Doha, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Manama jump in Cities Index

15 November 2023 3 min. read

Global management consulting Kearney has released the 2023 edition of its annual ‘Global Cities Index’, with the capitals of the Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman and Bahrain among the largest growers in the list.

While most of the media attention around Kearney’s index went to Dubai, which landed a top 25 spot for the third consecutive year, it was in fact the cities of Doha, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, and Manama that made the most strides among Middle Eastern cities. In total, Kearney assessed 156 cities from all corners of the globe.

Doha jumped 7 positions to 50th globally and second in the MENA region, Riyadh moved up 9 spots to 61st globally, Abu Dhabi leapfrogged nine other countries to hit 66th globally, while Muscat and Manama saw their positions improve by 8 to land 118th and 125th spot respectively.

Kearney - MENA GCI 2023 Ranking

Source: The 2023 Global Cities Report, Kearney

To measure the attractiveness of cities for businesses and people, Kearney assessed them against five key dimensions: human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, political engagement, and business activity.

Doha thanked its higher score to significant improvements in the human capital dimension, moving up the global rankings by 13 places. This was primarily driven by the return of movement to pre-pandemic levels of freedom of international travel, attracting large volumes of migrant talent and tourism, with the FIFA World Cup 2022 welcoming over 1.4 million visitors.

Qatar’s capital city also saw a six-point jump in its business activity dimensions, continuing to reap the benefits of open economic policies introduced in recent years.

Rudolph Lohmeyer, partner at Kearney, said: “Qatar’s commitment to realising its Vision 2030 has led its capital city to begin closing in on more established global city leaders. An increased focus on improving the investment environment, building upon the country’s decades-long undertaking to develop a world-class educational system and relative ease of access to global talent, has helped Doha to prove its resilience amid challenging global conditions.”

Riyadh’s nine-point jump on this year’s global index was based on improvements in the information exchange dimension, notable growth in the human capital dimension (Riyadh holds the regional top spot in this measure), and spectacular gains in the cultural experience dimension.

Alongside Riyadh, three of the five other Saudi cities assessed – Jeddah, Dammam, and Abha – moved up, while Medina and Makkah held steady at their 2022 positions.

“As the Kingdom continues to advance its transformative national vision, its key cities stand out as engines of growth and beacons of opportunity,” said Lohmeyer. “The Kingdom’s strong economic performance amid challenging global conditions, combined with its commitment to enhancing liveability and attracting talent, is yielding impressive post-pandemic success.”

While Abu Dhabi ranked 4th regionally, and 66th globally, Kearney’s research said that the UAE’s capital is well positioned lift its position in the coming years. The emirate was the only Middle East city to rank in the top 30 of the ‘Global Cities Outlook’ list, a sub-index that looks at future potential instead of current performance.

“As global trade returns to normalised levels, key cities in the Gulf have emerged as beacons of prosperity, resilience and opportunity, said Lohmeyer. “A strong commitment to delivering on ambitious national visions and the maintenance of a regenerative mindset is paying off.”

Overall, Kearney’s Global Cities Index is topped by New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing. Notable fast growers outside of the Middle East are Brussels, Madrid, and Shanghai.