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Saudi Arabia and UAE at the forefront of the MENA region’s AI revolution

The AI market in the region will witness a compound annual growth rate of 47.8%.

Saudi Arabia and UAE at the forefront of the MENA region’s AI revolution
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

With the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the lead, the MENA region is making significant moves in the artificial intelligence market. According to firm Research and Markets findings, the MENA region’s AI market is expected to grow from $500 million in 2020 to $8.4 billion by 2026.

The findings showcase that the market for advanced technology will observe a compound annual growth rate of 47.8%, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE as key markets.

In UAE alone, the value of the AI market will reach $1.9 billion by 2026, representing 36.2% growth. The country is making strides regarding AI adoption. This is catalyzed by the government’s launch of the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031, focusing on attracting talent for future jobs and funding research and innovation hubs while developing appropriate infrastructure, data ecosystems, and a legislative environment.  

Saudi Arabia is also focusing heavily on AI. In 2019, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, announced a $500 billion investment in AI and other emerging technologies over the next decade. It also launched a number of AI initiatives, including the Saudi Arabian Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority and the National Data Management Office, to drive national-level transformation in the public and private sectors. 

Business leaders also believe AI is vital for their growth in the future- according to a study by global consultancy firm Proviti Middle East, more than 80% of CEOs in the region believe the technology is critical to the future of their businesses. Over 70% of them are investing in the booming sector. 

However, with the rise of AI adoption in the market, so does the risks and challenges that come with it- ranging from data privacy and security to job and skill displacement and cyber security threats. 

To prepare for these risks, businesses in the Middle East need to invest in AI governance and develop ethical frameworks for using AI. An example is UAE’s initiative to release its AI Ethics – Guidelines and Principles in December 2022, followed by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority. 

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