Dubai and Riyadh included in City Momentum Index

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

Dubai was ranked in the top 20 for the first time in three years
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Dubai was ranked in the top 20 for the first time in three years

Cities in the Middle East are gaining momentum, with Dubai and Riyadh 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.

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.

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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.

JLL MEA CEO Thierry Delvaux said: “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.”

JLL director of cities research Jeremy Kelly added: “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.”

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.

Several cities in the top 20 stand out as they transform their urban environments in pursuit of a low-carbon future but Dubai takes the lead in sustainability initiatives. Dubai (14th) has committed to ambitious sustainability goals of reducing water and energy consumption by 30% by 2030 and using 75% clean energy by 2050. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s ‘Green Dubai’ initiative is also promoting more sustainable energy use.

The Index shows the steps that cities can take to overcome some of the issues associated with rapid growth. Continued investment in infrastructure can unlock new locations, reduce congestion and improve air quality. Chinese and Middle Eastern cities continue to benefit from investment in metro lines, high speed rail and increased airport capacity. The growth of “micro-mobility” is another positive step, illustrated by Hyderabad’s introduction of smart bikes and electric cars. Smart city solutions, such as bike rentals, improves quality of life, helps increase inclusion and aids in the transition to a low carbon environment.

“One common ingredient when looking at cities that succeed at rapid-growth is the importance placed on governance and leadership – something often overlooked. The complex nature of city transformation relating to the innovation economy, climate mitigation and a changing geopolitical world means a city’s governance system is increasingly critical to a city being ‘future-fit’ for the coming decades,” concluded Kelly.

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