Joburg tops 2021 Global Cities Report, Cape Town drops four places

The 2021 edition of the Kearney Annual Global Cities report has revealed that leading global cities have been resilient and adaptable because of their high connectivity and density and they are now poised to lead global recovery.

The report analyses the performance of 156 cities around the world and how they have been impacted by the pandemic.

Prashaen Reddy, a partner at global management consulting firm, Kearney, says that out of the 13 African cities that were included in the study, Johannesburg remained the highest in 55th place. Cairo climbed 5 points to 59th which retained second-place within the African countries. However, while Cape Town ranked 77th in 2020, it dropped by four places, now ranking at 81st.

Even with some of the bigger African cities dropping position, 2021’s results highlight the divergence in the trajectories of the most economically-advanced cities and those in developing and emerging regions – which largely showed improvement over the previous year.

Outlining strategic imperatives for city leaders in recovery, the report suggests ways in which cities can address the challenges they share:

Win in the competition for global talent. Human capital is driving the 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 liveability and equitable access to economic opportunity.

Embrace the rapidly growing digital economy, which 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 during 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 which is the challenge of our time. In the absence of globally unified leadership on this topic, cities (responsible for more than 70% of global carbon emissions) must lead the way in driving towards sustainability.

Invest in individual and community well-being. Beyond the immediate public health impact of Covid-19, 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.

In the coming year, we expect the divergence among global cities to widen. 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”, says Reddy.

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”.