City of the Future: Dubai’s global rankings underscore its future readiness

The parameters to assess the stature of countries have traditionally been confined to GDP growth, demographics and even military arsenals. However, there is a growing consensus that these metrics are sometimes inadequate in conveying the bigger picture. For instance, GDP as the sole measure to determine the potential of a country is less credible given current dynamics, which are characterized by technological advancement, sociopolitical shift and emerging economies gaining ground. With such traditional parameters called into question, research organizations are now introducing a framework of future readiness, outside perception, brand and talent statistics to determine alternate global standings.

The ‘Global Competitiveness of Talent’ report issued recently by the Institute for Administrative Development, Switzerland, in conjunction with the Dubai Competitiveness Office in the Department of Economic Development (DED), holds great significance in this regard(1). According to the report, Dubai is ranked 11th among the global cities in future readiness – the highest of any city in the Arab world. In addition to this report, several other organizations that furnish global rankings based on distinctive criteria and parameters have also been unequivocal about Dubai’s prominence as a city of the future, in recent times.

Future Readiness

Sudhakar Rao, Chairman of Gemini Property Developers, believes that in the ever-changing world of today, countries should be assessed on how they react, adapt and thrive within evolving dynamics, in addition to the traditional paradigm of GDP growth. According to Sudhakar Rao, the focused efforts of the Government of Dubai have been key to the high future-readiness ranking that the city has attracted.

The FutureBrand Country Index (FCI), which quantifies the “brand value”, outside perception and “what matters”, for a country, to determine its ranking, has also produced quite telling results(2). The UAE is ranked 16th in FCI’s 2019 report, up three places from the corresponding 2014 report. A global ranking of 29th, awarded by the World Bank, also for the ongoing year, adds further sheen to the UAE’s foresight in building its brand perception. It is also worth mentioning that Dubai ranks 11th in FCI’s most influential cities, leaving the likes of Singapore and Delhi trailing behind.

Such recognition can be attributed to the diversification of the economy beyond the Oil and Gas industry, into sectors such as manufacturing and real estate. For instance, the latest report by the World Economic Forum ranks the UAE 1st in government procurement of advanced technological products, 2nd in industrial cluster development and 3rd in investment into emerging technologies, among the top 100 countries(3). This is particularly noteworthy in the context of the real estate sector, since the industry has played a significant part in all three of these rankings.

Talent statistics

The talent index has gained significant traction in the recent past as a parameter to gauge the potential of a country. According to the ‘Global Competitiveness of Talent’ report, Dubai ranks 16th in attracting global talent, 11th in the availability of future talent and 7th in terms of foreign students. These promising numbers validate the strategic initiatives and directives of regulatory bodies in Dubai, which are paving the way for innovators and entrepreneurs to live and work in the city. The overall ranking of the UAE has risen three places to the 19th spot, in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index of 2019 – a recognition of its potential to attract global talent across diverse fields(4). While Qatar has also been competitive to some extent, the UAE has been unmatched in this regard, within the North Africa and West Asian region.

According to Sudhakar Rao, real estate has accounted for nearly 25% of Dubai’s GDP growth in the past year, and has also played a significant role in invigorating the influx as well as the creation of talent. The Chairman of Gemini Property Developers also believes the UAE can emerge as a leading global talent hub in the future, by leveraging innovative technologies and facilitating competitive business practices – including keeping sustainability at the forefront. While the UAE’s capacity to attract international talent is already third highest in the world, its prospects of enabling, growing and retaining this talent have also increased appreciably since 2017. The new permanent residency rule in the UAE is likely to emerge as an example of regulatory reforms conducive to the continued growth of these trends.


Market saturation in developed economies and domestic challenges in emerging economies have created a unique opportunity for the UAE. With an ambitious yet pragmatic approach, the region is gearing up for healthy economic development in the future. However, the rate of evolution in technology and innovation means that continuing to enjoy these competitive advantages in the future will require constant engagement. This is particularly true of the contemporary real estate industry, which is no longer the laggard in technology that it once. Technology has changed the face of the industry, making real estate one of the most vibrant and rapidly changing business verticals overall. The proactive and driven real estate sector in Dubai will play a key role in the city’s continually gaining momentum towards a technology enabled future. In Sudhakar Rao’s words, the future is here and Dubai is ready to embrace it.


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