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April 29, 2014

Italy: Five leadership factors for the global cities of today and tomorrow

New York, London and Paris are the most “global" cities in the world, i.e. those that best know how to attract and retain companies, talent, ideas, capital and innovation, generating benefits that extend well beyond their borders. The map of leader destinations is however set to change significantly in the next 10-20 years: the rankings will be topped by the cities currently defined as “emerging” that are best able to develop their human capital, business activity and innovation.

These conclusions emerged from the Global Cities Index compiled by consultancy A.T. Kearney, which looked at the global credentials of 85 cities in five continents. The companion Emerging Cities Outlook identifies the 35 cities of low- and middle-income countries with the greatest potential for development in the next decade. The purpose of the study is to provide companies with recommendations on where to direct future investment, and to give politicians and city managers tools on which to base programmes to promote competitiveness.

According to the report,  five factors determine the “global” dimension of a city, i.e. its capacity to be connected and integrated with the world and to take on a role of national and international leadership.

• business activity, which is measured by the presence in the city of the headquarters of multinationals and leading service companies, as well as by cargo flows, the value of its capital market and the number of international conferences held there. 
• human capital, i.e. the city’s capacity to attract talent, calculated according to the size of the foreign-born population, the quality of universities, the number of schools and international students, as well as the percentage of the population with a university degree.
• information exchange, assessed through accessibility to major television channels, internet presence and distribution, the number of foreign press agencies, freedom of expression and the percentage of the population with access to broadband.
• cultural experience, measured by the number of museums, attractions and performing-arts venues, restaurants, as well as the number of sporting events hosted, the volume of international visitors and twin-city relationships.
• political engagement, which assesses the city’s role in global policy dialogue, measured by the number of embassies and consulates, international organisations and local institutions with international reach, and the number of political conferences and events that it hosts.

The Global Cities Index therefore names New York, London and Paris as the three top performers according to the above criterion; Tokyo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Chicago, Beijing, Singapore and Washington make up the rest of the top ten. 

The top 20 “global” cities are equally distributed among three continents: seven are in Europe, seven in Asia Pacific and six in the Americas. The only South American city in the top 20 is Buenos Aires, while the best-placed African city is Cairo, in 49th. The city to have made the biggest advance on the previous year is Istanbul, which climbed nine positions, from 37th to 28th, while the worst performers were Boston and Zurich, which both fell six places, to 25th and 31st respectively.

To maintain or improve their global position, A.T. Kearney states that cities must focus in particular on strengthening business activity and human capital: in the future, when physical distances become less important and global competition intensifies, the cities of today’s emerging economies will climb the rankings, and will compete not only among themselves, but directly with the current world leaders.

The Emerging Cities Outlook therefore identifies which among the 35 cities of emerging economies have the greatest chance of improving their position in the next 10-20 years: supposing that the cities grow at the same pace as in the last five years, it is calculated how long it will take each emerging city to reach the level of those currently considered leaders in business, human capital and innovation.

The emerging city with the greatest potential is Jakarta, followed by Manila, Addis Ababa, Sao Paulo and New Delhi. These are followed by Rio de Janeiro, Bogotà, Mumbai, Nairobi and Kuala Lumpur, which complete the ranking of the ten potential global cities of the future.  At the other end, Lagos, Mexico City and Karachi take the final spots for speed and quality of development.

Analysing the development of the five destination leadership factors from 2008 to the present, the A.T. Kearney report showed that the world’s cities are becoming increasingly global, and that those at the lower end of the table are increasingly quickly catching up with those positioned at the top. Human capital is the factor to have undergone the fastest growth: thanks to the improvement and diffusion of tertiary education and growing immigration to many cities, the distance between the highest- and lowest-ranked cities in this regard is smaller than for any other indicator.

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