2019 Marketplace Expansion Index

The ecommerce and sharing economies are booming. Thousands of fast-growth marketplaces are emerging all around the world.
This index examines the top 36 countries for ecommerce and sharing economy platforms to expand.

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United Arab Emirates

2019 Rank # | 2018 Rank #

Big Mover



United Arab Emirates

UAE continues to be the hub of innovation for the Gulf and wider Arab world.

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Marketplace Expansion Index Rank

Same ranking as 2018


  • More than 80 percent of transactions are cross-border
  • High growth rate of online transactions
  • Proven success stories prompting government push for startups


  • Ecommerce as a percentage of retail is very low
  • Need a domestic partner to set up a business (foreigners can’t establish entities on their own)
  • Strict employment regulations

Facts You Can't Forget


Ready to Checkout? 61 percent of UAE online shoppers bought items from a foreign website in the last 12 months, according to the fourth annual Cross-Border Commerce Report by PayPal and Ipsos.


Making Progress. The UAE ranks 21st in the World Bank’s ease of doing business overall ranking, which is the highest ranking in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA).


You’re Speaking My Language. Though Arabic is still the official language, English is widely spoken and recognized as the language for doing business.

Ranking Highlights

For our full explanation, visit our methodology page



The fundamentals of any society and enterprise, including: payment infrastructure, ease of doing business, and Logistics Performance Index.



You’re only as good as your people. Factors in this category include: levels of English proficiency and participation in freelance employment.

Ecommerce Activity


This category assessed ecommerce opportunity size, retail ecommerce growth and ecommerce as a percentage of retail transactions.



The fate of foreign entrants, based on the volume of cross-border transactions and if a global marketplace dominates that geography.

Essential Reading

"By 2050 the Middle East and Africa will be home to around 3.4 billion people—this is likely to be more than the populations of China and India combined."

"The UAE hosts 80 percent of the GCC-based sharing economy players."

"The factors driving Careem’s success in the Middle East (and Uber’s retreats elsewhere) are bringing into focus a key limitation of ride hailing—one that Silicon Valley, in its exuberance over this new sector, seems to have underestimated: unlike purely digital plays, like Google and Facebook, ride hailing is a highly local enterprise."