The rise of localization in an increasingly polarized world
Posted on 2024 Apr,29  | By Carla Dabis, VICE Media Group MEA

Carla Dabis, Commercial Director, VICE Media Group MEA, discusses the importance of localization in our polarized world, particularly since the Gaza conflict – focusing on local and regional brands and what it means for the future of the Middle East region.

Globalization may have been one of the defining buzzwords since before the turn of the millennium, dominating discussions and shaping the commercial and cultural landscapes as they became increasingly interconnected. But recent events have ushered in a noticeable shift towards what could be termed a new “world order,” significantly moving towards localisation.

While we previously focused on global interdependence and expansion, the recent geopolitical landscape and economic boycotts have accelerated the pivot to localization, while putting globalization’s limitations and challenges under the spotlight. The latter no doubt brought wider economic prosperity and enabled the exchange of cross-cultural and human resources, but it also led to an imbalance in wealth distribution, the loss of identities and cultural homogenization in a world that increasingly requires us to adopt personas and lifestyles that serve larger capitalistic agendas.

Recognizing these drawbacks, the countries and peoples of the Middle East have started embracing localization to regain control over their own communities, local narratives, and collective ethos independent from western ideologies. In this quest for economic and cultural self-determination, localization acts as a barrier against the loss of identities and cultural homogenization.

At its fundamental core, localisation is about fostering connections with our immediate surroundings and communities, which play a significant role in shaping our experiences, perceptions and identities. Adapting our offerings to reflect local cultures and requirements is dire to the growth and evolution of our market, from the rise of local soda brands and fast food chains to our very own music and VOD steaming platforms producing local content.


"In this quest for economic and cultural self-determination, localization acts as a barrier against the loss of identities and cultural homogenization."


The ongoing war in Gaza and subsequent boycotts have demonstrated a rapid acceleration towards the localization boom, highlighting the importance of supporting local and regional businesses and industries.

In recent months we’ve seen many brands in the limelight as geopolitical dynamics create a shift in the market paving the way for local brands, whose values are aligned to that of the local market, to increase their market share.

The Dubai-based cosmetics brand Huda Beauty, founded by Iraqi American business luminary Huda Kattan, has won hearts in the region with her moral business positioning. Huda Beauty has also donated $1 million to humanitarian organisations in Gaza, as well as through Kattan’s own awareness efforts on social media. A great example of how value alignment of a brand is more relevant now than ever. Yolk Brands, of Pickl and Bon Bird, have seen a 15-20% surge in sales since October as fast food-diners seek homegrown alternatives to global brands.

Most interesting and likely isolated from any geopolitics, has been the merger of homegrown streaming platforms OSN+ and Anghami, as they combine to become a regional streaming giant, cannibalizing their global competitors. With impeccable timing, the merge brings with it 120M registered users, ready and willing to consume local, original, Arabic-language content. This movement highlights the importance of supporting local economies as the dependency on Western brands slows down.

The way forward undeniably remains rooted in localisation, a collective leaning into cultural preservation, localized content, context, and relevance.

By embracing the local movement, we take back the freedom to define ourselves and shine a light on our region, our stories, and our uniqueness – outside of being mere reflections of western brands, standards, or narratives. I, for one, am eager to see what the rise of localism will do to our market and where this new era of self-determination and authenticity will take us.