What Is Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)?

Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) countries are a geographical division used by many multinational corporations. The acronym is an easy shorthand method of referring to all three continents at once and is especially popular among North American companies.

Understanding Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)

Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is a label that many global firms use when dividing their operations by geography. A multinational might, for example, break out its financial results by region, reporting sales and profits in the Americas, the EMEA region, and Asia Pacific and Japan. It might also assign leadership roles based on these divisions. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), for example, has a Vice-President for Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

EMEA is a common geographical division in international business, but it is not precisely defined. It may or may not include Russia (shown below) or Kazakhstan (not shown), for example. European overseas territories on other continents are generally excluded (though French Guiana is shown below). Since few firms have operations in anything close to every country that might be considered EMEA, the list of nations comprising an individual firm's EMEA region will be idiosyncratic. 

Besides being widely recognized, the EMEA is useful for operational purposes because most of the region—Russia's far east excluded—falls within four time zones, facilitating communication and travel. 

Other than longitude, however, little unites the EMEA region. It contains incredible political, economic, linguistic, cultural, religious and climatic diversity. Some of the world's richest countries are lumped in with some of the poorest. Political systems range from stable democracies to autocracies to failed states. Regions where the lingua franca is Swahili are lumped in with ones where it is Arabic, French, Russian, or English. Local languages number in the hundreds. 

EMEA, in other words, is a creature of corporate boardrooms, not an intuitive designation with its roots in history, culture, or politics.

Regions Related to EMEA

Sometimes India is included in the grouping, making the acronym EMEIA or sometimes EMIA. Companies may sometimes separate their business operations in Eastern and Western Europe, referring instead to Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EEMEA) and the European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Other similar acronyms include:

  • Southeastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (SEEMEA)
  • Southern Europe, Middle East, and Africa (SEMEA)
  • The Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
  • Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)
  • Central Europe, Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA)
  • Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa (EUMENA or EMENA)
  • Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean (EMEAC)
  • Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (EMEACIS)
  • The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which refers to the group of nations around the Caspian and Black Seas
  • Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (CEMA)
  • North Atlantic and Central Europe (NACE)

Like EMEA, these regional groupings are based on geographical closeness, rather than cultural, linguistic, historical, or political similarities. Typically, nations are grouped together based on what is most convenient for the multinational corporation making the designation.