Dubai, Riyadh among top 20 ‘most dynamic cities’, says JLL

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Mohamed Nass - Dubai - Cities in the Middle East and Africa are gaining momentum, with Dubai, Riyadh and Nairobi all ranked within the top 20, according to JLL’s City Momentum Index 2020 which identifies the world’s most dynamic cities from a real estate perspective.

Now in its seventh year, the annual Index combines socio-economic and commercial property metrics to provide new insights into 130 major established and emerging business hubs across the globe.

With Dubai (14th) ranking in the top 20 for the first time in three years, the Emirate continues to be the major business hub in the Middle East, with more than half of the population aged 20-40 (the second highest proportion globally). Government initiatives such as the relaxation of visa regulations have also been designed to balance out the construction boom in commercial and residential properties while momentum is expected to be fuelled further in the lead-up to Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh (18th) enters the top 20 for the first time and is benefitting from Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ programme of economic reforms, with its objective of diversifying the economy away from oil. Initiatives to improve the quality of life through better infrastructure and entertainment in combination with introducing regulations to expand tourism will continue to have a positive impact on the economy and real estate market.

Both Dubai and Riyadh have ambitious infrastructure plans. Dubai’s infrastructure impetus is in part being driven by Expo 2020, while the scheduled opening of the Riyadh metro network in 2020-2021 is expected to transform the city’s mobility.

Nairobi (4th) has made the top 20 for each of the past six years, reflecting its position as one of Africa’s most dynamic city economies. Momentum is supported by favourable demographics, infrastructure investment, technology, tourism and retail.

Thierry Delvaux, CEO of JLL MEA, says: "It is great to see the MEA region represented in the top 20 ranking of the Momentum Index, driven by government initiatives. These cities are leading the way by successfully addressing infrastructure needs to further enhance mobility, while creating thriving, inclusive, safe and affordable communities. Moving forward, we will see real estate play a more important role in smart-city futures, driving greater energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable, scalable and smart developments."

The results also show a continued shift in global influence from west to east, with Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese cities dominating the top positions. India – with seven cities in the top 20, the most of any country – leads the 2020 Index, despite last year’s slowdown of the nation’s economy. This strength is driven by locations in the country’s southern states, as Hyderabad (1st) and Bengaluru (2nd) retain their status as the top two cities for short-term momentum.

Jeremy Kelly, Director of Cities Research at JLL, says: "The remarkable dynamism in the emerging Asian economies is proof that economic reforms, business growth and infrastructure investment can drive the expansion of industry, significantly in the tech sector, and facilitate a start-up culture. This is now being repeated the world over, as geographical diversity looks to be returning to the Index."

China’s role in driving global momentum continues to be significant; one-fifth of the global top 20 cities are in China. Shanghai stands alone as the only city to feature in the top 20 throughout the past seven years.

The Index identifies a number of key growth drivers, including talent attraction, the expansion of innovation hubs and better urban planning, that cities can employ to meet the challenges faced by rapid momentum.

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