Global management consultancy Kearney has published the findings of its 2021 Global Cities Report, analysing the performance of 156 cities across the globe, and how they have been impacted by the pandemic and by containment measures.
The rankings measure cities by their ability to attract and retain global capital, people, and ideas and to sustain this performance in the long term. Globally, cities were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic which affected some or all of these measures – but some weathered the storms better than others.
Ultimately, cities that were more resilient in the face of the pandemic and were better able to adapt to the changing circumstances ranked higher.
The report also provides recommendations which cities could follow for their path to recovery.
Out of the 13 African cities that were included in the study, Johannesburg remained the highest staying in 55th place – the same position as in 2020. The report, however, showed that Cape Town, which ranked 77th last year, dropped four places and now ranks at 81st.
The outlook for both cities remains negative, though, with the report placing both Joburg and Cape Town in the bottom 50 in that ranking. Cape Town’s prospects are more positive, ranked 122nd, while Joburg ranked further down at 126th.
Kearney’s outlook report highlights the strong knock-on effects that healthcare quality has on the future viability of a global city. Reflecting the overwhelming impact of the pandemic, the personal well-being metrics are the biggest predictors of change in overall scores and rankings, it said.
There has been an overall drop in scores due to the pandemic, the group noted.
Despite the outsized impact of the pandemic on reigning cities in this year’s results, they demonstrated their resilience.
New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo retained the top four positions in the Index—once again demonstrating the robustness of their diversity of global strengths, Kearney said.
There were changes at the top of the index, however. Los Angeles broke into the top five, benefiting from Beijing’s decline in the face of both the pandemic and the complex shifts in the global trade landscape.
“In the coming year, we expect the divergence among global cities to widen,” the group said.
“While global cities that are already showing signs of economic recovery are likely to continue their upward trends, lower-scoring and less-connected global cities will likely drop in our rankings next year as the full effect of the pandemic is reflected in the metrics used for measurement, particularly given the uneven distribution of vaccines around the world.
“Nevertheless, the unprecedented global efforts in vaccine development and production have hastened a return to some form of normalcy, partial and fragmented as it is. As cities enter this new phase, they are armed with real-world experience and better science, enabling leaders to better navigate the ongoing turmoil.”
Best Global Cities
The best global cities are ranked on 29 metrics across five categories, including business activity (capital flow, market dynamics, major companies), human capital (education levels), information exchange (access to information, internet and media), cultural experience (sport, museums and expos), and political engagement (political events, think tanks and embassies).
Global Cities Outlook
The global cities outlook is based on 13 indicators across four categories, including personal well-being (safety, healthcare, inequality and environment), economics (long-term investments and GDP), innovation (entrepreneurship, private investments and incubators), and governance (stability, transparency, bureaucracy and ease of doing business).
Outlining strategic imperatives for city leaders in recovery, the report highlights ways cities can address the challenges they share. Five strategic steps are imperative for cities leaders to consider:
Win in the competition for global talent
- Human capital is the driving force behind a city’s economic activity.
- In the face of ever-greater competition for talent, cities must adapt to the new priorities of prospective residents, with a renewed emphasis on urban livability and equitable access to economic opportunity.
Embrace the rapidly growing digital economy
- The global digital economy threatens to disrupt the value proposition of cities, but the risk is overblown.
- Cities that harness the benefits of the global digital economy to drive differentiated competitive advantage will accelerate economic growth.
Ensure economic resilience by balancing global and local resources
- The fragility of the global trade system was exposed in the early months of the pandemic.
- Cities must recalibrate the optimal balance of trade and economic relationships at global, regional, and local levels to be resilient to future disruptions.
Adapt in the face of climate change
- Climate change is definitively the challenge of our time.
- In the absence of globally unified leadership on the topic, cities (responsible for more than 70% of global carbon emissions) must lead the way in driving toward sustainability.
Invest in individual and community well-being
- Beyond the immediate public health impact of the pandemic, the measures taken to counter its spread have contributed to a global crisis of wellbeing.
- Cities must focus their investments on advancing the well-being of their populations and strive to develop an environment in which innovation can thrive.