11th April 2019


Hazem Galal

PricewaterhouseCoopers has published an annual report for the past seven years examining cities around the globe, but the Arab City of Opportunity Report is the first major publication to measure the performance of cities in the Arab region. Mr. Galal, who specializes in strategy formulation and implementation and has worked with cities and state governments from New York and Moscow to Al Madinah, Singapore and Beijing, said governments can use the report for short-term and long-term urban planning.


“The thing that attracted our attention was that Dubai was listed in the global report,” he said. “How can we use the same method, but dedicate it to the Arab world?”


As with the global version, the Arab City Report applies 41 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to 12 cities (the global report uses 70 KPIs for 30 cities). These KPIs measure everything from innovation, human capital, and readiness to use technology to the ease of doing business in a city. The report balances economic indicators with social measurements such as quality of life. The goal is to expand the report to 20 or 30 cities in the future once better data is available for more places.


“What we noticed is that no city excels at all the KPIs,” Mr. Galal said. “Each city has a specialty. For example Stockholm leads the way in terms of human capital, but since they do not spend as much on education as other cities their performance lags behind.”


The key objective of the report is to demonstrate how cities can benefit from policies that work in other places, but also to keep in mind that each measurement can have multiple interpretations. “The report measures the activity in a certain category,” Mr. Galal said. “When we highlight an activity it can be a challenge or an opportunity. Technology, for example, can lead to unemployment if human capital is not developed.”


Similarly, a high youth score could represent great opportunity if a city can provide education and opportunities for meaningful employment, or a challenge if the city is lacking in these resources. The same applies to the number of economic or social migrants a city takes in. In Cairo, for example, Syrian refugees with entrepreneurial skills have pumped $800-million into the economy.


Other highlights of the report include:

  • In Dubai the knowledge economy is expected to be worth $15-billion over the next 10 years.
  • Water consumption in Saudi Arabia is one of the highest in the world.
  • Casablanca has the highest level of environmental sustainability.

To measure the political developments in the region post-Arab Spring, the report used social media to measure opinions. The report also has these key recommendations:

  1. Every city has its own DNA and unique circumstances that it must remain true to.
  2. Create an ecosystem that boosts intellectual capital.
  3. Protect Intellectual Property rights, something the region is lagging behind in compared to the rest of the world.
  4. Boost private-public partnerships. Pinpoint skills required by the private sector.
  5. Boost creativity and innovation through joint spaces.
  6. Facilitate the ease of doing business.
  7. Develop multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solving.