new metaverse applications such as content creation, shopping, and so on.”
The beauty of the metaverse is that it is neither a place nor a technology. Rather, it is the latest stage of the developing human/computer interface, one that is designed to create a seamless, pervasive, immersive, touchable, simulated experience so realistic as to parallel reality. You can visit a virtual construction site, for example, and see how buildings will look even before a shovel has entered the ground.
In July 2022, Dubai formally launched its metaverse strategy, with the aim of the emirate becoming a leading metaverse economy. The strategy is designed to add $4 billion to the economy and result in 40,000 new jobs over the next five years. The UAE has established the Middle East’s first metaverse incubator 8 to develop early-stage metaverse and Web3 applications.
NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion city on the Red Sea, uses the metaverse to inform construction and provide architects, engineers, designers and others, an experience that allows for collaboration and customization. NEOM’s digital subsidiary has created a metaverse that allows people to be simultaneously in the city and the virtual world, in the form of an avatar or a hologram.
Dany Karam, Partner, Strategy& Middle East, said “The metaverse holds a world of possibilities that extends beyond next-generation gaming and internet-based home buying or shopping. It will change how we work, transact, plan, design, build, shop, recreate, travel, and live. In a regional context, the metaverse’s potential to energize and transform key sectors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is enormous.”
In terms of countries, Saudi Arabia will stand to gain most from the metaverse (US$7.6 billion), followed by the UAE (US$3.3 billion), Qatar (US$1.6 billion), Kuwait (US$1 billion), Oman (US$0.8 billion) and Bahrain (US$0.4 billion).
Jad N. Baroudi, Principal, Strategy& Middle East, said “There could be metaverse tours of AIUla, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, or of fashion festivals, spas, wellness retreats, and entertainment and sports events. Metaverse visits would inspire in-person travel. Later, travelers could return through the metaverse to relive their experiences.”