Kearney Global Cities Ranking

In a period where the world has had to contend with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, its impact has been particularly severe in the largest urban centers. The global cities ranking published annually by strategy and business consultant, A.T. Kearney, looks at the challenges and priorities major cities have to navigate going into 2021.

The crisis has fueled a number of issues, from growing fiscal pressure and economic inequality to the effects of increasing deglobalization and environmental disruption.

This ranking analyzes where cities stood before 2019 and their prospects for the future. It also reveals an increasing competition for global recognition in very uncertain times.

Although London remained at the top of the list for the sixth consecutive year, the chart rankings of most cities have slightly changed. For many growing cities, long-term investments in governance and the economy have begun to pay off. This especially applies to Chinese and Middle Eastern cities that have quickly gained ground on their North American and European counterparts.

Urban Post Covid Prosperity

The study shows that cities need to invest more in these three main areas to change their fortunes in the current crisis:

Value creation: To remain relevant and competitive in a post-pandemic world, metropolis leaders will have to deepen their focus on creating public value, centered on the common good that encompasses all sectors and aspects of society.

Connectivity: The global flows of goods, ideas, and people have been badly hit by various travel restrictions. To sustain these vital flows in an increasingly challenging environment, city leaders must pull out all the stops to ensure that this flow is maintained.

Rethinking and reshaping the urban environment: Global cities are tasked with combating many physical space challenges that have been introduced by the pandemic. From addressing social distancing to eliminating environmental inequalities more visible in poorer neighborhoods. This is related to poor health in low-income areas. The primary goal should be to rethink urban planning to make the living space more resilient, sustainable, and integrated.

What is a Global City?

To define a global city, Kearney uses the Global Cities Index (GCI) and Global Cities Outlook (GCO). Based on data captured largely before the virus struck, the two metrics provide a complete analysis of cities’ positions and prospects.

The GCI assesses how globally engaged cities compete across five dimensions:

  • Business activity
  • Human capital
  • Information exchange
  • Experience
  • Political engagement
  • The number of unicorn companies (privately held start-up companies valued at more than $1 billion)
  • The number of medical universities as a measure of how globally connected its healthcare system is

The GCO, on the other hand, examines those creating the conditions for future status as major global players. This analysis covers four dimensions which are key determinants of a city’s ability to attract talented human capital, generate economic growth, increase competitiveness, and ensure stability and security, respectively:

  • Personal well-being
  • Economics
  • Innovation
  • Governance
Best Cities Ranking by Resonance

This ranking is compiled from a report released by Resonance Consultancy. Unlike most analytics companies, Resonance also heavily utilizes user-generated information. Sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp, and various social pages provide the data to quantify experiential elements of culture, dining, nightlife, shopping, or sports.

To qualify, cities must have a population of at least 1 million. They are then listed using a combination of these key factors:

  • A comprehensive sampling of all urban indices, including tourism, business, living conditions, crime, and homicides rates
  • GDP
  • Transport
  • Qualitative evaluations by both residents and tourists

For the 2021 ranking, Resonance departed a little from the norm. Detailed data showing how each city responded to the Covid-19 pandemic was factored in, as well as aspects touching on outdoor experiences, clean air, and the ability to innovate.

The following are the six categories for which cities are ranked:

  • Place: This consists of the average number of days for good weather, homicide level, outdoor recreational activities, the number of parks, plus surroundings and landmarks endorsed by residents and tourists.
  • People: This category measures a city’s diversity, as well as the highest educational attainment – the percentage of a city’s populace that has achieved top honors in education i.e., a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Programming: This is commonly labeled as “things to do”. Includes theatres, operas, nightlife, dining, and shopping, as recommended by city residents and visitors on various online platforms.
  • Product: This section is used to determine the true scope of a city’s infrastructure and institutions. It takes into account major tourist attraction sites, museums, the size of the local conference center, airport connectivity, as well as the ranking for the city’s institutions of higher learning.
  • Prosperity: This category takes into consideration the total number of Global 500 corporate head offices hosted within each city and the GDP per capita. A favorable ranking in this category paints the picture of a robust city with a high probability to offer a quality living experience in the future.
  • Promotion: A metric to determine how a city’s outlook is shared across various online channels. It particularly looks at the number of Google searches, TripAdvisor reviews, Facebook check-ins. The total Instagram hashtags constructed and shared online about each city and its popularity in Google Trends over a 12-month period are also taken into account.
The Top 3 Cities

