Growing reputation: city of the future

With Dubai recently named the ‘Middle East City of the Future’ by fDi magazine, Vision explores what makes the world’s top cities such desirable places to live

What is it that makes a city a desirable place to live, to work, to visit? While there is no single factor, the recent Middle East City of the Future awards compiled by fDI Magazine go some way towards identifying what makes a city tick – and well.

Sufficient and well maintained infrastructure – quality of roads, speed of broadband and number of mobile phone users – ranks highly according to fDi Magazine's critera and Dubai, which took the top spot for the third time in a row, rates highly in all these areas. Dubai International Airport, which is fast-becoming a contender for the title of world's busiest airport, is ideally located to connect world markets – an asset that no doubt helped to secure the title.  

But perhaps most important for a forward-thinking metropolis is the ability to provide an accessible business environment. Factors including the number of days it takes to start a business, the estimated number of jobs created by foreign investment and the corporation tax were all taken into consideration for the awards. China is bursting with business potential, with seven of its cities named in the top 10 for economic potential rankings. Shanghai, for example, received top marks for attracting the most greenfield foreign investment projects, while the fact that the city has 500,000 students studying at world-renown universities is another sign of its potential.

Courtney Fingar, fDi Magazine’s Editor, points out that many companies are attracted to a city if it can offer a high-caliber workforce – a culture that Dubai has worked hard to cultivate. “Dubai is a magnet for international talent, meaning that foreign customers can attract workers easily," she adds.

When scoring a city for ease of living, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, income per capita and the unemployment rate must all be considered. China’s low unemployment, and projected growth – GDP is expected to grow 10 percent annually over the next five years – all help to push its cities up the rankings, while other UAE cities such as Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah were also recognised for their quality of life. Meanwhile, Ajman in the Middle East and Cambodia's Phnom Penh were named as the most cost-effective cities on their respective continents, thanks to low office and industrial rent, price of petrol, average wage and residential property prices.

With new entries making it into the top city rankings every year, and as emerging markets continue to challenge the more established cities of the West, it will be interesting to see how the tables shape up in the not-too-distant future.