BCG: UAE a leader in readiness for 'massive metaverse opportunity'

12 May 2023 5 min. read

The UAE is poised to benefit from the potentials of the metaverse through a number of useful applications. A report shows the metaverse offers more than just gaming and there is much to gain for UAE economies if leaders keep an open mind towards the rapidly emerging technology.

The metaverse ecosystem is quickly expanding in the Middle East, and the UAE appears ready to take full advantage. The Dubai Metaverse Strategy for instance, which was introduced in the second half of 2022, aims to create 40,000 jobs and add around $4 billion to the economy in the next five years while making Dubai a major metaverse economy.

A report from Boston Consulting Group and Meta (the parent of Facebook) shows that the metaverse – a virtual environment that provides digital experiences in real-world settings – offers “massive potential” for a range of industries in the UAE.

Metaverse Lies at the Intersection of Three Me Emerging Technologies

The study projects that the total global market opportunity for the metaverse could reach up to $400 billion by 2025, with the virtual-asset economy accounting for the majority of it. The remainder of the market will be comprised of virtual reality, augmented reality, cloud, and network products and services.

As per the report, business leaders, investors, and tech enthusiasts all predict that the metaverse can offer huge economic potential – with the right investment and ecosystem. The report recommends the UAE to map its path forward proactively.

The building blocks

The metaverse can be seen as structured with a front and back end. In the front end are the virtual worlds, experiences, and services that entice users to use the technology. The backend is comprised of the devices and developer tools that enable the users to access the services and other ownership and infrastructure elements like digital assets, payments, security, and connectivity.

Metaverse Structure- Technological Building Blocks

Seen by some as the next stage of the internet, the metaverse offers value in three main use case categories: employee experiences, customer experiences, and technical support.

The 10 most relevant use cases for the Middle East (at status quo) are: virtual collaboration, digital skilling/training; enhanced education, telehealth; digital twins; augmented tourism; live augmented events; gaming; virtual and augmented shopping, and virtual assets.

The UAE a ‘leader’

The report’s authors identify the UAE as a “leader” in readiness for metaverse adoption, on the back of notable investments done over the past years.

Key Enablers to Address to Ensure Readiness to Embrace the Metaverse

In assessing the metaverse readiness, the authors outline a number of key strengths: the core digital infrastructure is in place, the UAE has the highest sales of AR/VR headsets in the region, consumer readiness for the metaverse is high, and the UAE has built a thriving ecosystem of start-ups, corporates and investors keen on advancing the metaverse scene.

According to the benchmark, the UAE ranks higher in metaverse readiness than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and several other large Western economies.

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said: “The metaverse represents a rich source of opportunity for the UAE, placing us at the cutting edge of important, fast-changing digital technologies, and creating business prospects far beyond our physical borders. We embrace this new reality with an open mind, in the spirit of curiosity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.”

Enabling the metaverse

There remain areas of improvement for the UAE, however. “There are gaps to address, particularly cost of connectivity,” said Leila Hoteit, Managing Director and Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group. “Technology is critical but is just one piece of this broader ecosystem required to unlock the metaverse.”

“With 44% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reporting no digital presence, it is clear that some gaps remain, particularly for enterprise metaverse users,” Hoteit added.

Potential Consumer Metaverse Use Cases

In ensuring the continued growth and maturity of the metaverse market, the researchers highlight the need to address a number of obstacles to market entry. These include the investments needed for innovation and hardware required for virtual reality / augmented reality, mitigating the risks of cybercrime and data breaches, and bridging interoperability challenges between different metaverse platforms.

“The metaverse offers the tantalizing prospect of a new kind of world – one where physical and virtual experiences complement each other and combine seamlessly to create something more expansive and compelling than we have ever imagined before. But it is still in its early days,” said Tibor Mérey, a Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group.

“Now is the time for the UAE to take stock of the opportunities, considerations, required capabilities and policy implications – and proactively map its path forward.”

Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a metaverse environment custom-built by Accenture and Microsoft was launched.