How Snap is advancing the creator community in the Middle East

Maeve Harris's avatar
Maeve Harris

We spoke with Snap MENA VP Hussein Freijeh about AR technology, the creator economy in the Middle East, and supporting local businesses.

Since its inception in 2011 in Santa Monica, California, Snap – the company behind Snapchat – has made waves in the media sphere.

What began as a small startup has expanded into a global giant, with a workforce of more than 5,000 people and 23 offices scattered across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. 

We spoke with MENA VP Hussein Freijeh about Snap’s focus on augmented reality and how the company is supporting content creators in the Middle East and beyond.

Snapchat is a global brand, but what does it mean in the Middle East, in particular? What market share do you have? 

With its strong relevance to GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) culture, Snapchat is among the region’s most frequently used apps throughout the day, with Snapchatters opening the platform more than 45 times on average [per day] in the GCC.

This is because Snapchat keeps people connected with their family and friends in a locally relevant and private space.

Community and family have always been a fundamental aspect of the region’s social fabric, and despite having busy lives, the urge to keep in touch with one’s family, friends and community has remained constant.

How do Snapchat’s services differ from other social media platforms? 

With social media becoming more saturated with people sharing carefully curated, polished versions of themselves, there is a growing desire for authenticity and genuine connections.

Snapchat encourages users to share their true selves and foster real connections. 

Our number one use case is and has always been messaging with friends rather than scrolling through a public feed. The platform has never had public social comparison metrics such as likes, and our algorithms avoid the spread of harmful content and misinformation. 

Our community can also build genuine relationships through a wide range of features such as the camera, chat, stories, discover and spotlight. 

These features, coupled with our leadership in AR, are completely unique.

In 2016, AR surged onto the public scene with Pokemon Go, however further growth seemed limited by hardware restraints. How do you feel this has changed in the time since? 

Today, AR is a mainstream technology that helps make a brand’s value more tangible and helps create seamless experiences along the entire customer journey. It’s no longer just a way to enhance games – consumers now expect to use AR as a practical tool in their everyday lives. 

Looking forward, the global AR market size is expected to reach US$597.54 billion by 2030, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.8 percent from 2023 to 2030. 

Regional governments have already launched ambitious national transformation plans with a focus on digitalisation and how AR can be deployed across vital sectors, and Snap’s suite of sophisticated AR tools is ready to support this growth.

Tell me a bit about your AR technology and how you are using it to benefit Snap’s users.

Our users are embracing AR because it’s enriching the way people are entertained, informed, speak to each other and how people build and share culture.

More than 250 million people use AR on Snapchat, and more than 85 percent of MENA daily users interact with lenses every day. It began with funny lenses like dog ears and flower crowns. Now, we’re seeing how AR is transforming the way we communicate, learn about the world and experience things.

Because our AR technology is digitally overlaid onto the real world, we believe it’s the most compelling way to communicate. It allows people to be more spontaneous and authentic on the platform. 

It is also allowing creators and brands to innovatively connect with their audiences, and it is already transforming education, culture, entertainment and business – particularly retail. 

How does Snap support the creator economy in the MENA region and abroad?

The creator economy in the Middle East is booming. There is a huge burgeoning talent pool, empowered by greater connectivity and advanced technologies.

On Snapchat, creators can develop content, get discovered, grow their audience and get rewarded. The platform offers aspiring and established creators a variety of programs, opportunities and tools to help them grow their audiences and build sustainable businesses across stories and spotlight, enabling them to make content creation a full-time career. 

What role does Snap play in supporting local businesses? 

With our recent expansion to Qatar, we are able to better serve the local community of Snapchatters, creators and businesses. Snapchat helps businesses better understand their customers and the marketplace as a whole.

There is a huge opportunity for brands in Qatar to adopt Snap’s AR in their campaigns, and we are already seeing this happen in sectors including tourism, telecommunications and sports.

In markets such as Saudi, where Snapchat reaches more than 90 percent of 13-34 year-olds, we’ve invested in local partnerships with the likes of the Ministry of Culture in Saudi to support the development of the cultural sector by leveraging the platform’s technologies. 

In the UAE, where Snapchatters open the app more than 45 times a day, we continue to support brands by creating experiences specifically tailored to users.

What are Snap’s plans at Web Summit Qatar? 

We have three main objectives for our time at the event: interacting with our local GCC community, showcasing Snap’s disruptive AR technology, and highlighting the booming creator ecosystem. 

As a key player in the GCC ecosystem and the lives of the GCC community, our presence at the event is crucial. We have a range of exciting and engaging activities planned for Web Summit Qatar, and we plan to showcase the transforming role of AR as a communications tool in both the physical and digital worlds.

Our on-ground brand experience will feature an AR wall that will demonstrate Snap’s latest AR technologies tapping into tourism, art, fashion and sports. We will also be hosting a money-can’t-buy masterclass offering insights and best practices for content creation on the platform. 

You can also catch me and a number of senior Snap spokespeople, including our EMEA President Ronan Harris. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is one that is not to be missed!

Find out more about Snap’s AR technology on its website.

Image: Snap Inc


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