The top ten emerging world cities making their mark

Article by William McBryde

In the current age of urbanization and globalization, a ‘new world of cities’ is evolving. The rigid global urban hierarchy is breaking down, with many emerging megacities and smaller cities rapidly staking their claims as major players on the world stage.

A new report from JLL called Globalisation and Competition: A New World of Cities identifies the ten best performing ‘Emerging World Cities’ across a range of global indices. These cities tend to be major hubs in large growing economies that function as gateways for internationals firms, trade and investment into the wider region. The ten cities are leading the way in the emerging world, yet each has its own story and strengths.

Each city, however, is connected by rapid economic growth and real estate development. Impressive mixed-use schemes and trophy developments are appearing in each of the ten cities. However, to develop further, these cities must work to create a ‘sense of place’ and secure an individual identity for itself. Improvements in transparency are also needed to attract new capital, enhance the business environment and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

1. Shanghai

Shanghai is on the verge of becoming an ‘Established World City’ – already the 6th most globalised city in the world, having surpassed Tokyo for the first time. It is China’s business and finance hub, having firmly established itself as a global financial centre in recent years. The city is seeking to build on this strength through the development of the Qiantan Zone, next to the city’s existing Lujiazui CBD. It is also looking to strengthen its entertainment offer and visitor attraction, through the arrival of Disneyland in 2016 and the DreamWorks-led ‘DreamCenter’ a year later.
2. Beijing

While Shanghai is the country’s commercial centre, Beijing continues to leverage its political, cultural and decision-making strengths as it matures. Like Shanghai, the city has set the bar in terms of urban management and investment – thanks to its status as a province-level municipality. The Chinese government is now seeking greater integration in the ‘Jing-Jin-Ji’ region, alongside the neighbouring city of Tianjin and the province of Hebei. Tongzhou, a growing area on the edge of the city, will play an important role in this decentralisation thanks to the relocation of government functions.
3. Dubai

Occupying a unique niche on the world stage, Dubai possesses characteristics associated with ‘Established’, ‘Emerging’ and ‘New World Cities’. The emirate has a massive international profile, known particularly for its business-friendliness. Huge megaprojects continue to be proposed, with Dubai receiving the highest volumes of foreign direct investment globally in 2014 ($6.6 billion). Its position as a globally connected hub is set to be enhanced further, with the 140 sq km Dubai World Central development at the Al-Maktoum International Airport.
4. Istanbul

Istanbul is establishing itself as a globally competitive megacity, registering the world’s fastest growth in air connectivity during 2014. The city, one of the most congested in the world, is investing heavily in its infrastructure. It is currently building a huge new airport (with an initial capacity of 90 million passengers per year), as well as a third bridge across the Bosphorus. These massive projects will complement the recently completed Marmary undersea rail tunnel.
5. Taipei

Taipei has developed into an international business centre and is rapidly building its reputation as a financial hub. As such, the city is one of the top ten globally in terms of corporate headquarters and one of the 40 largest destinations for real estate investment. The city is particularly noted for its efficient physical infrastructure and effective institutions and governance. It is the ‘World Design Capital’ for 2016, with a focus on smart cities, sustainable architecture and a new ‘City Museum Cluster’.

6. Kuala Lumpur

As one of the 25 most globalised cities in the world, the Malaysian capital acts as important gateway to the country and the South-East Asia region. It was the 6th largest destination for foreign direct investment in 2014, demonstrating its strong international appeal. On completion in 2020, the new 635-metre tall KL 118 tower will give the city a new landmark and one of the world’s tallest buildings – towering nearly 200 metres above the city’s iconic Petronas Towers. Meanwhile, the Tun Razak Exchange project seeks to establish Kuala Lumpur as one of the world’s leading financial centres.

7. Moscow

Acting as a regional business centre for the CIS and Central Asia, Moscow is one of the world’s ten largest office markets (in terms of commercial stock). The city now aims to establish itself as a truly innovative city – as demonstrated by the development of the high-tech Skolkovo Innovation Center. Liveability is also a key factor – with construction started on Zardadye Park near the Kremlin, Moscow’s first new park for 50 years, following the successful redevelopment of Gorky Park. In addition mayor Sergei Sobyanin has ambitious redevelopment plans for the city’s riverside to help it better compete with other European capitals.

8. Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo is Latin America’s most globally connected megacity, ahead of both Mexico City and Buenos Aires. It is a city of remarkable scale – one of the ten most populated cities globally, as well as one of the twenty largest office markets (by stock). The city is making improvements at a faster rate than many of its peers, with its role as a regional business and finance hub catalysing a broad programme of urban development programmes. The mayor, Fernando Haddad, has recently announced major plans to tackle the city’s congested streets, with hundreds of kilometres of bike lanes and electric buses.

9. Bangkok

Bangkok is world famous as a tourist destination, with more than 17 million international arrivals in 2014 (behind only Hong Kong and Singapore). Yet, the city is much more than just a tourist site, as one of a handful of rapidly emerging, globally competitive Asian megacities. As such the city is undergoing a number of transformational projects, notably the planned 615-metre Grand Rama IX Super Tower and the area, surrounding the recently constructed Mega Bangna Mall.
10. Mexico City

Evenly matched with Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, Mexico City is one of Latin America’s global megacities, home to more than 20 million people. One of the city’s major projects is a new international airport, with an expected capacity of 50 million passengers each year. To tackle the huge challenges growing megacities face, the city has founded the ‘Laboratorio Para la Ciudad’ (Laboratory for the City) to focus on civic innovation and creative solutions to urban issues.
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