Global Cities Report: A mixed bag of results for Africa

Social, geopolitical, and technological transformations are actively disrupting the traditional hierarchy of global cities, creating a more widely distributed geography of opportunity.

This is according to Kearney’s 2023 Global Cities Report, which highlights that established global city leaders face ever-greater competition from emerging hubs, with those taking a regenerative approach poised to lead in the attraction of talent, innovation, and investment.

Global Cities Index

The Global Cities Index (GCI) seeks to quantify the extent to which a city can attract, retain, and generate global flows of capital, people, and ideas. Cities are measured against five key dimensions: Human Capital, Information Exchange, Cultural ExperiencePolitical Engagement, and Business Activity.

Average GCI scores across all cities remained steady in 2023 following several years of decline; the Human Capital dimension witnessed a significant rise due to the return of the international movement of people to pre-pandemic levels, counter-balancing the continued decline of the Business Activity dimension as a result of persistent economic challenges. The average score for African cities however increased this year. (See Africa section, at the end of the release.)

New YorkLondonParisTokyo, and Beijing retained the top five spots respectively. Brussels ranked sixth, entered the top 10 for the first time, benefiting from its status as a central EU hub and from increased private sector attention in light of the nearby conflict.

Further down the Index, traditionally leading US and Chinese cities fell in the ranking, while Middle Eastern cities, in particular the Gulf capitals,made major improvements in their overall scores.

“This year, our study indicates that the world has entered a phase of globalization that is less uniform and more networked. The resilience of overall scores highlights the perennial significance of global cities as essential hubs of flexible connectivity and concentrated global diversity in a shifting global geopolitical landscape. But this year in particular, we can see how balanced geopolitical and geoeconomic positioning has made emerging hubs increasingly attractive to capital, trade, and people from throughout an increasingly fragmented world—narrowing the gap between these cities and more established global city leaders,” comments Rudolph Lohmeyer, Kearney Partner, National Transformation Institute.

Global Cities Outlook

While the GCI captures the current state of global city performance, the Global Cities Outlook (GCO) aims to identify those cities most likely to achieve global prominence in the future. Here, the emergence of a distributed geography of opportunity was also present.

European cities maintained a strong presence in the top 30 rankings, while Asia’s global hubs including Seoul, Osaka, and Chennai made significant strides. In the US, second-tier metropolitan areas performed particularly well, having successfully attracted talent and capital over the turbulent past few years, positioning themselves as increasingly formidable rivals to more established global cities.

As the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies continues, the intersection of this trend with the already-underway shift toward remote work is expected to further reduce the significance of physical proximity in domains traditionally linked to major cities, potentially causing even greater disruption to global cities.

“In this shifting global landscape of distributed opportunity, top-tier global cities cannot take their positions for granted. The traditional hierarchy of leading cities will only become more fluid in the future as opportunities for growth and enhanced productivity become less concentrated during the coming waves of AI-driven innovation. Those cities that adopt a regenerative model – one that moves beyond resilience and thinks proactively – will have a competitive advantage,” says Brenna Buckstaff, Kearney Manager, National Transformations Institute.

The picture for Africa and South Africa

Cape Town slipped 2 places in the GCI this year, taking it to 84th position overall in 2023. It witnessed a decline in three of the GCI dimensions, Human Capital, Business Activity, and Cultural Experience, in large part due to heightened global competition for talent and shifting business dynamics and disruptive economic forces in the continent and beyond. It did improve 4 spots however in the Information Exchange dimension, including through an improved online presence.

Johannesburg held on to the 58th spot in the overall GCI ranking this year. Its improvements in the Human Capital dimension and Political Engagement dimension (where it scores highly at 15th position) were offset by declines in the Information Exchange and Cultural Experience dimensions.

Lagos rose 3 spots this year taking it to 109th in the overall GCI ranking, continuing a steady trend upwards in recent years. This rise was driven by robust improvements in the Business Activity and Human Capital dimensions, where it sits closer to the middle of the pack overall (85th and 92nd respectively).

Accra also witnessed an improvement in its overall GCI rank this year, taking it 104th (up from 106th in 2022 and 117th in 2021).

Nairobi meanwhile fell 4 spots to 86th position this year, as a result of a drop in the Information Exchange dimension, driven by a worse Freedom of Expression Rating score, and a slight decline in the Business Activity dimension.

On the whole, the African continent’s average rank rose 1 spot this year to 104th, primarily driven by an improvement in the Business Activity dimension, where the average rank rose 3 spots to 107th. It’s strongest performing dimension remains Political Engagement, where the average is 52nd.