Joanna Shields, vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Jonathan Labin, head of global marketing solutions, Mena and Christian Hernandez, Director Platforms Partnerships Facebook announce the opening of the first Facebook Mena office in Dubai. Image Credit: ZARINA FERNANDES/Gulf News

Dubai: Facebook has said it is the right time to begin operations in the Middle East and North Africa in a bid to help people and organisations harness the power of the social network.

The social network provider yesterday formally announced the opening of their regional office in Dubai.

"In an open and connected world, more and more companies are realising that Facebook is the place where they can build strong connections with their customers. We are here to share our experience and learn from the many talented, creative people in this part of the globe," Joanna Shields, Facebook's vice-president and managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said.

Facebook has 45 million users in the region and of which 3.1 million are from the UAE. Facebook already has a penetration of approximately 36.18 per cent in the UAE and around 67 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.

"We already have strong partners in the region that are using Facebook in innovative ways to achieve results," Jonathan Labin, Head of global marketing solutions, Middle East and North Africa at Facebook, said.

Labin will be spearheading the operations in the region with three people.

"We started working with Emirates in less than three months and they have more than 450,000 engaged fans that are telling about Emirates to the globe," he said.

He named several advertising clients in the region, including Emirates airline, Pepsi, Ford and Al Jazeera television.

"We are building relations for long term and the only way to take it further is to have a local presence," Labin said.

"Dubai Internet City is proud to have a young, global company that revolutionised the internet world join our cluster. Undeniably, social media has impacted not only consumers but also the decision making and long term plans of large enterprises based in the country," Malek Al Malek, managing director at Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource Zone, said.

Social networking sites are gaining importance in the region.

In July, a team of Russian and Turkish investors is launching "Salamworld", a social networking site similar to Facebook, but based on Islamic ideals.

Facebook makes 30 per cent of its revenue generated from Facebook credits on social gaming platform. Around 15 million users paid for virtual goods on the Facebook platform last year. Payments from virtual goods and other fees made up $557 million or about 15 per cent of total revenues last year.