How Can eCommerce Project Tread Its Own Path to the Middle East Region

Gayane Tamrazyan
Shipping to Middle East

The Middle Eastern market provides huge opportunities for online marketplace owners. It is one of the fastest growing eCommerce markets with the volume of sales increasing 1500% over the last 10 years.

  • More than 60% of UAE residents order from foreign websites;
  • 75% of Saudi Arabians under 35 are active online users;
  • In-app adverts on Instagram and Snapchat are the most influential platforms on the Middle Eastern eCommerce market;
  • Online sales increased by 24% during Ramadan and Black Friday in the UAE.

The Middle East and North Africa market is worth considering when you consider expanding globally on the international market. 

Middle East market background

The Middle East and North America (MENA) is a hugely popular export market. It consists of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. 

And the main trade partners include:

MarketTrade (US$ Mil)Partner share(%)
United States33,0133.24
China32,1363.15
India30,4882.99
Saudi Arabia28,3652.78
Source: WITS

Having the US as the main partner, the MENA region imports huge numbers of consumer goods where biodegradable packaging and beauty products are the main trends as of 2021. 

  • Sustainable and biodegradable packaging market value is forecasted to reach 1.2 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
  • The beauty and personal care products in the Middle East and Africa were valued at about 30.37 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 and the market trends upwards by 2026.

Source: Statista

When it comes to the wealthiest country in the Middle East, Qatar comes out on top. The UAE and Kuwait also drive sales with premium clothing brands and luxury items that are cheaper as compared to the US and with eCommerce – available online also.

The MENA region is the preferred destination to ship items to if you run an online marketplace. Here, we’ve collected some tips to consider while arranging your delivery to one of the countries in the Middle East. We will review three most richest economies and provide you with their customs peculiarities.

Customs peculiarities when shipping to the Middle East

Whenever you have a package to ship to a MENA country, Customs Documents should be in place and duly completed. It is also critical to provide a local contact number for the recipient so that Customs could reach him or her out in case of any Customs Duty or courier issue. If a parcel is delivered through economy service or a tracked mail, then it should be picked up by the recipient at the local Post Office. To avoid delays or returns, providing the right contact details is crucial. 

Qatar

Starting from 1940, Qatar has been rapidly growing mainly because of its export of oil and gas. Recently, the government has taken some initiatives to reduce the reliance on natural resources. However, 50% of GDP and 80% of export are still made up by energy sector. Qatar is the most wealthiest country in the MENA region in terms of per capita income.

Qatar is hosting the football World Cup in 2022. This will drive parcel shipping in the country.

Prohibited items:

  • Alcohol
  • Narcotic drugs
  • Pork
  • Weapons

Shipping price from US to Qatar starts from $16.99 per 1 lbs with Small Pack Saver and takes from 7 to 20 days. FedEx Economy will be more expensive, $37.99 per 1 lbs and will take from 2 to 5 days.

UAE

The basic duty fee is 5% of the shipment’s value. There are items with a higher fee: alcohol and cigarettes. The duty fee can reach from 50 to 100 percent of the original price.

Shipping to UAE, you need to provide Customs with the documentation that includes:

  • An original invoice about the shipment,
  • A certificate of origin
  • A bill of entry
  • A customs duty receipt or exemption certificate

If you ship movies, music and books, there is a high chance for them to be inspected, censored and probably banned when any of the shipped item is found violating the values of the nation. At this, such shipments like loose diamonds could pass Customs duty-free. Medications will always require approval from the Ministry of Health. 

Shipping price from US to UAE starts from $24.99 per 2 lbs with Budget Economy and takes from 5 to 10 days. UPS Worldwide will be more expensive, $46.99 per 2 lbs and will take from 1 to 4 days.

Prohibited items: 

  • Gambling devices
  • Ivory
  • Precious metals and stones

Kuwait

The list of restricted items is food related. It is possible that personal effects such as books and clothing are exempt from duty as long as they arrive by air – which they should be if sent from most overseas major destinations. Other sources state that computers, radio equipment, and wireless telephones are restricted, as well as pork products and gambling equipment. Furthermore, all printed and electronic media is liable to censorship or confiscation.

Shipping price from US to Kuwait starts from $14.99 per 1 lbs with Small Pack Saver and takes from 7 to 20 days. Budget Economy will be more expensive, $24.99 per 1 lbs and will take from 5 to 10 days.

Prohibited items:

  • Politically subversive material
  • Food prepared abroad

Saudi Arabia

Arranging your delivery to Saudi Arabia, note that a TAX ID must be provided. Otherwise, your items would be held or returned. ID allows the Customs to inspect goods and check whether they are going to a legitimate address.

Prohibited items:

  • Jewelry (gold, silver, platinum, pearls, stones, and diamonds) with over $5 of commercial value

Shipping price from US to Saudi Arabia starts from $10.99 per 1 lbs with Budget Economy and takes from 5 to 10 days. FedEx Priority will be more expensive, $36.99 per 1 lbs and will take from 1 to 3 days.

Connecting a shipping service

If you run an eCommerce store, the Middle East offers excellent potential. You can connect your eCommerce store directly to a shipping company for instant shipping prices, or upload a CSV using bulk shipping tools. 

There is a sea of forwarders, couriers, and shipping lines available with the top multinational companies in every field:

Shipping Line:

  • APL, 
  • PIL, 
  • Maersk
  • CMA
  • Evergreen
  • MSC
  • China Shipping & Norasia 

Forwarders:

  • Kuehne+Nagel Group
  • Schenker

Expeditors:

  • UTI
  • Schenker
  • Damco
  • DHL
  • Panalpina & DSV 

Couriers

  • UPS
  • Fedex
  • DHL
  • TNT
  • Aramex

They are famous on Arabic market, any of them is a good choice. Shipping prices will depend on your and your customers’ location, transit times and the parcel weight. Once you made up your mind with the most suitable option, create an account in the shipping company system, download an API document and refer to us to connect to your CS-Cart or Multi-Vendor platform. 

We help to integrate it seamlessly based on your requirements and provided API documentation.

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