No other part of the globe presents such stark contrasts between national economies—or consumer living standards—as the Middle East and Africa (MEA). Some of these differences were heightened in 2011 and 2012, as the Arab Spring disproportionately affected countries in the region. Yet the forward momentum of emerging economies is ensuring healthy growth for the region as a whole. Progress in 2012 was especially noteworthy in Eastern Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) April 2013 report, “World Economic Outlook: Hopes, Realities, Risks.” However, 2013 has brought new anxieties. This past August, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) commented that “political instability continues to hamper economic prospects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). ... Egypt is suffering severe civil unrest, [and] Syria remains embroiled in civil war.” In consequence, the EIU cut its regional growth forecasts, projecting that output in MENA would rise just 2.9% this year. Both the EIU and the IMF see brighter prospects for sub-Saharan Africa. The former source has estimated GDP gains in this area at 3.9% in 2013 and 4.8% in 2014. The IMF suggested that economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa would be robust as “middle-income” countries such as South Africa post encouraging results. Exports will suffer,
though, as much of the developed world is still mired in recession or its aftermath. Inflation in MEA was high by first-world standards at the end of 2012—almost 8%—but is expected to fall unless fuel and food prices creep up. Naturally, advertising has suffered in several countries. But MEA did tally higher growth in total media ad spending than any other region last year at 13.0%, eMarketer estimates. Spending on all measured media will reach $19.28 billion this year, though percentage gains will be limited to single
digits (6.9%), and spending per person will remain the lowest in the world at $14, compared with a global average of $73. ZenithOptimedia’s “Advertising Expenditure Forecasts” from June 2013 remarked on a “substantial increase in confidence and activity from international and domestic advertisers” in MENA in 2013. As a result, the firm predicted 5.5% growth in total media ad spending this year, 6.8% in 2014 and 8.9% in 2015. 

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