Based on the lowdown above, here are the three best cities according to Kearney and Resonance:

London

Second in programming and first in promotion, London sits top despite a predicted dismal ranking after the referendum. It should be noted, however, that a steep drop in economic prosperity might still materialize following Brexit.

The city is placed fifth for Global Fortune 500 businesses but at an unfavorable 52nd for non-employment, as the disparity between rich and poor becomes alarming. That notwithstanding, there’s not a better urban experience today in any other city across the globe.

New York

New York ranked first and second for programming and promotion respectfully. It was also the second-best global city in the shopping category and fourth for Global 500 enterprises.

Despite being ravished by the Coronavirus in March and April 2020, the city managed to shake off the setback to widen its lead over other cities. New York’s highest ever score in human capital can be attributed to the huge number of international schools, international student population, and the new medical universities metric.

New York is still the premier place where the world’s top brains gather to create inventions that spur progress around the globe.

Paris

Though the city endured a torrid 2019 with terrorism and the Notre Dame disaster, as with the best of cities, it responded with resilience. It is placed third in the product category and has the second-best airport network in the world.

The city is placed fifth for museums and seventh for attractions, while it topped “Information Exchange”. All these favorable rankings coupled with a consistently strong performance in cultural experience and political engagement, cemented Paris’s hold of number 3.

New hotels’ outdoor swimming pools being built in time for the 2024 summer Olympics should push Paris up from the #26 ranking for parks and outdoor activity.

Ranking by Innovation

Just like in business, innovation is vital for the success of a city. A combination of innovation and talent ensures more productivity and sustainable economic growth.

The leading cities in innovation are:

San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area hosts the largest number of start-ups in the world, while some of the most prestigious universities internationally are also based here.

It is also home to several tech giants, including Google, Facebook, and Apple.

Tokyo

It is the home of robotics research and development, and a pioneering center for 3D manufacturing, electrical machinery, and nano-technology. Tokyo leads other cities with the highest number of head offices for multinationals, like Konami and Nissan, and the total number of patents produced.

Singapore

This city is growing in terms of the number of start-ups. It is also the world’s top destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and the top spot for tech firms wanting to enter Asia-Pacific markets.

New York

New York had 7,000 plus tech start-ups in 2019. It is also a leader in advanced manufacturing, robotics, cybersecurity, and health sciences.

London

With many big tech players, such as Facebook, Intel and Google present here, almost 15% of the labor force is employed in hi-tech. Thanks to top-tier universities and highly-educated personnel, London has an abundance of talent.

Innovation Ranking of African Cities

The ability of African cities to weather the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will depend on their ability to innovate, provide long-term social solutions for their residents, and attract funding.

Knight Frank looked into innovation in more than 500 African cities. Using 10 distinct indicators, the firm was able to establish the degree of innovation and growth in each city.

This ranking is made up of three components:

  • Innovation activity, such as the total number of start-ups
  • Innovation infrastructure, such as the number of medical research institutions
  • Amount of funding directed towards innovation

To determine the level of overseas funds a city could attract, its innovation score is measured against its GDP. Low-risk investors prefer cities with a substantial innovation score and a booming economy.

Other cities, like Nairobi, which tops African cities for innovation, are high-risk destinations for investors. A favorable placement in the number of research institutions and start-ups, available innovation funding, and ease of doing business, sees Nairobi usurp cities like Cairo and Johannesburg with twice the GDP.

Notably, Kampala also scored highly for innovation, resulting from a proliferation of research institutions.

These are the top 10 cities:

  • Nairobi
  • Cape Town
  • Kampala
  • Cairo
  • Johannesburg
  • Dar es Salaam
  • Lagos
  • Dakar
  • Accra
  • Addis Ababa